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Karateka remake on iOS is 'cosmically awesome,' says creator Jordan Mechner

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Jordan Mechner's first computer was a 16K Apple II he bought in high school. "It's what got me started making games," he told Polygon over email, "and led to Prince of Persia and pretty much my entire career."

But before Prince of Persia, Mechner made his first game, Karateka, on that Apple II in his Yale University dorm room. It came out in 1984, and now, 28 years later, a re-imagining of the 8-bit classic is launching on Mechner's newest computing device: the Apple iPad.

"It's kind of cosmically awesome," he said, "that Karateka is finally once again being released on an Apple device."

He added, "I was especially touched to be able to show my dad the new Karateka," since his father composed the original game's simple but evocative music. Grammy-winning composer Christopher Tin did the music for the remake, basing some of his score on the original motifs. "It gave me chills to hear the the hero's theme when he climbs the cliff at the beginning, and seeing the grin on my dad's face was priceless," Mechner said.

Mechner, who directed the Karateka remake production team at Liquid Entertainment, wanted to do an iOS version from the start. As he told Polygon in a previous interview, he believes the game's structure is conducive to a touch interface — it's a linear story, and the rhythm-based combat works well with tapping and gestures. He added that mobile platforms like iOS are "the ideal way" for modern gamers to play simpler retro titles.

the iOS release brings Karateka full circle, from Apple II to Apple iPad

Liquid developed the iOS version of Karateka in-house, and according to Mechner, it was built "using the same assets and much of the same team as the console version." Touch controls made the game slightly easier than on PC or console, so the developers adjusted the mobile version's difficulty curve. Still, it's not intended to be a "hard-core fighter," Mechner said. "It's something I hope younger kids will enjoy, as well as nostalgic 8-bit gamers who 'punched the hawk' in their youth and now might like to share it with their families."

Karateka is available today in the US iTunes App Store as an iOS universal app for $2.99. It requires at least an iPhone 4S, iPad 2 or iPad mini. Karateka launched Dec. 18 for $9.99 on PlayStation Network, earlier this month on PC for $9.99 and in November on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points ($10). As for an Android version, assistant producer Heather D'Evelyn told Polygon that there are "no official plans right now, but maybe in the future."

A trailer for the remake is available below. Read our earlier interview with Mechner and the trailer's director, Adam Lisagor, to see how it was made.

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