Atari User

Chop Suey
By English
Atari 400/800/600XL/800XL/130XE

Published in Atari User #7

Chop Suey

Sit down at your Atari, hold your joystick at an aggressive angle, screw up your face, let rip a bloodcurling shout and go to it.

Well, even if you're not acting this strangely at the start of playing English Software's Chop Suey, I guarantee you will be after just a few minutes.

This martial arts simulation really gets to you. If you thought you were just a gentle pacifist at heart, better think again after you've tried this game. You might discover a latent Bruce Lee has been lurking undetected under your skin.

Chop Suey

The action takes place, not in the fresh air or a gymnasium, but in what appears to be a theatre.

In fact, it's very similar to the traditional setting used for the weightlifting events at the Olympic Games. In the lower portion of the screen, looking up at an enclosed stage, are three rows of spectators who fidget around from time to time to let you know they're wide awake.

On stage is where all the leaping, kicking and punching takes place.

Chop Suey

The two dreadlocked Kung-Fu participants are dressed similarly - loose, white pajama-like costumes complete with black belts.

There are three options: player versus player, player versus computer and, if you want to select demo mode, computer versus computer. The demo mode will automatically begin if you just sit there and do nothing.

In addition you can choose between the laughingly named slow or fast modes. Slow mode is quite fast enough, thank you very much.

Chop Suey

Fast mode has the two players dashing around like characters from one of those old Keystone Kop movies. Move up to this level only when you've become really adept at the art.

There are eight moves at your disposal - two shuffles, three kicks, one jab and two jumps. All are executed by moving the joystick to the appropriate compass position.

Pressing the fire button lets you make one further move - a smart about-turn from the direction you are currently facing.

Chop Suey

The quick shuffles take you to the left or right. The one punch in your repertoire is a still-armed jab. Used well it can have very gratifying results.

Kicks come in three sizes: the low sweep to the opponent's legs, the sharp kick to the midriff and, my personal favourite, the high kick.

Executing the high kick when your opponent is some distance from you is most satisfying - you arc smoothly through the air with your leading leg outstretched as dangerously as a warrior's lance.

There are two leaps. One is a simple vertical jump into the air, the other a full-blooded somersault taking you right over the top of your opponent's head to the far side of the stage.

At the bottom of the screen, each player has a Pow! gauge, pain-level indicator. It changes colour as punishment is soaked up. When it starts to flash, the player is in a fragile state of health and one more thump will bring him to the floor.

The player recovers after a brief respite but always has a residual pain level which rises after each knockdown. When this reaches an intolerable level, that player is retired and the opponent declared the winner.

It is comforting to note that nobody ever gets completely flattened - falling down on one knee and grimacing at the floor is the worst that can happen to you.

Apart from your opponent's fists and feet, there is one other hazard. From time to time, an air vent opens in the stage ceiling and a large scorpion drops down to scuttle across the stage.

You have to leap to avoid its poisonous bit. David Attenborough would not be amused - scorpions are supposed to have lethal stings, not bites!

The scorpion interludes detract somewhat from the main business at hand and the game is exciting enough without them. Even so, they do present an added challenge.

Scorpions aside, the only minor criticism I have is that the contestants are identical picking a fight with the local Third Dan.

For once duffed up, the first computer opponent is immediately replaced by another but considerably more skilled fighter. And there's six more thwre those came from, each more experienced and tougher than the last. The challenge lies in seeing if you can out-Kung all eight contenders.

One item intrigued me. The cassette inlay hints the excellent play may be rewarded. Rumour has it that the famous Kung-Fu talent scout Foo Yung (groan) and his son, Spling Loll (ditto) are in the audience.

You'll just have to play well to see if that's of any significance - my play wasn't even up to beating opponent three.

Colour is excellent while sound effects, introductory music, whooshes and beeps enhance the enjoyment.

But it is in the animation where the game excels. The players' movements are very realistic - the smoothness of the flying kick alone has to be seen to be believed.

Chop Suey is superb, and at only £8.95, this has got to be one of the best Atari buys of the year. Go get it, grasshopper.

Bob Chappell

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