Karateka Review

By , on January 16, 2013
Last modified 11 years, 6 months ago

  • Publisher: DotEmu
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: 20 Dec, 2012
  • Size: 644.0 MB
  • Price: $1.99
Download on the AppStore
3 out of 5


  • No real entry level beyond basic rhythm skills; tap when orbs are blue, tap after to attack - rinse, repeat, move on.
  • Neat visual style; Pixar meets Disney's Mulan.


  • Most motivating aspects outside of the most basic of dangling carrots ('what happens at the end?') are missing from Karateka; overly simplistic gameplay and lacking in a narrative with hooks.


Karateka fails to excite as it expects players to enjoy short and repetitive bouts of tapping without any real input in to the outcome of each fight beyond their skill at 'timing' - you could save Mariko three times, but saving her once proves to be once too many times already.

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Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and accept that even heroes can make mistakes. Some would argue that Jordan Mechner has made several in his time, but the remake of Karateka (his break-out title from 1984) is definitely amongst them.

Where the original was a relatively simple affair of fighting opponent after opponent using a joystick and two (or one) button setup. The game was praised for its fluid combat and clever use of tension to motivate players to save Mariko - it was short, but a unique beast for its time.

Fast forward to 2012 and the remake drops on the iOS platform, complete with 3D environments that pop with life. If only the gameplay itself recieved as much attention as the visuals things may have turned out differently.

Unfortunately players have a simplified rhythm-game like system of 'tap' to block and 'tap' to attack. Enemies may mix up their rhythm to throw off the player, but between earning 'ki stun attacks' and having two other characters in reserve to complete the game from where you left off... well it's a short and unfulfilling 30 minutes to the end of the game.

Much like the original release, the iOS version attempts to build its tension through cutscenes, however with the risks of combat being entirely negated by the regular appearance of health-restoring flowers, you know it's only a matter of time (and not skill) before the game ends.

It'd be easier to forgive if the story had more impact beyond three moderately interesting motivations, but without any sense of arc or challenge to overcome, your reward is a hollow one.

There's nothing functionally wrong with Karateka, and recent updates have addressed some stability issues, but being playable and being enjoyable to play aren't mutually exclusive and sadly the latter is missing from this nostalgia driven remake.


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