Back in the day, I was a pretty big Jackie Chan fan. I'm still a fan, I just no longer have a goal of owning all of his Hong Kong Legends DVDs. Silly goal come to think of it, because I don't think that label has the entire Jackie Chan filmography...
Anyway, the point is, I never got Wheels on Meals on DVD, let alone knew there was a tie in game produced for the arcades that was known worldwide as Kung-Fu Master. The link between the game and film is tenuous at best, both staring a Thomas and a Sylvia, but in different guises. Here, Sylvia has been kidnapped, and her boyfriend Thomas must become a master of kung-fu in order to win her back, battling through the Devil's Temple against increasingly deadly foes.
I've no idea what that involves.
|Duck, Sylvia, jeez...|
An animated introduction gets straight to the point and after reading some kind of ransom note for further motivation, we're off to the Devil's Temple. The key is to take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch, kick when you have to ki-no, sorry, that's Bruce Lee. The key is to keep moving forward, punching and kicking whomever gets in your way, up five floors of foes and bosses intent on halting your progress.
At first it seems easy as you find your range, get used to your movement speed, work out that if you're grabbed you waggle the joystick like a madman to break free (proven Kung-Fu technique, don't knock it 'til you've tried it), but it may get the better of you sooner than you think.
You've got a health bar and if you get attacked it will deplete. That much is obvious, that much is accepted. But you've got no way to refill it during a level, so silly little mistakes like walking into a dagger or getting hugged by too many opponents will cause you to lose a life, taking you back to the start of the level.
They're short enough for it to not be too much of a bother, but if you are an idiot like me who doesn't learn to take his time and pre-empt something, rather than react to it, then you're going to be going through continues like there's no tomorrow.
What also caught me out was wanting to move backwards to kick some more folks in the head, despite forward progress being the only progress that matters. Most enemies will need to be dealt with, but some can be outrun. If they don't come to you, don't go to them, despite how satisfying it may be to unleash a high kick accompanied by authentic martial art sound effects and shouting.
I didn't get far into Kung-Fu Master at all (sorry, Sylvia). I know that it's not all dagger throwers and low-level lackeys that you fight (and that some of the things you do fight are unexpected to say the least), but I didn't see very many more things during my attempts. It's a short game if you want to watch it on YouTube, being completable in less than 10 minutes, and the controls are dead simple to pick up.
It is satisfying to whack five people in a row with a kick and watch them plummet off the bottom of the screen, but it is unsatisfying to then not jump over a dagger and have to restart the level.
It's the kind of game where you see how far you can get without dying, and that death probably comes from something silly, but it plays alright, it looks pretty good, doesn't sound too bad either. You can tell the genre will be refined as these games go on, but for the first beat 'em up we've come across, Kung-Fu Master does the job well.
Though it turned out to be a Wheels on Meals tie-in, Kung-Fu Master was originally based on Bruce Lee's Game of Death, which would make much more sense when the game is compared to the film.
Kung-Fu Master, developed by Irem, first released in 1984.
Version played: Arcade, 1984, via emulation.