Kick some retro old-school ass with Karate Champ on your iPhone

I’m sure if I sat down and counted up just how many quarters I pumped into arcade games as a kid, I’d be depressed at the things I could be buying now if I’d only kept that money instead. Like, we’re talking on the level of multiple yachts. A yacht for every day of the week. “Hey honey,” I’d say to my wife, “which yacht should we take to the club this weekend?” We’d ride around in our yachts and laugh and laugh and sip expensive wine out of crystal glasses with our other rich friends and…

… what was I saying?


Right. Arcades. Man, when I was in junior high I loved me the hell out of those places, and the memories of playing some of those old-school games has always stuck with me. For this reason, I always love it when some development company gets a bout of nostalgia and resurrects an old game for one of the newfangled devices the kids are playing with these days, and it was just yesterday that I randomly stumbled across Karate Champ in the App Store. This is no “modernized reboot.” This is basically the original ROM from the arcade cabinet shoehorned into a touchscreen interface, complete with all of the quirks and charm of the original. Trust me, I played this game enough to recognize that digitzed voice saying “BEGIN,” “HALF POINT,” and “FULL POINT” to have it haunt my dreams.

That's right, baby. You'll be all mine as soon as I lay a sound drubbing upon my evil doppleganger over there.

Karate Champ. Probably the first martial-arts video game to pit Player One against Player Two, two identically-skilled twins, one in red and one in white. Think of them as the original Ryu and Ken. Gameplay is very simple. There are no “energy levels” to deplete. Strike your opponent first to either earn a half or full point, and score 2 points to win a round. Win two rounds and move on to the next stage. Lose just one single round at any time and watch the game over screen. The prize for winning a stage? A woman. This game was made in the 80’s, kids, times were different back then. Men were men and women were prizes.

Just STAY DOWN unless you want to kiss my heel again.

Where most video games employ the use of buttons in their interface controls, Karate Champ controls consist of two joysticks. The original arcade cabinet had four joysticks on the control board, two for each player. A rough guide is that the left stick controls your movement and the right stick controls your attack direction (up to kick high, down to leg sweep, etc.), but of course different combos would result in different advanced moves (up and right at the same time to jump kick, right and left and the same time for a spinning reverse kick, etc.). With 16 different directional combos, there always seemed to be more moves and hidden tricks to discover. Of course, pulling off a victory with more advanced moves resulted in scoring more points.

Next time you WILL be mine, pixellated bikini lady!

Obviously, the iPhone is sadly lacking in joysticks and wood-grain paneling, but a touch-screen orientation perfectly suited to laying two thumbs in the corners of your screen rides to the rescue. Left thumb controls the left stick, right thumb controls the right. After a couple of games to get used to how sensitive the controls are (no wasted quarters! yay!) and I was off to the races. Pretty quickly I was beating Red like a rented mule for the first few levels, but just like when I was younger, about the time you get to the stage that takes place on a log across a canyon, Red starts to get a little more aggressive and defensively sound. A couple of stages after that he seemingly gets possessed by the spirit of Chuck Norris, blocking everything I can throw at him before roundhouse kicking my tits off. I will defeat him, though. She will be mine!

Of course I’m biased because of my childhood memories, but so far Karate Champ is turning out to be the best iPhone app I’ve maybe ever purchased. At 99 cents, you really can’t go wrong!

A 33 year old Canadian expat currently plying his trade as a Senior Interactive Developer at Crispin Porter + Bogusky Europe in Göteborg, Sweden, Scott can also be found on the Twitters and occasionally blogging about his travels. He likes… Full Bio