IN THE mystical world of Orb, a servant brings you to the Temple of the Rock. The monks there are to train you in the arts of unarmed combat so you can face the injustices of the outside world and dedicate your life to perpetrating goodly deeds. This is indeed a moral tale. But, what's this! Before you can claim the title of Avenger the Ninja (who would want it?) you have to survive a series of tricky tests which your adopted father Naijishi, Grand Master of the dawn (another name you'd try to talk your parents out of giving you) has set you. You still following this?
Y'see, there are these three tests in which you must fight the master's chosen adversaries which include other sundry ninjas and a few supernatural demons from the depths of earth and water. And, to make it easy, you can take the tests in any order.
Success - as with other Fighting-Fist-Yie-Ar games - depends upon your abilities with fists, feet, sword and pole. You only pass a test if at its end you still retain some inner force and endurance. Every time you get hit by your opponent your endurance diminishes and when you have lost a full circle of endurance points you lose one inner force point. If your inner force is spent the test is over and you have failed.
Since this is a fair game your opponent is subject to just the same restrictions - waste his inner force and Naijishi will need a new Ninja. Take care though, your inner force is not renewed after each battle.
First test is unarmed combat. You are dumped in the desert lands of Orb to take on a variety of monsters including a cowled Ninja who fights using his hands and feet, and a wraith with magical powers which can turn into a squat demon weilding a sabre.
The desert backdrop is similar to those in Way of the Exploding Fist but, as well as panning left and right when your Ninja moves across the screen, the scenery is shifted up and down as he jumps and ducks.
Your character has a repetoire of 16 actions which are accessed with the fire button - on joystick and keyboard - on or off. During this first test you can leap or duck, punch, retreat, jump back and kick. To turn from one direction to another you must push the joystick in the direction you want to move and press the fire button. Switching direction is crucial to master: repositioning your Ninja to face the foe must be done with lightening accuracy or you'll lose endurance.
In the second test you are transported to balance alone on a log suspended over a river. Opponents crawl out of the water, latching on to the log, and attack you. Stay on the log and fight them off, using only a stout pole for defence.
The attacking 'guardians of the deep' include a rather charming rotting skeleton and yet more enemy Ninjas which advance from the left river bank. Pole fighting is a test of agility and involves much hopping and jabbing.
Protection of the lower limbs and what they refer to in cricketing circles as the inner thigh is vital because your opponents try to smash your legs from under you and force you into the water. The only way off the log is into the water - you cannot walk on to either river bank and if you topple the test is failed.
The final test - samurai sword fighting - takes place in the grounds of the Grand Temple. Here you do battle with the greatest of the samurai warriors and, eventually, clash sword to sword with the Grand Master himself. There are again 16 movements you can make including a quaint rendition of the ancient samurai sword ritual. The joystick or keyboard gives you a nice line in head splitting, lunging, low sweeps and slashing.
Each test can be loaded separately into the master program or you can load them all in at once.
The game graphics are definitely superior to those in Way of the Exploding Fist and there's a lot more happening on-screen. For instance, delicate butterflies float around the gardens of the temple as you hack your oriental master to death with a samurai sword. Funny sense of humour some programmers have.
Way of the Tiger comes on two cassettes for £9.95 and jolly good value it is too.
Although oriental combat programs have been well-lunged to death lately with games such as Sai Combat, from Mirrorsoft, International Karate, from System 3, Gremlin's game is bigger, better and brighter - it even adds a strand of adventure to the genre.
Publisher: Gremlin Graphics
Programmers: Shaun Hollingworth, Peter Harrop, Chris Kerry, Marcos Duroe
Don't Jump! Your opponent can knock you off balance and into the water.
A baton to the throat scores high points as you do battle with a travelling Ninja.