You wouldn't think it was possible for anyone to come up with an original martial arts game, but they have. It's one of the most obvious ones of all - Judo, from Martech.
Since the qualified failure of Rock 'N Wrestle (It did reach number one in the USA) the game makers have shied away from beat-'em-ups with complicated moves.
The complexity of move-implementation meant that all but the staunchest of beat-'em-up fans found Rock 'N Wrestle totally unplayable.
The result was a move away from the pure beat-'em-up - introducing a sort of hybrid mix of arcade adventure and punch and kick in the shape of games like The Way Of The Tiger, Ninja and, most recently, Fist II.
Martech have gone back to basics with Uchi Mata. There's no Golden Talisman to be collected here in order to get inside the pyramid. The objective is simple - throw your opponent all over the shop.
To do this, you have nine possible Judo moves - some more complicated than others, but all achievable.
The first move I mastered was the game's title - Uchi Mata. Programmer Andy Walker (ex Taskset) told me that the game was named after this move because Brian Jacks, chief adviser on the project, said it was the one move he really liked to "get over on someone". It's the judo equivalent of putting the ball through the goalie's legs after beating three defenders.
What you do is get a vice-like grip on your opponent's shoulders, twist him round then swing your leg and hip out and hoist him over your shoulder - depositing him down on the mat with a thud.
Tai Otoshi is another spectacular over-the-shoulder throw which again places your opponent on the mat with a slam.
The key to Uchi is speed. To execute any of the moves, you first have to strike and secure a grip on your opponent. This is done by pressing the fire button as you move. When the button is depressed, a bar chart will appear in the top of the screen (red or white) to represent each player. The length of this indicates the quality of the grip.
The secret is to execute your move in the short time that the barometer is showing. Once it disappears you have lost your grip and can do nothing.
The information screen also shows your stamina - another crucial strength for the judo player.
Most interesting of all the diplays is the foot layout window. This shows you the correct positioning of the feet for each move.
Getting the feet right is very important in judo. Brian Jacks was so impressed with this feature in the game that he is now using it in his judo school.
The 'foot window' is also the screen where the referee appears to give the results and penalise the players who make illegal moves.
One of these illegal moves can lead to outright disqualification. It is a particularly nasty one in which you dig your opponent in the shoulders and push him over backwards. Trouble is, it's so easy to do, you just can't resist using it from time to time - especially if you are taking a bit of a beating.
When a disqualification is made or a bout won, the referee appears and points to the player who has won. This player then turns to face out of the screen, thrusts his hand in the air, and gives you a great teethy white smile. I liked this touch. Most of us like to boast a bit when we execute a good move in a beat-'em-up. Now the computer does it for you.
Like most beat-'em-ups, Uchi is at its best in two player mode - though the computer makes a good opponent in its own right.
Andy Walker says of the computer version, "the C64 has been programmed to win. It will study your moves and adapt its strategy". Every time you beat it it gets tougher the next time round and, most importantly, it doesn't matter how good you get, the computer can always play better. This can be really exciting to watch. If you manage to get up to say - a 6 Dan - the computer will match this and the players will really start flying around the screen like super-fast acrobats.
The scoring system is as authentic as possible. Ten points for an 'Ipon' - getting your player flat on his back in one move - not easy, and an instant game winner when you achieve it. Not quite flat out is called 'Waz-Ari' which is slightly more common and worth seven points. If your opponent manages to block your move or break a fall, landing on his knees, the a 'Yuko' or 'Koka' is awarded - worth five and three points respectively.
The referee points to the point category on the score board every time a move is executed.
The game is at ite best when two players have mastered the art of blocking, as well as the attacking moves. Stalking each other around the screen searching for the right moment to strike becomes great fun.
Each bout lasts six minutes unless a player is disqualified or achieves an Ipon in this time.
One non-authentic touch is the addition of a high score table. This totals all your points and calculates points - awards for more complicated moves, as awarded by the referees in the move table at the top of the screen.
Graphics and sound effects are of a very high standard. The players are nice and big - larger than Fist - and they move realistically. Grunts and groans, and cries accompany each move in the traditional fashion. If you like judo you need have no hesitation in buying this one. Even if you don't, it's still a hell of a beat-'em-up. I'd rate it second only to International Karate.