Joining the growing ranks of downloadable games available via services like the Playstation Network, Invincible Tiger tries to seperate itself from the pack by offering graphics presented in 3D. Unlike most of the previous attempts at creating 3D gaming, the effects used here actually work. But is the graphical flair just hiding a by-the-numbers beat-em-up?
Invincible Tiger's story puts the player into the shoes of Han Tao, a man whose drunken ways allow for an evil overlord (is there any other kind?) to steal a powerful artifact from the temple he was supposed to be guarding. Putting down the bottle, Han Tao heads across six stages in hopes of recovering the artifact and saving the world.
Basically, this involves punching and kicking. A whole lot of punching and kicking. Invincible Tiger's main problem is that its' gameplay is as shallow as a kiddie pool. Don't get me wrong -- I'm a big fan of beat-em-ups and find nothing wrong with the odd bit of button-mashing. But Han Tao's moveset isn't even as deep as archaic entries like Double Dragon. Sure, the designers tried to liven things up with a few basic weapons like clay pots and barrels thrown in here and there, and environment-based attacks.
However, given the "mob rules" nature of the enemies, you'll find yourself having to spam the same basic attacks over and over again just to survive. The boss battles do add in a welcome bit of strategy, but even these are sullied by the fact that you're regulated to finding the one or two attacks that work and using them until your fingers bleed. There's literally no space at all given to the player to use any iota of creativity, and this quickly leads to both frustration and boredom.
To its' credit, Invincible Tiger does offer up time trial and endurance modes. There's also a two-player mode, which can be played both locally and online. However, as much fun as mindlessly killing waves of shemps with a buddy might be, it quickly loses its' luster. Both players share the same health meter, and the camera is usually zoomed out too far. Bad design decisions like that don't exactly make for a fun time in the long run. And, yes, there's plenty of trophies (or achievements on the 360 version) tacked on, but good luck getting more than a handful of them before you put down the controller in disgust.
Invincible Tiger's gameplay problems are a shame, because it really nails things in the audio/visual department. The soundtrack is outstandingly reminiscent of old-school kung fu flicks, even going so far as to including the theme from Enter the Dragon. And, like I said before, the 3D effects are really great. They pop off of the screen and are some of the best ever made in a video game.
Even if you don't have a 3D TV, goggles, or the good old-fashioned red and green glasses and play the game in 2D, the lovely hand-drawn art and animation looks silky smooth. But, as the old saying goes, you can dump perfume on a pig, but it's still gonna smell like a pig. Unfortunately, for the beat-em-up fans out there looking for a new entry to fill their desire for digital fisticuffs, Invincible Tiger reeks like Mickey Rourke after a five-day whiskey bender.
I might have been a bit more forgiving on Invincible Tiger if it had a lower price. At $15 (1200 Microsoft points), it is simply too expensive, given both the limited gameplay and the quickness which you can zoom through the levels. Considering that for $5 more, you can get games like Wipeout HD, or for $5 less, you can snag quality titles such as Super Stardust, the $15 you would lay down here could be put to much better use.
If you're really chomping at the bit to play an old-school beat-em-up, there are several better options available, such as Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, which will net you many excellent brawlers, including all of the Streets of Rage and Golden Axe games. Unless you're looking for a game to show off that fancy newfangled $8000 3D TV and have money to burn, save your cash for something that's fun to play for more than ten minutes.