Ah so, Humble Englishman, you think you can take on finest Oriental masters and beat them at their own game? Then take your place in Oriental Games, where the one true master shall be found. For so it is written.
Oriental Games is a multi-event martial arts beat-'em-up (try saying that with a mouth full of chips). It's based on four different combat sports that are so (ah so) popular in the Far East.
Kung Fu is first. This is a real kick-'em-in event. The action is fast and furious. It's all about out-manoeuvering your opponent - being in the right place to deliver the final death blow.
Kendo is next. Armed with a big wooden stick, you have to bash your opponents' brains out while avoiding the same fate yourself. This is the only event where you have any weapon other than foot and fist.
Freestyle is a streetwise variation on Kung Fu. Here the rules are more relaxed - and dirty fighting is the way to win. Head butts are allowed, and are good for inflicting damage to your adversary.
Sumo Wrestling is the final event. Two fat men attempt to push each other out of a ring. Fans of Sally and all the other massive men on Channel 4's late night programme will love this one.
Each event has its own knock-out (knock-out being quite appropriate) competition. Eight entrants use their strength, skill and stamina in an attempt to outwit each other in the various forms of combat and win the coveted Gold Medal. Silver and Bronze are also available - and you'll have to pretty good to win any of them. Medals are also awarded for overall performance in all four events, but you'll have to be exceptional to rank anywhere in this comprehensive category.
Even in the first round, the challengers are difficult to beat. It's not impossible, however, and after a bit of practice you'll find yourself in with a fighting chance (groan). As you progress through the tournament, your adversaries get tougher and tougher. And when you're finally ousted from the competition, the remaining entrants carry on without you. The results of the fights are displayed on screen as the fights are played. Fortunately, you don't have to sit through all of this every time - and a few quick slabs on the fire button passes this section by.
Up to four human players can take apart in the competition. They are always pitted against a computer-controlled fighter in the first round, so to have a decent two-player game, both players will have to win a couple of bouts before they can do battle against each other. A pity, as the greatest challenge in any game is always found playing against another person.
The game has no practice option either, which would have been the best way to implement an instant two-player game. The conventional system of fighting moves has been employed, with different key or joystick combinations resulting in different actions. As usual with this typo of game, your first go consists of leaping around the screen aimlessly, having no clear idea of how to do any particular move. After a few goes that changes, and your flying kicks and karate chops become more tuned in to your joystick movements.
The gameplay is very slick. The action is non-stop, and taking your eyes off the screen for a second could spell your doom. Energy is represented by bars for each player, and is depicted by alarming amounts, depending on the type of blow your opponent lands. If you manage to avoid being hit for some time then your strength is slowly replenished. However... It's hard to hit your enemy with anything resembling accuracy - or it was for us! Your best bet's to leap around frantically and launch a crafty attack when the other guy isn't looking...
An authentic Oriental jingle plays through the title screen. Authentic enough to have you reaching for that volume control before you unleash some real karate chops on your CPC. Sound is severely limited throughout the game itself, though. No music, and just a mere smattering of spot effects. A bell sounds at the start of each match, and there's a fairly convincing thwack every time your punch or kick hits home, but apart from that the game is silent.
Graphically, the game is a black belt. The sprites are large, flicker-free and nicely animated and include a close-up of your expression as you're dealt yet another blow by your assailant. The backgrounds too are fairly well drawn - not that you really take much notice of them in the thick of battle.
All in all, Oriental Games is a tough fighting game with a lot of gameplay. The four sections are similar in concept, but different enough to offer plenty of variety. It does miss out on a couple of things, especially an easy human vs. human option, but pretty graphics and plenty of challenge go a long way towards making up for such comparatively minor shortcomings.
I wouldn't know a Kendo stick if it poked me in the eye. Even so, Oriental Games was great fun - until I realised all you ever get is more of the same. A really excellent game for combat fans, limited for the rest of us.
A green belt is nothing to be ashamed of.
P. Good, solid sprites and animation.
P. Convincing Japanese jingle on title screen.
N. Only the barest spot effects in play.
Grab Factor 82%
P. Very good-looking.
N. A bit too difficult at first.
Staying Power 79%
P. Plenty of fighting moves to master.
N. Lacks proper human vs. human option.
P. One of the better beat-'em-ups.