Version tested: Retro
Exploding Fist or IK? Not a mishap in the perfume branding factory, but a high-kicking battle for the C64 fighting crown. With both games released within the space of a few months, predictable arguments raged as to which was better. System 3's IK sequel silenced these disputes, squeezing a third fighter on-screen and including a bonus section based around the ancient art of wielding a dustbin lid. Debate over.
IK+ is a fighting game without special moves (unless you count the infamous "trousers" manoeuvre), released at the divergence of the genre. Another title released in 1987, Street Fighter, would lead one-on-one fighters in a very different direction. But in place of fifty-combo fireball slaps, IK+ delivers the simple goal of landing foot or fist on your foe; a glorious brawl of brain and brawn, as you attempt to outwit the two human or computer controlled adversaries.
Crucially, the controls are perfectly responsive. In this vital area the game is the equal of any modern fighter, with every move registering the moment it's executed by the joystick. The ability to rapidly respond to circumstances, such as being able to bust out a counter flying kick and nail a mid-air opponent, is also a treat. Similarly, moves can be 'cancelled' mid-frame in favour of a more useful one.
Whilst the game has excellent AI, nothing compares to facing off against human opposition. Tactics (or, sometimes, the lack of them) become paramount. It's all totally balanced and nothing is ever unfair. Although life for the guy in the middle of the kung-fu sandwich can sometimes feel a bit tough.
Superior to the 16-bit versions, the C64 original has no equal and continues to provide a worthwhile challenge. For relieving frustration, it certainly beats trying to karate chop the kitchen working surface.
9 / 10