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Why Mortal Kombat was a brilliantly bloodthirsty fighter

But hang on. Surely all this niceness counts for nothing in a game you can complete on your first go? Well, no, it wouldn't, but Amiga Mortal Kombat brings with it a welcome upshift in the difficulty level, to the extent that even on 'Very Easy' level (there are five levels, ranging from Very Easy to Very Hard) it's reasonably challenging, especially if you stick to the default three-continues setting (you can alter this as well, to between one and six continues).

The computer characters learn pretty quickly if you just sit and repeat the same move over and over again, and they're ruthless when it comes to using their own special move combinations. Stick the setting up to Very Hard and you've got a game that will keep you struggling for at least a good few days, and you can't say that about very many beat-'em-ups, can you?

What else is there? How about control? Mortal Kombat comes out on top here too, surprisingly. While Street Fighter 2 was ridiculously complicated and over-context sensitive (thus reducing the game to a waggle-and-hope contest) and Body Blows went too far the other way with an over-simplified system that took all the fun out of discovering and using the best moves, Mortal Kombat has about as usable a system as you could possibly expect from a one-fire-button joystick (although there is an option to use a two-button stick as well, which improves matters even further).

What's your speciality?

The special moves are just tricky enough to make using them a bit of a gamble, without being so hard that you simply can't do them at all, and ordinary punching and kicking uses more or less the most instinctive and logical stick moves at all times. Six-button joypads? Who needs 'em? Not Mortal Kombat players, that's for sure.

Nostalgia trip

I think the thing I like most about Mortal Kombat is that it reminds me of International Karate+. The speed, the controllability, the solidity of the blows, even the broadly mystical Oriental theme all evoke memories of Archer Maclean's classic, and this is the first Amiga beat-'em-up that I'd even consider playing when I had a copy of IK+ to hand.

I keep popping back to Mortal Kombat when I've got a few minutes to kill (oh dear – ed) and that's not something I've ever found myself doing with a beat-'em-up before, or something I ever expected myself to do with Mortal Kombat. Against all the odds, Virgin and Probe have made a winner out of a loser, and I salute them.

  • Rating: 86%
  • Uppers – Accessible control, reasonable difficulty, a pretty good replication of the original graphics-wise, meaty sound and, of course, lots of blood, gore and death. Hurrah!
  • Downers – If you actually look closely at them, the graphics are pretty shabby. Fairly lengthy disk accessing, but at least it's only on two disks and recognises the second drive. As with all beat-'em-ups, not much fun in one-player mode after the first day or two.
  • The bottom line – No one's more surprised about it than me, but despite Mortal Kombat being rubbish on every other format in the world, it's the Amiga's best beat-'em-up to date. Who'd have thought it?
  • The bottom line (A1200) – No visible or audible enhancements of any sort. Shame.