We've had the Samurai Pizza Cats, Battle Toads and of course the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but now the Tai-Chi Tortoise's have joined the ranks of martial art super heroes. Mark Caswell has donned his espadrillas (ooh, sexy! - Ed) and katana sword and brings a report on the latest battle for truth, justice and the right to shout 'Cowabunga' at an annoyingly loud volume.
Of all the martial arts, the ancient skill of Tai-Chi is the most difficult to master, a discipline so exacting it takes over a hundred years to learn even the most basic moves. (So no OAP bashing in this game! - Ed). Only the oldest tortoises of the northern Japanese islands ever learn the art well enough to become masters. Every year, to preserve the bond of friendship between these fierce fighting tortoises, a huge Tai-Chi Tortoise convention is held in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Tortoises from all over the world are at this year's meeting to hear stories of the Tai-Chi Tortoises' many adventures.
There's the tale of the Infamous budgie kidnappings by the evil parrot boss 'Pretty Boy' Hannigan and how a clever thief stealing the Mona Lisa convinced a security guard that it was an over-sized postcard.
But probably the most exciting story is how master villain Vincent Ratatoui tried to hall-inch the world supply of cheese, but was thwarted by the bravery of a Tai-Chi Tortoise. It's in the guise of one of these daring shelled reptiles that you must charge through the many interconnecting screens picking up the useful objects and avoiding the nasty creatures and even nastier traps.
'ERE WHERE DOES THIS GO?
As with all arcade puzzle games, to proceed to later levels certain objects have to be collected and used in their proper place. But to slow you down, various strange creatures roam the platforms; few of them will attack you but if you touch them a small part of your energy level will disappear (lose all energy and you lose a life). Also acid baths, spikes, crumbling platforms etc stand in your path, but Vincent Ratatoui must be stopped at any cost. So strap a cardboard box to your back (as a makeshift shell), shout some obscure surfing slang as a battle cry and prepare to beat the heck out of the cheesenappers!
The sprites and backdrops are all nicely detailed and very colourful, and surprisingly there's no colour clash. But my main niggle is that there's too much wandering around for very little action. (Okay smartie-pants, when have ever seen a fast-moving tortoise! - Ed.) Indeed, as an exponent of a martial art, our tortoise pal is lacking any offensive kicks or punches - when faced with an opponent he just stands there and takes it. Maybe Tai-Chi is the ancient Japanese art of staring very hard at an opponent while standing very still. But puzzle freaks will love it, especially as it's on a budget label.
It's ages since I played a good ol' platforms and ladders style arcade game. The graphics are simple but colourful and there's plenty going on in each location. I know the split screen adventure has been used countless times before but it still works well. This is a game that will appeal to the youngsters more. The cartoon sprites and jolly ditties throughout will keep them glued to their screens for yonks. Zeppelin have always been good at producing fun, high quality games and this is certainly one of them. As for the difficulty, the way Tai-Chi jumps around each screen and the fact some blocks can be stood on and some can't takes some getting used to, but you soon get the hang of it. Tai-Chi Tortoise comes as a breath of fresh air for me and at £3.99 you can't complain can you?
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