Developer: Barking Lizards
Release Date: October 29, 2007
THQ has been riding on the waves of its Nickelodeon licenses for a while, and El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera is another addition to the DS catalog. Although El Tigre doesn't do anything special, it manages to generate most of its appeal by utilizing the license for dialogue and art direction. It also uses the DS's capabilities in enough ways that young fans of the series should enjoy it to some degree, even when its shortcomings morph it into a frustrating platforming experience.
In El Tigre, you play as Manny Rivera, who's better known as "El Tigre." Your archnemesis, Sartana, has stolen a magical mule that can hold powerful gemstones, generate enough power to raise the dead, and allow Sartana to take over Miracle City, in which the game and series are based. You'll be helped along the way by El Tigre's father, White Pantera; grandfather, Puma Loco; and best friend, Frida. The good-versus-evil concept in the title is derived from the family tree because El Tigre's father is a superhero, while his grandfather was a villain.
Choosing your own path within a video game is not a new idea, but it works in El Tigre, even though it's not as compelling as other games. The game's narrative flows perfectly and glows with the same personality that has made its television counterpart a popular show. While all of the dialogue is based primarily in text during the end of levels, there are a few times when your actions will be acknowledged by others, and this is usually when you're performing good or bad tasks.
El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera plays very similarly to an old-school arcade side-scroller à la Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You'll play as El Tigre, and you travel from area to area, fighting and defeating waves of enemies until you see the icon that means you defeated all enemies within the area — a big red arrow that says, "Go!"
Good tasks entail defeating enemies and continuing to clean up Miracle City, while bad tasks involve destroying fire hydrants, parking meters, trash cans and basically anything else you can get your hands on (hog dog vendors, beware!). You'll see the chagrin or receive the praise of your father and grandfather as you chose sides with your actions, and how evil or good you are throughout the game will dictate the ending that you receive.
It's actually not that easy to be a good boy in El Tigre; the gameplay doesn't embrace the "good gamer" in you primarily because it is reasonably fast-paced, and it's no easy task to make sure you do not destroy a parking meter here or there while also trying to beat up waves of enemies. You'll see how good or bad you're doing with the El Tigre symbol that is placed next to your health/power meter, which either displays "good" El Tigre with a halo above his head, or "bad" El Tigre with fiery eyes and a smirk.
The real ups and downs come with the gameplay. Defeating enemies is not very challenging, but El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera has its fair share of sudden jumps in difficulty level. Fortunately, since the game is intended for a younger audience, it gives you an unlimited amount of lives. If you die during any level, you will be placed a few steps back from your spot of peril, and none of the enemies that you have killed will respawn. This is extremely important during boss battles, which are by far the hardest parts of the game.
The variety of enemies varies between the levels, but for the most part, you'll be fighting Sartana's army of the undead, a bunch of skeletal goons just waiting to get a good thrashing. Most of the enemies don't feature any special types of attacks, so you'll just be pounding on the A button, which is your primary attack button, in order to take them out with strikes or power combos, which are executed with repeated taps of the A button. You can block with the Y button, but it doesn't work very well; while it reduces some of the damage you take, it does nothing to allow for you to counter effectively. The later levels feature harder enemies, but with the help of the power moves that you'll acquire as you progress, you should have no problems taking them down.
Power moves are given to you by your father and grandfather after you defeat a boss and retrieve one of the gemstones that particular boss had. Your father will give you power moves that you can only use while your El Tigre symbol is good, and vice versa for your grandfather on the evil side. You can only execute these moves once your power meter is full, which is filled by the previously mentioned tasks of defeating enemies (good) or destroying items within the level (bad).
The moves that they give you are very similar in the beginning stages of the game, but the later moves provide different actions. For example, after defeating one of the first bosses, you'll acquire the "Pounce Kick," which is executed by swiping your stylus in a diagonal line on the touch-screen. Contradictory to that, when you defeat later levels, your father could give you a move such as the "Radical Ricochet," which is performed by drawing a U on your touch-screen, and your grandfather would give you the "Atomic Slam," which is performed the same way on your touch-screen. This allows young gamers to learn all of the different moves of the game without having to learn dozens of drawing mechanics, which could've become frustrating.
Even though performing attacks is not hard, the platforming aspect of the game seems to be unbalanced. El Tigre's jumping abilities take time to use. You will constantly jump over platforms, jump ledges, and even so far that you'll end up killing yourself while trying to understand how to precisely jump throughout levels using the B button.
There is a multiplayer mode that lets one person play as El Tigre, while the other is Frida. Each has his or her own set of power moves, but be advised that this is a wireless multi-card game. There is no difference in playing as Frida or El Tigre except for their different moves, but Frida's moves are executed in the same manner and are similar to El Tigre in good or evil mode.
Unfortunately, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera is pretty short, but there is some replay value in getting both endings and playing the multiplayer mode with a friend. Ultimately, El Tigre is a solid game for anyone who is a fan of the book or television series. The narrative is great and follows the series well, and even though it does have its shortcomings in gameplay, it is still a good game.