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Way of the Exploding Fist

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Way of the Exploding Fist

Melbourne House (1985)

Synopsis

You face your opponent in one-on-one combat set against lush oriental-themed backdrops. Earn two yin-yang symbols by striking your opponent and raising the skill level. Eighteen possible moves ensure a variety of techniques can be utilised.

Break a leg!


Graphics

Pros:

Smooth player animation.


Cons:

Backdrops provide no real sense of depth.





Sound

Pros:

In-game music is pleasant and unobtrusive.


Cons:

The one synthesised sound effect for all attack moves could prove irritating.





Gameplay

Pros:

With eighteen possible moves the exchanges should have a fair degree of variety.


Cons:

Not as forgiving with an AI that appears to have a sixth-sense for blocking manoeuvres!




Graphics

Pros:

Love the deep backdrop primary colours. Player sprites and animation are just brilliant.


Cons:

If I had to point something out, there are some odd colour fills here and there.





Sound

Pros:

Sound effects are not overbearing. Short beginning-of-level tune is ok.


Cons:

Sounds are perhaps a bit too minimal.





Gameplay

Pros:

The Spectrum version is well on par with the 64k machines in terms of playability.


Cons:

None.




Graphics

Pros:

Full colour characterisations of both players. Animations are fast.


Cons:

Frame reduction on animations but it really doesn't spoil things.





Sound

Pros:

This version has music running in the background.


Cons:

The music is terrible!





Gameplay

Pros:

You'll keep coming back to play the game to feel your opponent's pain.


Cons:

None.



Have a break, have a yin-yang!




The most popular form of social media during the early to mid-80s, as I recall, was the trusty old CB radio. Even Michael Stipes' good friend, Kenneth, had one. However, unlike today's online flame wars where the troll's full details would be difficult to discover, you could get caught out on CB radio if you took things a little bit too far.


Apparently, any easily offended people could triangulate your CB position using a portable radar (I always imagined something akin to the one Harold Ramis used in Ghostbusters), then knock on your very own front door and rain hellfire on you. That's why, even if you stayed in back then, you still needed to protect yourself just for being a wise ass. So, for those wondering whether self-defence was a popular staple of the 1980s, I'm afraid that's a little like asking whether Judith Chalmers has a passport.


Martial arts was still in vogue from its dynamic popularisation in the early 70s, and then further influenced by the talents of Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Woody Allen, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Martial arts video games 'Kung Fu Master', 'Bruce Lee', and 'Karate Champ' built on the sweeping success of the genre, and were released prior to The Way of the Exploding Fist. It had a lot to live up to!


Feet Can Do!

For those not so die-hard Bruce Lee fans, the title appears to be a word-play on his legendary 'Jeet Kune Do' martial art, which translates as 'The Way of the Intercepting Fist'. The digitised sample of Bruce from 'Enter The Dragon' during the Commodore 64 loading screen tends to strengthen this notion.


Each version of the game begins with a demo of two martial artists facing each other in preparation for combat. The sprites used for these characters are almost identical, however they wear a different coloured gi with a black belt. The background generally features oriental themes such as a dojo or mandarin-styled garden, plus a wise-old man / referee overseeing all of the action. Come to think about it, he doesn't actually move. Maybe he's been dead for years and they simply view him now as part of the furniture? Hopefully, someone comes along to trim his moustache every few weeks.


At the top of the screen is where the points are displayed. Every time you strike an opponent you score a few hundred points to take you onto the final leaderboard. However, each strike also wins you a yin-yang symbol either as a whole or a half depending on the skill of the strike. Your goal is to attain two yin-yang symbols, or to have more symbols than your opponent before a 30-second countdown reaches zero, to progress onto the next round.

Maybe he's been dead for years and they simply view him now as part of the furniture?

Each level becomes progressively harder against the computer but, of course, you can do a 'Rickman' and 'bring a friend' along to join you in a game as an opponent. In the day, this would have been a simple task of plugging in a couple of joysticks and Bob's your uncle. On the other hand, considering the many available moves each player can make, you would have been hard-pressed using the keyboard with ten keys each. That would make for a slightly too intimate game in my book!


His teeth were never found!

Some of the moves are a lot of fun, such as being able to somersault over your opponent and then follow it up with a high-kick to the back of his head. Or the roundhouse kick where you swivel around on one foot and, again, bash the opponent right in the nut with your foot! And you don't need to be Paul Gascoigne to appreciate the pain as your opponent collapses into a near-foetal position from a punch to the groin. It sounds very violent, but it's very much sub-PG standard for these times!


So what is it that sets each version apart? Well, very little as it stands. The gameplay is absolutely on point in each variation. There are some very small and subtle differences in player speed but this doesn't hinder the gameplay in any way. The Commodore version may appear to be less forgiving when you think you've scored a point and you don't get one. That said, I think it's more a case that the Commodore version has better AI in terms of being able to block kicks and punches more efficiently.


The Amstrad and Commodore versions, perhaps unsurprisingly, have higher quality graphics and character animation. The Commodore excels greatly in the sound department with a tune that can be played constantly without being irritating, plus a digitised sample of Bruce Lee's kiai.


In the case of this game though, and considering how brilliantly high the standard is for each platform, what really sets the versions apart is the way in which the programmers got the best out of each machine. The BBC Micro, starved with half of the CPC / C64's memory, pulled out a crackerjack of a game in all fairness. The characters are wonderfully rendered, the backdrops are colourful, and there's even a tune in there (although it's a little hard on the ears). Meanwhile, the Spectrum has more of the same, if not better, backdrops. The sprites may be monochrome, but you soon forget this once you start playing. This is because they move so smoothly and realistically, which means you become totally invested in the game.


There are no winners here!

In some ways you feel like they squeezed the last drop out of the BBC and Spectrum to maximise their potential. On the Amstrad CPC there appears to be only one backdrop for the whole game. And even then it's incredibly plain by comparison. It looks like very little effort was made to give CPC users a comparatively unrivalled game. Don't get me wrong, it is still an awesome game, but it's clearly lacking in atmospherics. The Commodore 64 version has the fantastic sound samples and in-game music but, again, the backdrops are lacklustre.


I can only reiterate that, whatever system you decide to play this game on, you'll not be disappointed. Each platform offers excellent gameplay that you'd happily go back to time and time again. It's a funny twist, but I'm glad the BBC / Spectrum owners got a superb game. I'm also a little bit perturbed for the CPC owners because you just get the feeling that, with a few more tweaks, a classic game could have become a master game.


And, of course, I was joking about Woody Allen!




Graphics

The sprite animation on all versions is of a very high standard. BBC / Spectrum backdrops are a delight.


Sound

Excepting the C64, sounds are otherwise minimal with tune snippets here and there. C64 samples and music are a good touch.


Gameplay

There's very little to differentiate between each version.


Overall

Whilst the BBC and Spectrum versions are brilliantly accomplished, the Commodore 64 is the more polished all-rounder out of all the contenders. It may have made an overall 'mastergame' had there been a little variety other than a change of scenery from time-to-time. Otherwise, it remains just an inspired game of two men fighting one another, and not much else.



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Comments

almost as good as mortal kombat but not quite.
I remember being a teenager walking around the market and I asked my stepmum if she could buy this game for me on a stall for something like 14.99. She was in a good mood that day as she did buy it, and me and my brother used to play this crazy amounts!

Platform Winners

Overall Ranking

87

6th Place

Our 3rd best game of 1985

Our only fighting game review

Screenshots

...click here to enlarge

ROMs

Amstrad: download
Commodore: download
Spectrum: download

Video Review

Pixel8Games'pick of 1985