A bit like buses, we get two new Amiga releases arriving at the same time, with both offerings being of very good quality.
Hot on the heels of the new and improved Power Glove Reloaded, publisher RGCD brings another C64 game kicking and screaming to the Amiga in Tiger Claw, a second place entry in the publishers annual cartridge Game Development competition back in 2014. Developer Lazycow is joined in this outing by Saul Cross as they look to refine their original take on the spiritual successor to Datasoft and U.S. Gold’s seminal 1984 release, Bruce Lee.
Enhancements are very similar to those found in Power Glove Reloaded, with updated 32-colour graphics, a revamped soundtrack, and new challenges in addition to all new 2 to 4 player multiplayer and training modes as well as selectable difficulties. An option to play the original C64 version is also present.
The set-up is simple: three lords of evil have stolen the magic scrolls and it’s up to our titular hero to retrieve them while kicking and punching more enemies in the face than a Donnie Yen double-feature. There’s no deep story here but the scene setting is reminiscent of any hokey supernatural wushu film out of Hong Kong during the 1980’s.
A simple menu system displays all of the aforementioned gameplay options. The inclusion of selectable BGM is welcome, allowing you to play the various in-game tracks at your leisure. Easy difficulty reduces the map size and enemy wave count while Hard mode gives the same map encountered in Standard, but decreased starting health, reduced floor friction with quicker enemy reactions and increased frequency, really ramping an already challenging game.
While the visual enhancements in Power Glove Reloaded were quite apparent, Tiger Claw doesn’t make as large a graphical jump. The small sprites lack the nuance of the former, appearing cruder with some stilted animations. Improved environmental art such as the waterfall adds a little bit more refinement over it’s 8-bit forefather, but any graphical flourishes are noticeably absent. The large single-screen play areas means major sprite upgrades could be a difficult task, probably requiring level design to be re-worked to compensate for larger, more detailed characters. And due to this, it feels like Lazycow were more limited in what graphical enhancements they could apply, hamstrung by the original game design. On the plus side, frame rates are rock solid and performance generally very good.
Where Tiger Claw does pack a bigger punch is its music. Saul Cross’ suitably themed soundtrack contains some great upgraded compositions, with the game over track, ‘The Tiger Sleeps’, being a personal favourite. The soft-stereo SFX are perfunctory but lack any real impact, with the impressive in-game tunes highlighting this even more so.
If you’ve played Datasoft’s original, you know what to expect when it comes to the gameplay mechanics. A mixture of platforming and close range combat makes for some hectic action. Jumping feels responsive but combat can initially feel a little clumsy. Yet after a few attempts, you soon feel like a kung-fu master as you time a flying kick to perfection from a high platform. However, sometimes it’s easier to flee than fight, jumping rather than fighting your way through enemies. The game does recognise this, with certain areas forcing you into beating hordes of foes before you can progress further.
Power-ups help increase the number of moves available to you, with the double-kick jump and downwards punch proving the most effective. The stun mechanics can be a little unforgiving, where an enemy can attack you before you’ve had to time to recover, draining all your health which proves extremely frustrating.
As a whole, level design is well-thought out. Certain platforms tease, making you soon realise a power-up is required in order to reach them but once attained, action becomes fluid and rewarding. A few rudimentary boss battles keep proceedings fresh, although their attack patterns are quite predictable.
Tiger Claw is an extremely challenging game that occasionally feels unfair in places, like the problem with the stun mechanic mentioned earlier. Thankfully, this isn’t too common but does threaten to kill some of fun factor, and for most of its play time, the single-screen action of Tiger Claw is a lot of fun.
If you go into the game with your expectations in check and look past the very basic aesthetic, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had. While it’s not on par with Power Glove Reloaded, Tiger Claw is definitely worth a look.