Karateka is an extremely disappointing game. While the lackluster graphics and audio could have been rescued by great game play, it turns out that the game plays even worse than it looks and sounds!
Karateka is notorious for its poor control feel. The six different attacks are not very distinct. Since there are no blocks, making a high, medium or low attack only serves to vary the range of the attack (and the attack ranges only differ minimally.) As there are no jumps, the fighters merely shuffle toward one another and then start throwing kicks and punches until one is defeated.
In addition, the control scheme is very counterintuitive. You press one button to toggle your character in and out of a fighting stance. The other button is pressed to allow you to move your character when he is in the fighting stance. Otherwise, moving the stick left or right in the fighting stance is supposed to throw one of the six different kicks and punches. The result is an overly complicated control scheme for an otherwise simple karate game.
Compunding the control issue is the fact that your Karateka responds to your commands as if on valium. Your fighter will make a rapid series of strikes and then stop for a moment. Instead of fast action fighting, the game is a series of delays where you wait for your fighter to start punching or kicking again.
Perhaps the final gameplay killer is that you are only given a single life. If you get killed, you have to start all over again. Even if you have only gotten a few screens into the game, I doubt that most people will feel the game is worth going through them again. ~ Joseph Scoleri III, All Game Guide
While the graphics have a few nice touches, the overall presentation is sparse and bland. ~ Joseph Scoleri III, All Game Guide
Almost as bland as the graphics. The musical themes for the princess and her captor are effective. ~ Joseph Scoleri III, All Game Guide
If you enjoy overcoming a bad game, this one is for you! ~ Joseph Scoleri III, All Game Guide
With one mission and no difficulty levels, you might want to finish it once (if at all.) ~ Joseph Scoleri III, All Game Guide
The manual is brief but adequate for a simple game like this. ~ Joseph Scoleri III, All Game Guide