"Tíai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger is a game that pleasantly surprised me when I finally got around to playing it. Released in 1999 by Activision and developed by DreamWorks Studios, this hybrid beat Ďem up/platformer passed me by at the time. I played a demo of it and was mildly diverted but, there were a lot of big games coming out and so I never really got to spend time investigating minor PlayStation releases coming out then. However, now the old grey box is coming to the end of its life span I hav..."
Tíai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger is a game that pleasantly surprised me when I finally got around to playing it. Released in 1999 by Activision and developed by DreamWorks Studios, this hybrid beat Ďem up/platformer passed me by at the time. I played a demo of it and was mildly diverted but, there were a lot of big games coming out and so I never really got to spend time investigating minor PlayStation releases coming out then. However, now the old grey box is coming to the end of its life span I have started replaying my old OPSM demo discs and buying up older games I always meant to play but never got around to.
Tíai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger tells the story of Tíai Fu a Kung Fu fighting Tiger. Tíai lives in a world where animals walk and talk and possess the ability to fight using ancient Chinese Martial Arts. Tíai is the last of his race. Found as an orphan cub he was bought up in the Panda Temple. When one day the Temple is attacked by mysterious baddies, Tai realises it is time to seek out knowledge of his race and background. To do this he must travel to each of the Martial Arts Masters in the area and prove himself worthy of learning their special powers. Once armed with those powers he can carry out his mission to avenge the attack on the Panda Temple and unlock the secrets of his past.
So thatís the story, what about the game play? Well Tíai Fu is basically an attempt to update that classic genre of the 1980ís; the side scrolling beat Ďem up (a genre I have great fondness for). Although the levels are in 3D and Tíai has some freedom of movement, basically he moves on one programmed path beating up enemies. There are some platform jumping elements, Jade piece collecting and simple puzzle solving, but basically itís a tarted up version of Double Dragon or Streets of Rage only with a Tiger. Tíai moves from one end of the level to another, using his fists (or paws) and bits of scenery to defeat waves of attackers.
At the end of each level he has to take on a group of enemies and after every two or three levels he faces down a Boss character. Health, Chi (magic) and other power-ups are scattered around in very obvious places. For every 100 Jade pieces you collect or 25 enemies you kill you gain an extra life. If you get lost, the Jade pieces can be followed as they mark out a path. If you keep getting killed in the same place, hints will appear when you restart. This is NOT a difficult game, and one that has definitely been designed for a younger audience than I.
However, I found that I enjoyed this game a lot. The ease of playing didnít bother me. I actually enjoyed being able to spend time planning out fun ways to dispatch my enemies as I walked through the levels than have to spend time arsing about looking for the right way to go and collecting keys, blah, blah, blah.
One nice thing about the game was the progression of Tíaiís character. As he completes certain levels he gains more Kung Fu moves. He starts with basic Tiger Paw comboís, Leaping kicks and Throws. As he sees each of the Masters he gains new abilities. For example, Master Mantis teaches him how to use his magical Chi powers. Master Leopard teaches him a useful dash, leap and Leopard Combo attack. The Master Monkey teaches him even more stuff. So as you go through the game you can have several options on how to take out enemies.
There is a problem in that simply hammering square produces powerful Tiger Combos that can take out most enemies anyway; so many people probably wouldnít bother trying the other moves. This is a shame as it adds to the enjoyment of the game so much more to explore all of Tíaiís abilities. For example, one level called Temple Bridges is full of Cobra enemies. They are weak and can be quickly dispatched by button bashing square. BUT, if you use Tíaiís grab move you can hoist them over your head and throw them into the ravines! They make such comically outraged squeaking noises as you do so that simply punching them out is dull by comparison.
The graphics are also rather nice to look at. Tíai himself is well animated and looks good when fighting. There is a good range of enemies as well, who use different tactics against you. The brainless Pythons just rush at you. The Kung Fu Leopards can block and dodge your attacks and counter attack with nasty uppercuts. Electric Lizards will try and lure you into water where their electricity will hurt you more. The AI is limited, but not everything rushs you blindly. Boss encounters are of the more predictable, ďfind the weak spot and then wait for the chance to strikeĒ style. Surprisingly the first Boss, a giant stone Python is one of the hardest to beat, mainly due to Tíaiís lack of special moves at that point. Later encounters become easier as Tíai becomes more powerful.
The scenery in the levels is also pretty good. All the levels have a distinctive look; dark greens and greys for the swampy jungle; rushing blue water in the Caves; an old stone temple lit by torches. The lighting effects are particularly nice. Although some levels suffer some fogging problems. The sound is pretty basic. There is no music to speak of. But approaching enemies can be identified by the noises they make and the hack and smack of combat is well realised.
The in game story is told via cut scenes using the game engine. These are slightly disappointing as they havenít been spruced up for the close up or lip synced properly. The voice acting is OK. Tíai is quite a likeable character, and comes across as good humoured but also driven to find out about himself. The in game tutorials by the various Masters are great and you are given plenty of time to practice new moves before progressing to the next enemy filled level.
After each level a screen appears which adds up how much Jade you have collected, how many enemies you have killed, the longest combo you have managed to pull off and which styles of Kung FU you have acquired. You can also save before moving to the next area.
There are some problems with the game. The camera is not 100% great. You cannot take manual control, so sometimes it swings around making it tricky to see what lies ahead. This isnít too much of a problem, but it makes some of the levels that involve jumping harder than they need to be. Also Tíai can get stuck on scenery in places. This is annoying and is something that really should have been rectified before the games release. It spoils what is otherwise a nice looking and fun to play game.
Summing up. This is a title that older gamers will have no trouble with at all. I finished it in two evenings of play. But it was two very enjoyable evenings in the company of a fun game. I wouldnít recommend you buy this game full price. But if you see it at a bargain price or for rental and like me you are looking for neglected PlayStation titles to give a go, this is one I, despite its shortcomings, fully recommend.
[EXPLANATION OF TAGLINE JOKE: Ty-phoo is the name of a popular brand of Tea in the United Kingdom. Please feel free to laugh now, ahem.]
Community review by falsehead (March 08, 2004)
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