Karnov is a 1987 platform arcade game. In the game, players take control of the title character Jinborov Karnovski, or "Karnov" for short.
The game puts the bulging-muscled, fire-breathing, east-Russian, ex-circus strongman hero on a quest through nine different levels to search for the ultimate treasure. However, between him and the treasure are several horrendous monsters, including sword-wielding monks, dinosaurs, djinn, hopping fish men, gargoyles, tree monsters, will-o-wisps, rock creatures, centipede women, and ostrich-riding skeleton warriors.
Karnov can walk, jump, and shoot to make his way through these levels and find special items that will help him. Acquiring red orbs can upgrade up Karnov until he shoots three fireballs at a time. The end of each level has one or more bosses which he must defeat to receive a new piece of a treasure map. The end of the game features a powerful boss called "The Wizard" who defends the last map piece that leads to the treasure.
The Famicom version was co-developed by Data East (design and audio) and SAS Sakata (programming). It was released on December 18, 1987 in Japan by Namco, and shortly thereafter on its North American equivalent, the NES, in 1988 by Data East itself. Although it plays very similarly to the arcade game there are some noticeable differences:
- Karnov takes two hits to die instead of just one. After being hit once he will turn a blue color in which he has one hit left or can gain an extra hit back by grabbing a blue fireball orb.
- The Super Fireball is replaced with the Spike Bomb which destroys every enemy on screen. The Trolley item is replaced with the Shield which is used to reflect an enemy's fireballs.
- Levels 4 and 8 are completely different from the arcade levels.
- The final boss is no longer the Wizard, but a giant three-headed dragon. Both fights, however, take place in similar rooms.
The Famicom game is noticeably more difficult since it has limited continues, and the option is not visibly present after all lives are lost, instead requiring pressing Select and Start at the same time. The NES game, however, provides unlimited continues, and it also allows Karnov to be killed when both the A and B buttons are pressed on the second controller.