I was recently sent a copy of All Star Karate by THQ. A Wii title that looked like it had the potential to unleash my inner ninja and destroy all furniture within an arm’s length. Perfect. Sadly, the title didn’t quite live up to my expectations and will definitely not make the hardcore gamer feel remotely happy. It just doesn't quite work as well as it should.
The premise is simple, you get to learn basic karate moves as you progress through a single player game that steals liberally from 80s karate movies. You can create your own moves, challenge other people, and complete challenges while simultaneously throwing your Wiimote around like crazy.
To start with you customise and name your character, a part of the game that my teenage sibling spent ages on. Longer, in fact, than she did playing the game itself. That only lasted about five minutes. And you can really only choose between a male or female surfer dude with aspirations of karate grandeur.
Then the storyline kicks in. A faintly charming movie that sets the scene for the single player game and gets you involved with the characters. Well, it theoretically gets you involved with the characters. As someone who was a kid when Karate Kid came out and Ralph Macchio was her heartthrob (yes, really) the storyline is old, tired and done, done, done to death.
Actually, this made me somewhat annoyed. How hard can it be to deviate from the “young apprentice meets old man in dark alley and saves him from murderous thugs/women/ninjas/chickens (or murderous female ninja chickens) and then learns the art from him and goes on to save the world” theme? Why not just turn into a blasted ninja, kick some ass, and go home to some macaroni cheese and a glass of wine?
But I digress.
Once you’ve enjoyed (cried) your way through the intro, you’re thrust into a game that doesn’t quite match up to the Wiimote’s capabilities and, after playing titles like Wii Sports, is frustrating and disappointing.
In fact, I was so surprised by how badly the game initially responded to my moves that I changed the batteries in the Wiimote, twice. And checked my signal. The other humans trying out the game with me soon gave up. However, as the reviewer, I felt it was important to persevere. Perhaps there would be a vast improvement around the corner. And, surprisingly, there was. Sort of.
The game action is something along the lines of Guitar Hero mixed with Dance Dance Revolution. You swing the controllers in the right directions in time with the instructions on the screen in order to get your moves going and your hits counting.
Timing is absolutely crucial. In the end it was obvious that half the reason my so-called co-reviewers gave up and went to watch the World Cup in the other room, was the timing. When added to the poor controller accuracy, this factor made much of the game irritating rather than challenging.
However, once I got au fait with these issues I started to have some fun. The challenges step up a notch as you complete each one (natch), and you can actually drag a lot of enjoyment out of waving your arms about like an arachnophobe with a spider in their pants.
What I liked about the game was the fact that it did actually get you off your bum and onto the floor. You’ll get a fair amount of exercise as you play, and may even start feeling a bit sweaty. The single player is entertaining and the problems with the controls are not as heavily penalised as they are in the multiplayer matches.
The fact that your moves are sometimes not recognised, or translated into incorrect moves, is far more debilitating in multiplayer. You can lose a game, botch a perfect opening, and not block properly because of it. For anyone who’s even remotely competitive, this will make them want to down tools and have a lie down.
This is unfortunate, because All Star Karate does offer you some decent entertainment. The unlockable extra content and the “Create your own Kata” function mean that there is a decent amount of depth to the game for those who persevere. The only problem is that not many people will.
Still, I must add that as a game for kids it’s got a lot of potential. They are far more forgiving of the flaws and some of the moves will actually teach them a bit about the sport itself. Perhaps wait until it hits the budget shelves and consider it as a Christmas pressie for that 10 year old you know.
- Faintly charming
- You’ll get some sweat going and some good content depth for those who persevere
- Great for kids
- Sluggish controls that render multiplayer unplayable
- Weak storyline (unless you like that sort of thing)
- Picky timing issues
The Short Version: All Star Karate may shine when it comes to technology such as Kinect, as this will hopefully give the game far more scope than the limitations placed by the Wiimotes. It offers sluggish and random controls which affect multiplayer and make the game more frustrating than fun.