Nostalgia is a heady substance. When sipped judiciously, it can make an average game experience into something to be savoured as each screen brings along with it flashes of long-forgotten memories.
Drink too deeply from the cup of nostalgia, however, and you'll wake up with a nasty hangover and night that you'd rather forget.
Karateka, a reboot of Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner's 1984 beat-'em-up of the same name is a prime example of how not to enjoy nostalgia responsibly.Drop kicked
The story Karateka tells is so timeless that you want it to work: a woman is kidnapped and taken from her true love, and so her true love sets out to rescue her.
Because this is a beat-'em-up, the rescue entails fighting - and plenty of it. Each fight in Karateka plays like a simple rhythm game with one-tap controls.
When confronted with an opponent, you watch him attack and tap in time with his assaulting animation to block. Do it well and you'll counterattack immediately. Do it poorly and you'll take damage.
It's a simple affair, really, and it doesn't deliver anything more or less than what's contained in the two sentences above.
From start to finish you'll be watching the same unrealistic and boring attack animations while tapping along in sync with your opponents.
The extremely basic gameplay is compounded by the game's short duration: you can easily complete it in about half an hour.
A game with 30 minutes of play time needs to work hard to justify a 644MB profile and a price of £1.99/$2.99.
While Karateka does work pretty hard in this department, it doesn't get anywhere worth going to.
The backgrounds and art style are all beautifully rendered and the atmosphere it creates is compelling, but the game itself fails to live up to these elements.
There's an interesting challenge system that pops up to keep the game fresh. Should your first character die, you resume where you left off playing as a second character with an alternative reason for pursuing the kidnapped woman.
Fail as that character and a lumbering brute with a third narrative pretext steps in to fight.
Completing the game with each character yields a different ending, which adds some replay value, but chances are you won't want to replay it at all.
Strange bugs pop up throughout the game which cause it to lock up, restart your device entirely, or trap a character in an endless animation loop.
Karateka will need a lot of work to justify its size and current price on the App Store. Bug-fixes are a given, and the addition of an endless fight mode (with leaderboards, perhaps) would entice more players into playing this title.
At present, however, it just doesn't deliver enough story, challenge, or fun to justify its asking price.