Nickname of Jinborov Karnovski, fire-breathing Russian strongman and hero of perhaps the most surreal platform game ever released. I realize that in a genre characterized by flying turtles and evil mushroom-men, that's a possibly-contentious assertion, but I feel that Karnov's acid-spitting rose-bushes and ostrich-riding skeletons put it more in a class with Weird Dreams than Super Mario Bros.
    KARNOV NES-KV-USA
    INSTRUCTION MANUAL
    DATA-EAST (r)

    KARNOV, the fire-breathing Russian, is seeking the Lost Treasure of Babylon. He runs, swims, climbs and flies through nine levels of game play. Countless bizarre enemies of various sizes and strengths are out to prevent KARNOV from finding the treasure!

I suppose they wouldn't have moved many units if they'd mentioned that it also happens to be one of the most insanely difficult run-and-jumpers ever produced outside the stable of Silmarils. Enemies appear, disappear and respawn unpredictably - action perhaps to be expected in a modern first-person-shooter, but beyond the expectations of quarter-pushers when it was released to arcades in 1988. After dying the first ten times, often before moving off the starting screen, players begin to realize that perhaps this is something to reckon with, no mere passtime but a challenge that must be approached seriously and rigorously. After twenty to thirty more deaths, the player begins cultivating a sixth sense of premonition, a vague sense that even though I can't see it yet, there's something here that will kill me dozens of times as soon as I step off my pedestal. Regrettably, a spidey-sense isn't especially useful when it's always tingling, and this visually-beautiful game's life in the arcades was brief as consumers moved on to the less-immediately-lethal Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Tetris and Altered Beast, all of which also saw their debut that year.
    3. HOW TO PLAY

      The story of Karnov begins in the peaceful village of Creamina, where the Treasure of Babylon has been kept for centuries, hidden away from the outside world.

      The Treasure has been sought by Ryu, a huge and evil dragon, for thousands of years. But now, Ryu has discovered the secret of Creamina and descended upon the little village, accompanied by all of his demonic cohorts.

      Ryu has made off with the Treasure, leaving his monstrous minions behind to terrorize the countryside. The helpless townsfolk have only one hope: Jinborov Karnovski, otherwise known as Karnov, a one-time circus strong man with a unique talent for shooting fireballs.

      Only Karnov can find a way through the monster-infested countryside, to seek out the evil Ryu and regain the Lost Treasure of Babylon for his people!

Given its lack of success in the arcades, what is particularly interesting is that this title ended up being ported and converted to a number of home and console systems, including the Commodore 64, the ZX Spectrum, the Nintendo Entertainment System and even a version for the handful of people owning PCs at home, none of which sold particularly well but the cross-platform flowering seemed to have been successful at convincing Data East to make this unique pantalooned Russkie into something akin to their corporate mascot given that the character of Karnov would end up resurfacing (strangely, as a bad guy each time) in the subsequent games Bad Dudes, Trio the Punch and the Street Fighter 2 rip-off Fighter's History (which was actually renamed Karnov's Revenge).

Having stated my understanding of the character's and game's histories and having shared my views of their irrevocable bizarreness I leave the original NES manual to fill you in on the relatively-mundane game mechanics with some Game Genie codes for dessert. Enjoy!

    SUPER FIREBALLS

      Karnov begins the game with three lives. If he is hit once, he turns blue. If he is hit again while he is blue, he loses a life.

      But if Karnov picks up a Super Fireball while he is blue, he will be restored to his normal color.

      Picking up Super Fireballs also increases Karnov's firepower.

      Collecting two Super Fireballs will enable him to shoot double fireballs, and collecting three will enable him to shoot triple fireballs.

    OPTIONS

      There are ten Options available throughout all the levels. Collect them to use during key moments of the game when needed.

    Certain Options can be collected and inventoried. In addition, some Options can be used only at certain times during the game.

    An Option will flash when it can be used.

    • Boots
    • - Doubles Karnov's jumping power. This Option loses its effectiveness over a period of time, but it can be stocked.

    • Bombs
    • - Not just for defeating enemies, but also for destroying certain obstacles and walls. It can be stored.

    • Ladder
    • - Use it to reach an Option positioned in a high place, or avoid an enemy's attack.

    • Boomerang
    • - Gives you extra attacking power. You can use it again if you catch it when it returns. It can be stocked.

    • Clapper
    • - This will destroy every enemy on the screen at one time (except for the Boss Enemy in each Stage). It can be stocked.

    • Glasses
    • - Allows you to see and retrieve hidden Options.

    • Swimming Mask
    • - This will allow you to go faster underwater in Stage 5, a swimming scene.

    • Wings
    • - Use them when you fall from a high place. You will need them continuously in Stage 8, a flying scene. They can be stocked.

    • Shield
    • - Protects Karnov from an enemy's attack up to five times.

    • K Mark
    • - You will receive one extra life when you collect fifty of these.
Game Genie codes for Karnov:
  • SXKISXVK Infinite lives
  • GZVZNIVG Freeze timer
  • LEEGOYPA Gain 3 of most items
  • AEOKSYPA Never lose most items
  • PAUSAAAA Start on stage 2
  • ZAUSAAAA Start on stage 3
  • LAUSAAAA Start on stage 4
  • GAUSAAAA Start on stage 5
  • IAUSAAAA Start on stage 6
  • TAUSAAAA Start on stage 7
  • YAUSAAAA Start on stage 8
  • AAUSAAAE Start on stage 9
  • AAOSIAZA + AESIVTZA Start with 1 life
  • IAOSIAZA + IESIVTZA Start with 6 lives
  • AAOSIAZE + AESIVTZE Start with 9 lives
Bonus update! -- Karnov's surreality meets Dance Dance Revolution's beatmatching gameplay in a Flash game at http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=142

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