Will this be the year of the Tiger? Tony Hetherington reviews the latest kung-fu challenge from Gremlin Graphics.
You are the Avenger, a Ninja trained in the Way of the Tiger. As such, you are a master of the martial arts and make a deadly assassin and a formidable foe to anyone that stands before you.
You are clothed completely in your black Ninja costume that leaves only your eyes uncovered so that you can see the terror that even your appearance instills in the enemy.
However, you will need all your skills and training if you are to succeed in your mission and defeat the evil forces sent to destroy you.
Ahead of you lie three challenges, unarmed combat, pole fighting and samurai sword fighting.
The game is loosely based on the series of role-playing books published by Knight, that are similar in style to our own 'Heroic Warrior' adventures but obviously a great deal bigger and more involved. However, in the computer games the only decisions facing you are either clobber your opponent or be clobbered by him.
As mentioned earlier, the game consists of three distinct challenges that are loaded in separately from a master program that allows you either to practice a skill or go for broke and play them all in sequence.
Naturally, practice is essential as we prepare for unarmed combat.
The scene for the combat is an impressive 3D landscape view featuring a new 'triple scroll' technique that divides the background into three areas and scrolls them at different speeds to produce some impressive effects as your Ninja walks along. One of the scrolling areas lies in front of the Ninja which creates the impression that you're walking between objects. These include rocks, curious monoliths and animated fountains.
Unfortunately, you haven't much time to admire the scenery as your first opponent suddenly appears from out of the ground.
He's a particularly ugly character that alternates between a wraith-like critter that can hovver above you and a nasty little gremlin who viciously attacks your ankles.
Luckily you have an array of punches and kicks, only a joystick move away that should quickly despatch him.
Your next opponent is even tougher... as it's another Ninja.
Below the action screen are two displays showing your endurance and inner strength. Your endurance is lost as you're pummelled in battle which can bring the game to an abrupt end if it gets too low. In some cases running away may not be very Ninja-like, but it could give you time to get your breath back before laying in again.
Your inner force has been built up during countless hours of rigorous training and meditation and allows you to unleash extra powerful blows. Unfortunately even a Ninja of your abilities must use this wisely.
Such an occasion may be your next opponent which is a huge horned manbeast that tries to either claw you to pieces or butt you with his horn.
Your next challenge is set on a bridge that spans a mighty fast flowing rver where, armed with a pole, you will fight Ninjas, skeletons and dwarves.
Be on your guard at all times as you've got less room to manoeuvre and it is easy to be caught off guard particularly by the skeletons that don't walk on the bridge from the side but instead suddenly leap out of the water!
The Ninjas are always a problem but the dwarf is worse. His lack of height restricts the moves that you can use on him while his club can easily reach some unpleasant places. The answer is to keep moving and hopefully take him out with a few low jobs.
Finally you get your feet firmly back on dry land as you take on allcomers at samurai sword fighting.
Here the punches and kics of the unarmed combat and jabs, blocks and wallops of the pole fighting are swapped for lunges and parries and a particularly impressive overhead chop.
Forty-five different animated moves combine to create the Ninja as he punches, kicks and fights his way through the way of the tiger.
Each move is selected by pushing the joystick in any of eight directions as well as others by pressing the fire button as well. The resulting move depends on the challenge you are currently playing. For example, pushing the joystick to the right while holding down the button will result in a kick to the stomach, or a jab with a pole or a lunge with the sword. No guide to the moves is included with the game but most people have played enough kung-fu games to quickly find their way.
The opponents that you meet are fought on impressive 3D backdrops that follow your every move (even the jumps!) which adds dramatically to the appeal of the game. The sword fighting screen is dominated by a massive building but also features wheel barrow pushing, or sedan carrying locals who stop to watch you in action.
The Way Of The Tiger is the latest in a long series of kung-fu games and as such has a tough act to follow.
The game's three challenges, superb graphics and impressive animation will ensure that it is not regarded as just another Exploding Fist or Kung-Fu Master.
The variety of opponents sent against you will keep even tested kung-fu gamers on their toes and will send beginners back for more and more.
Its release on four machines (Spectrum, C64, Amstrad and MSX) has almost guaranteed its place in the charts, but the game's quality and the value of getting three games for the price of one will ensure that it stays at the top.
The Way Of The Tiger is available in a twin cassette pack for Amstrad, C64, Spectrum and MSX computers from Gremlin Graphics and costs £9.95.