Karate Master 2: Knock Down Blow is an arcade styled sports game that has you playing as martial arts enthusiast, Ken. Ken has just got his black belt in karate, that doesn't mean that his journey has ended, it has only just barely gotten started. In this sequel we see Ken is not only on the road to become a great warrior, he is also on the road to earn enough money and reputation so that he can open up his own dojo and train the next generation of karate champions. In order to do so, he must do some hardcore training, fight in tournaments, defeat all of the other dojos in town, drive a forklift, and even defeat a bull for if he wants to complete his goal. All this game needs is a cheesy training montage theme. (Click on "Read More" to read the full review).
The story in this game is like a weird combination of Rocky (1976) and The Karate Kid (1984) due to the game being about an underdog that's fighting his way to the top of the karate charts (much like how Carl Douglas did it back in the day). People that love cheesy 1980's American kung-fu movies will find the story very nostalgic, you will also find it to be enjoyable and entertaining. The story progressing cut-scenes are quite thing as they only pop up every now and then but this game does a great job at progressing the story though the fights, the action tells you every thing you need to know.
In order to enter tournaments and dojos you'll need two things, money and respect. To get money you have to win tournaments or get a job at the docks driving a forklift and dropping off crates onto the back of a truck. Driving forklifts will get you some decent money but it won't get you respect, however winning tournaments will get you both money and respect. Driving the forklift is a so bad that it is good moment in the game as the physics are so terrible, everything you pick up has no weight to it and can float away from you. Controlling the lift and driving the forklift is also very floaty, dropping things off onto the truck is also really bad due to the same reasons. All of what's wrong with the forklift is also all that is right with it, it is a fun kind of bad that will entertain you.
The combat will require some skill and timing, you'll need to know when to strike, when to block, when to counter as the difficulty is quite challenging... Up until you've grinded enough experience points to beat the first major tournament as everything up until the final tournament is tough to lose, you are simply way too overpowered to lose most the time. While overpowered, I wouldn't dare underestimate any opponent as you can get knocked out if you are hit in your weak spot by a heavy hit but you can also do the same to your opponent. Finding a characters weak point is quite tricky, so you'll end up just barraging them with random attacks until they have fallen down. You also have three styles of attacks: High, low, and strong. I liked this system, it is simple but also very detailed and adds some good variety to the combat. You can also dash by double tapping the forward or backward buttons and this comes in handy for if you want to get real close or far away and plan which move to use next.
I enjoyed the combat to a certain point as I did enjoy having to strike at the right time when your opponent has an opening, I also really enjoyed how if you hit a certain body part then it can cause something to force the referee to stop the match. The things that can cause the ref to stop the fight includes: Breaking of legs, breaking of ribs, ruptured organs, and concussions. It is very fun seeing this all happen to the other guy but I do like how it can also happen to you but it does get frustrating when it does happen to you. I really liked that if you get injured then you end up in hospital, it is a nice detail but you have to recover by a mini-game. I'm not gonna lie, it was fun the first time but the novelty wears off fast and you'll have to play this mini-game every time you get injured.
You can also boost your stats by doing training and the training is done via mini-games. There are different styles of mini-game that each focus on a single type of stat and will also require you to hit certain buttons and certain types of moves at the right time. Each time you get a move right, you'll earn some experience points and you'll get more points depending on the number of correct things you've done. Some of the mini-games were alright but some were just very dull and a drag to get though but it is also worth it in the long run as Ken will get stronger. There are also parts of your training to where you can learn new moves and these training segments can get tricky to pass but are worth it as all the locked moves are powerful. Lastly, there's a training option where you can just beat up a guy in protective gear and this helps to get used to the controls.
Controls in this game are passable for if playing this game with a keyboard, the buttons are too spread out but can be worked around. Once you've got the hang of the controls then you'll see that the controls are very smooth and responsive with the exception of some of the special moves. Some of the special moves simply do not work on the keyboard and that looks to be a problem with the game itself rather than the keyboard controls. I highly recommend you play this game with a USB controller as the experience will be a lot smoother and tighter plus you won't have those weird special moves problems.
This game does have bonus stages like being able to fight a bear, a bull, and jumping over a car and all of this just makes your character more bad-ass. Animal rights activists will not like this at all but the animal fighting stages are only in there to pay tribute to old kung-fu films and enhance that mood overall and I found that to be an appropriate use for these mini-games. All the dirty hippies out there also have better things to complain about than trivial bonus levels in a video game involving a bunch of pixels... Well the good ones do at least, some activists are just plain useless whiners that are making proper activists look bad. A huge downfall with this game is that once you've finished it, you won't be inspired to replay it from start to finish but thank goodness that this is a game with a decent length of gameplay. This game will take you around seven hours to beat this game, that's a lot more gameplay than you'd normally see from a game like this and it is more than enough to keep you entertained.
The graphics in this game are awesome and looks like a game straight from SNK's Neo Geo MVS/AES systems with its detailed 2D 16-bit style. The character designs are very cool looking and all the fighters are made from stereotypes that you'd find in fighting movies and this is a good thing as they weren't bad/tasteless stereotypes but the fun/appropriate types instead. This game also has an option to turn on/off blood but having the blood option on made this game too cartoony for me as it is Mortal Kombat 3 (1995) styled, where you see buckets upon buckets of blood splatter around. I liked playing this game without blood as it made the fights more serious and this serious nature made the fights more intense for me but it is also nice that there is a blood option in this game.
Overall, this is a very dumb but really fun action game that was really enjoyable and worth a play. This is also one of those games where I wished that it came out in arcades, especially for the Neo Geo AES/MVS and even Neo Geo CD as this game would suit those systems really well. Nostalgia filled action game.
Game: Karate Master 2: Knock Down Blow
Developer: Crian Soft
Publisher: Milestone S.r.l.
Genre: Fighting, Sports, Neo-Retro
Price: $9.99 (Steam)