Love it or hate it, the QTE (quick time event) has been a staple of modern gaming ever since it was brilliantly demonstrated by 1999’s classic Dreamcast exclusive Shenmue. Other games have further popularised it as a way of increasing the cinematic quality of interactive combat, with notable uses being the God of War franchise and that awesome knife fight in Resident Evil 4. These games realised that the QTE is a good way to spice up your combat, storytelling or what have you when used sparingly. The key word here is “sparingly.” When you realise that the whole title you’re playing is basically just a big game of Simon says, you realise that this QTE thing has been taken a little too far. All Star Karate is one of these games, and as far as a follow the leader affair goes it could be both much worse and much better.
Unsurprisingly the game involves a lot of simulated karate. The main bulk of the single player consists of a story mode, revolving around a young chap or chapette as they learn martial arts from some weird old guy who lives in a beach hut. The plot sounds like something out of a dodgy porn film and, truthfully, it is of the same standard in terms of quality. Any tale that begins with “oh are those ninjas in the city streets? I better follow them,” certainly deserves a pat on the back for bravery and a punch in the face for stupidity. The characters are pathetic, both in terms of premise and development, and the attempt to shoe-horn in some base humour leaves the script in dire straits. It really does get to the point where the script barely makes any sense. Oddly enough though, I began to find myself rather intrigued in carrying on with the story. It’s utter trash in every way but it is well paced, and may well entertain a younger player.
The karate learning antics are done through a series of QTE based mini-games. Katas (or routines) are learned by following the symbols that appear on screen with the correct timing. Most of the other games build on this basic formula. Whenever you actually spar with a live opponent you make a strike and then follow on-screen prompts to finish the combo. It’s not an entirely brain-dead mechanic, but it certainly becomes quite repetitive. Wiimote gestures are used to follow the symbols and, even though it certainly works better than in other similar titles, the staple thrust movements are often annoying to re-create with the Wii controllers. It’s not a horrible control scheme, but expect some frustrations along the way.
There’s been a nice attempt to include some character customization, but it’s sadly a case of a nice idea with a poor execution. The actual amount of different clothes and hairstyles is too limited to give any real feeling of creativity. On the other hand the more regimented factual aspects of the game are a bit more accomplished. Having little or no knowledge of karate I can’t comment on the realism of the moves within, but the history lessons on karate seemed factual and accurate and were a nice touch.
If you get tired of rolling solo, there are two player modes on offer in All Star Karate. They mainly involve just going through the single player challenges, but with your mate doing it with you simultaneously. The versus sparring mode might be somewhat more entertaining, but in terms of multiplayer modes All Star Karate is limited and disappointing.
Normally these budget games have a tendency to embarrass on the visual front. It must be said that the graphics of All Star Karate aren’t all that bad. There are certainly some odd animations, and the cheap comic strip cut scenes and boring locations bring the goal posts down a notch, but the character models are generally quite accomplished and respectable. It’s a shame that the audio can’t quite match in terms of quality. The voice acting defines everything wrong with video game voice overs and the questionable and irritatingly chirpy rock tunes, meld with the unsatisfying sound effects to create a blight on the auditory senses.
ASK (as in All Star Karate, not the restaurant) is a title that offers a reasonable amount of content. When all of it is so repetitive however, it’s hard to tell whether this game will last you long enough to be worth your while. There are some nice attempts to extend the longevity of the game, but no matter how you look at it, there is a severe lack of ideas within. In games, as in life, you often get what you pay for; so don’t be fooled by the budget price. All Star Karate is not the worst game I’ve ever played, but the repetitive QTE based gameplay makes it hard to recommend it to all but the youngest of gamers.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Wii.
Some character customisation options, reasonable graphics for a budget title, Large selection of challenges and mini-games
The whole game is a giant QTE, Challenges are repetitive and dull, Story and characters are embarrassing, A large majority of the game makes no sense
An ambitious attempt to make a realistic karate training game for kids that falls foul of a poor story, ambiguous controls and generally plays out as little more than a giant quick time event