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Kung Fu Master

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Released: 1984

Genre: Beat-’em-up

Format reviewed: Atari 2600

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Irem

Submitted by: Bill Matthews

Based on the 1984 Jackie Chan film Wheels on Meals (no, I havn’t seen it either) Kung Fu Master is considered by many to be the world’s first side-scrolling beat-em-up video game. Ported from the arcade version in 1984, Atari 2600’s KFM, for me anyway, is an absolute gem in the massive back catalogue of poorly executed 2600 platform conversions.

For starters I absolutely love the colour scheme of this game- bright blue and straight in your face- if this game doesn’t wake you up and force your eyes to adjust to the real world after a night playing dark and dingy contemporary games like Arkham Asylum, then quite frankly you’ve been smoking too much and you should probably go to bed. Anyway… alongside the dazzling colours, the level design itself is pretty intricate for a 2600 game- level one for example the playfield seems to be the worlds longest bar with nicely decorated ceiling and floor (coordinated, very nice) with even the odd bar stool- at least that’s how I interpret it. Sure, the graphics are blocky and all the henchman look the same as you only in different colour uniforms, but hey, it all adds to its charm.

Whilst KFM is a traditional side-scrolling-beat-up anything that comes at you fighting game, there’s still a certain art to the gameplay- not attacking the opponent until he's right on you, jumping or ducking at the last second when the weird green snake drop from the ceiling on level 2, and of course actually figuring out exactly how to punch or kick (left/west to kick, left/northwest to punch). But it is because of the gameplay why I truly love this game, for it forced me to learn how to hold a joystick.
 

When I first got into the wonderful world of the Atari 2600, I, like most eager young lads, used to grab my joystick with a tight fist, jiggling it around ,beating it, bashing it until ‘boom’ I got the desired result. Now don’t get me wrong, I got some good results using this tried and tested method, but when I got into KFM I learned that joystick-toughlove is not always the best answer. Instead due to the speed that the villains come at you and the split second timing needed to fend them offf, I found that just a delicate hold on the tip of the stick was enough- softly softly like.

No more wild jerking around for me- just subtle squeezing and tapping the end of my joystick when necessary, allowed for much more accurate (and pleasurable) results. I remember the first time I defeated the grey boss at the end of level 1 using this method- wonderful feeling. Think that on that night id turned the sound off and put a Barry White C.D on in the background- though I might be getting memories confused.

To sum up KFM is an excellent little beat-em-up, filled with that special mix of action, adventure and addictiveness. Plus, when they ported the game to the 2600 they obviously they had to scale down the actions to work with the one-button joystick of the console- and lets face it, what can be a better achievement than that? Rescuing the princess from the clutches of the evil wizard using only one button ninja skills? Don’t get tougher than that.

Kung-Fu Master

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Released: 1985

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Commodore 64

Publisher: Data East

Developer: Berkeley Softworks

Submitted by: aaran marbell

In Kung-Fu Master, you play as Thomas, a martial arts expert who must rescue his girlfriend from the clutches of the evil Mr. X. To get to Mr. X and rescue Sylvia, Thomas must fight his way through the five floors of Mr. X's castle. On each floor of the castle, a horde of bad guys try to stop Thomas. Enemy fighters include weaponless grippers who cling to the hero and sap him of energy until he shakes them off, knife throwers who appear at each side of the screen, dwarf fighters who bounce and attempt to stick to Thomas, and killer insects who fly in odd patterns.
Kung-Fu Master is an okay-ish game but it basically failed to deliver. Ive played tons of side scrolling fighters and to be honest I didn't think much of this game. Its all abit familiar. Maybe im being unfair, these types of games all follow the same theme i guess.
Look out for the mad hunchbacks from the 4th level. He will drive you crazy.