NYCC 09: Invincible Tiger hands-on (XBLA)

We learned a valuable lesson today: Don't judge a game by its ... name. First uncaged earlier this week, Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao is the sort of hackneyed game title that simply can't survive in the brutal wilds of So, already composing the first kill strikes in our minds, we picked up an Xbox 360 gamepad and entered the Tiger.

First thought: Wow, this is kinda like Kung-Fu Master -- the venerable father of beat-em-ups. Next thought: No, this isn't like Kung-Fu Master. The level is a movie set, not side-scrolling, but stage-like, with vertical sections, props, and stunt areas. You don't move as an 8-bit Master, but as a fast and fluid 3D model: leaping, rolling, diving, flipping, kicking and splitting wigs.
%Gallery-43835% Dare we say, Invincible Tiger is quite tiger-like? There's a great precision to the controls, and the combat evolves as the stage progresses. Each stage is comprised of "waves" of enemies, growing stronger and more complex with the passing of the tides. Enemies become adept at blocking and attacking. Glowing indicators on their hands and feet telegraph where a strike will originate from (but give no indication of exactly when the strike will happen), giving players an opportunity to execute a dodge move (right stick); left, right, or upward -- unlike enemies, players can't block. Successful dodging builds a "Yin/Yang" meter that, once full, can be triggered (RB), in turn, unlocking a so-called "invincible" strength, vastly increasing players' speed and damage capabilities. On the opposite side of the gamepad (LB), is a "meditation" trigger used to regenerate health -- just know that you can't meditate with undead ninjas jump kicking your dome.

What looks dull and grainy in screenshots, is an intended 70s Kung Fu film filter, which doesn't necessarily translate much better in actual gameplay. It's an aesthetic choice, though, and the developers have clearly put a lot of attention into the art design of Invincible Tiger. This really shows in the stage design. Interactive set pieces glow red as you near them, and tapping the interact button (B) mergers players into those built-in stunts -- kicking clay pops, shimmying up polls, swinging across gaps, or simply walking in one door (and down unseen stairs) and out another.

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao is not as grandiose as the great Kung Fu flicks, but it certainly compares to some lesser, Sunday afternoon pictures. At the right price (we'd like to see $10) -- and with 2-player co-op and 4-player battle modes (online and off) -- Invincible Tiger is another summer release we're looking forward to soaking up.

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao is scheduled for release this summer on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade for an as yet unspecified price.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.