(Images courtesy of MobyGames and 8BitCentral)
Martial arts legend, film star, and noted tough guy Chuck Norris got his very own video game back in the day with Chuck Norris Superkicks, an early entry in the beat-’em-up genre. You take on the role of the robed one as he attempts to reach an ancient monastery in order to rescue a famous leader who is being held hostage.
You begin the game as a white belt, but by defeating attackers, scoring points, and learning new martial arts skills (such as somersault superkicks and forearm blocks), you will earn each of the colored belts associated with the "Tang Soo Do" style of karate. Every time you gain a belt, you get extra time. In order to reach and enter the monastery, which is guarded by ninja assassins (masters of karate and camouflage), you must achieve the highest rank of all—black belt.
Chuck Norris Superkicks consists of seven levels: Path to the Monastery, Attack by the Rice Fields, Attack in the Foothills, Ambush on the Waterfront, The Village Attack, The Approach to the Monastery, and Inside the Monastery. You must walk up pathways from screen to screen, avoiding tall grass along both sides of the path. The manual instructs you to use your "sixth sense" intuition to choose the correct route. Impassable barriers such as fallen trees block off some of the pathways.
Many times throughout the game, Chuck will stop walking, and the action will switch to a close-up perspective. This is when you must punch, kick, and otherwise fight off Yakuza, Dorobo, Tengu, and other warriors, guards, and bandits who attack from both sides of the screen. After you clear a wave of enemies (some of which throw stars), you will continue on your way.
Among gamers who seek out oddball titles, Chuck Norris Superkicks is often the subject of ridicule. The reasons for this are many as the game is replete with unintentional humor. If you walk on the tall grass, seconds fly off your timer with every step you take. Are the designers of this game telling me that world-renowned karate expert ChuckNorris is vulnerable to unkempt greenery? Also, the snow-capped mountain peaks alongside the walkways are tiny in relation to their surroundings. They look ridiculous.
The manual suggests that you use your "intuition" when walking up pathways in order to determine the correct route. This annoying bit of new age nonsense only means that lady luck plays a role in the game. If you walk up an obstructed pathway, you must turn around, walk a different direction, and repeat the same level. It's not a huge ordeal to fight the same fights over again, but this bit of hooey is annoying and redundant.
On a more positive note, Chuck Norris Superkicks is an unusual game for its time and something of a novelty. Gaining fighting moves as you progress from level to level is a cutting-edge concept. Especially cool is the somersault superkick. However, the game never really picks up until you reach the final stage. Up until this point, the levels are brief and easy to complete.
Once you reach the monastery, a seemingly endless flow of ninjas come after you. The more you defeat, the deadlier they become as their camouflaging abilities increase. It's challenging and even enjoyable to dodge the thrown stars while trying to punch or kick ninja after ninja—this is the point at which you can really boost your score. Interestingly, the graphics take a marked leap in quality as well. The inside of the monastery, with its rich blue hues, wall dragon and flickering candles, is tastefully and elegantly designed.
The game has a nice musical intro, and redundant, but competently done music plays during fight scenes and when you progress from one level to the next. The sound effects are about average for a third-party ColecoVision title.
Overall, Chuck Norris Superkicks is an uneven and sometimes laughable gaming experience. The inclusion of pathways makes the game a quest of sorts, but the actual walking and avoiding "killer weeds" is a little dull. In fact, first six levels are less than exciting. Level seven is fun, though, and the game was clearly ahead of its time in terms of combat and RPG elements. If you’ve only played the blockier, less detailed Atari 2600 version, or you’ve never played it at all, the game is worth checking out for its novelty value.