Cobra Kai’s joke – the show’s joke – is that two 50-year-old men can’t let their feud over a high school karate tournament go. No one else cares, because it’s stupid, masculine posturing.
Whether by choice or by budget restraints (the latter, most likely), Cobra Kai’s game spin-off nails that nuance. As the dueling karate school members brawl inside malls, car dealerships, or right in the street, no one even turns their head to look. It’s as if this smug, self-interested west coast culture is trying to get rid of the bad behavior like you do a puppy – ignore them and they’ll stop pestering you.
There’s more to that culture too, including the preppy moms who immediately call on their kids to fight their battles. It’s not exactly comfortable to wail on a middle age soccer mom, but Cobra Kai leans into the caricature. It’s a game rife with comical references, from fat security guards named Blart to muscle-bound beach heads and “hero” Daniel LaRusso beating down a grade school kid manipulated by his adversary.
The entire game mocks the lunacy in Karate Kid’s story, and filling it with an ever better fighting system that, initially, seems like a disaster until there’s deeper appreciation for all this design pulls off. Plus, in addition to poking at the franchise’s hokiness and referencing brawlers past, from fireballs to uppercuts. It’s all so stupid and clumsily done, but Cobra Kai’s series concerns itself with dueling mid-life crises and that manages to work too.