Master Axe logo

Andy Smith can normally be found grinding away in the local nightspots (it's a sad sight), but here he's grinding his axe...

This is a bit of a strange one this, especially because I've no idea whether it's based on fact or fiction. Go to the Endurance option where you're fighting a series of bouts in various locations around the USA and the intro blurb tells you "In 1988 Master Axe led his three students on an epic 3,300 mile cycle/sparring quest from New York to San Diego. They took part in over forty good will bouts along the way. Now is your chance to re-live this modern day crusade..."

Fact or fiction?
Whether this actually happened or not I've no idea. Whether this Master Axe chap exists or not, I've no idea. I do, however, know that he's lent his name to a rather dodgy beat-'em-up.

The one player Endurance option is probably the game's best option, even though there's not a bicycle in sight, because the Hi-impact Tournament option is just bizarre. Select your character (there are some eight to choose from) and fight a bout. Win the first bout and erm, you win the tournament. Game Over.

Lose the bout however and you have the chance to become the character that beat you and fight in the semi-finals anyway. Lose here and you get to fight in the final as the character that defeated you in the semi's. It don't make much sense to me.

Obviously this is a game that benefits from the two-player mode. In fact that's the only thing going for it.

Shadow fighting
Still, it makes more sense than the Spiritual Warrior option. In this mode it's you versus a shadow image of whatever character you're supposed to be. Apparently you're fighting your inner self (the hardest thing to fight against if the game's to be believed), start to win the bout and your opponent becomes solid. Win the bout and that's the end of that.

Each bout is the standard best out of three affair, with or without a timer if you like. Reach the end of the time allocated for the bout and if it hasn't been resolved in a knockout then the person with the most energy left wins. The training mode's pretty ropey too - a quick bout and it's all over.

Obviously this is a game that benefits from the two player mode. In fact that's the only thing going for it. In one player mode you'll find that as soon as you've learnt a decent move or two you simply have to keep repeating them to defeat whoever you're up against. This doesn't work quite so well in two player mode because your mate's bound to learn a move that counters yours. It still won't be much fun because it's all so well, flat really.

The hidden locations attempt to make the gameplay a little less flat. At the start of the Endurance game you should normally be fighting some FBI chap outside the Whitehouse (he's armed with some kind of stun gun which takes half your energy with every hit so it's a little weighted in his favour) and for some random reason you have to fight someone else on top of a New York building beforehand. Why this should happen on some occasions and not others is beyond me.

Hidden features
There are some hidden features to be discovered including the rather hilarious 'Turbo Mode'. Manage to activate this and the fighters fly around the screen at an impressive rate. It's completely unplayable but it's a great laff and it does mean you get the bouts finished in just a few seconds. Even so, the hidden extras don't manage to lift the playing experience beyond slightly tedious.

The gameplay's straight down the line with little to grab your interest. The graphics are very nice, there's loads of animation and some rather nice effects, but they can't cover the ropey gameplay. It's stilted as well as flat. It must be said though that at least the programmers hae given each of the game's characters a different fighting style, so you can at least vary the action by choosing someone else to fight as.

The music's alright, but the sound effects are horrid - I've heard better sounds sampled in someone's dustbin. It's a shame that the programmers spent so much effort getting the game to look good, that they forgot it should be good to play too. This isn't, so don't buy it.

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The four main characters, including Master Axe on the left here. Angry looking fellow isn't he. Maxter Axe likes to go for the odd bike ride apparently, though there's none of that in the game. A shame really because that might have made it more fun to play.

Master Axe logo

Price: £14.99 Publisher: Neil Axe 01296 436182

Those of you around in 1994 will remember that Master Axe was due to be released by Millennium but somehow never quite made it. The game itself generated a lot of interest at the time as it was based on the adventures of an expert martial artist called Neil Axe who toured the United States. Three years on, Master Axe is finally here and is available from the man himself.

Master Axe is a little bit different from the standard beat 'em up, due to its Kung-Fu theme. The characters all perform realistic-looking Kung-Fu moves and the oriental ambiance is helped along by introductory techno/oriental type beat.

And as well as the standard beat 'em up tournament options you've also got options like Spiritual Warrior where you fight against your inner demons, i.e. a shadow of yourself and (my favourite) the US knockout option when you go up against a sinister-looking preseidential bodyguard type outside the Whitehouse.

Sadly, there isn't a CD32 control option so you have to rely on joystick twiddling alone. But there is a training academy you can attend beforehand to practice your skills. Other options include background animations, shadow effects and slow-motion sequences.

And according to Mr. Axe: "If you pause the game and perform certain moves with your joystick you can get turbo mode, blood mode, more animations, and special moves".

However, what drags Master Axe down is the fact that you can't intall it your drive and it doesn't seem to respond to using a second disk drive so you're stuck swopping disks throughout the game.

It also could have been a lot more polished. The graphics, although not awful, are not top of the range either. The text on the options screen is very hard to read making it difficult to work out what the options are. But the price reflects this and so it is worth checking out at least.