Much like the minigames it's based on, you punch flying objects and kick barrels to the beat. Gameplay is virtually identical to the original (one button to punch, another to kick), though it's given a few tweaks to be more like a traditional rhythm game. Points are tallied up by combos, and instead of solely relying on audio cues, a chart at the bottom displays upcoming beats. It also comes with a Level Editor for players to make and upload their own charts.
Unfortunately for hopeful newcomers, the original creator's website went down, although downloads are still floating around on the internet.
- Anti-Frustration Features: Even without plugging a controller in, there are numerous keys (enter, space, and the mouse) to punch with. While the game recommends kicking the DS way ("flicking" the mouse cursor in an arc while holding a click down), players can also use the up arrow to kick.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Karate Joe is only one color, usually white, blue or orange.
- Charge Meter: The "Flow" meter from Rhythm Tengoku returns here, which allows you to punch rocks when it reaches at least 4. Unlike Tengoku's 5 gauge meter, this game's meter cranks it up to 10.
- Fan Remake: Three of the default songs are faithful remakes of the gameplay for "Karate Rhythm" (under the name "Theme of Karate Man") and both versions of "Struck by the Rain".