Mark of Kri Review

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Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment America


Platform: PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Mark of Kri tells the tale of Rau, a trained warrior yearning for adventure. Although a skilled combatant, he has never had the opportunity to prove himself in battle. Rau seeks a valiant quest to become a great fighter and a legend among his people. Unbeknownst to him, he is about to embark on a journey to search for the Marks of Kri – six parts of a spell that hold the power to break that barrier between our world and the demon realm. Should he fail, all humanity will become enslaved, or perhaps even be destroyed.

Rating:
Jethren


For the most part, Mark of Kri is a solid, well thought-out game, combining the stealth aspects of Metal Gear Solid and the sword-slinging action of Zelda. Sony has attempted to combine the best aspects of these themes to create a new feel for the action/adventure genre. The plot is delivered in an engaging fashion, and the artwork is gorgeous. Instead of using fancy 3D cut-scenes, we are treated to a narration of the tale through numerous inked drawings. These sketches bear a close resemblance to Disney's style of animation. The art and narration flow marvelously well together, weaving an excellent story.

Most dialogue within the game occurs in the tavern. Very little is said during the actual levels, surrounding you with the still ambience and seemingly peaceful atmosphere of the game's design. While this certainly does not detract anything from the game, more conversation would have provided a nice pause in the action for a bit of narrative. Many of the levels go on for quite some time, without a break.

The animation is excellent, and when fighting it is clear that Sony put their effort into making every swing of the sword (and loss of a limb) look unique. From grabbing your opponent and using their head like a battering ram, to outright hacking their limbs off, expect to see fluid, spectacularly animated mayhem. Although seeing a Disney-like character use an enemy's head like a battering ram can be somewhat disturbing at first, it provides a damn good laugh, and a good source of gruesome entertainment.

The main problem with Mark of Kri is that combat, though innovatively designed and well-animated, ultimately fails to hold your attention. Rather than hack and slash at whatever you face, enemies are assigned to one of three different buttons on your controller – whichever button you press is the enemy at which you swing. You can attempt, however, to perform certain combo maneuvers on one or two enemies, depending on how many buttons you have assigned to enemies. Performing these special attacks allow for a quicker dispatch of your foes, again animated with the same cartoonish, yet gore-ridden flair. Despite all these neat features, actually controlling Rau gets aggravating, becoming more of a frustration than a challenge. It often feels like you have little control over how your character fights the enemies, so you'll find yourself getting unnecessarily hit half of the time you're working on eliminating a single foe.

Where stealth is concerned, Mark of Kri takes an amusing and creative twist. Assisting Rau is his spirit-guide, a bird named Kuzo. Rau can send Kuzo to certain beacons located in throughout each level, allowing Rau to "see" upcoming enemies and traps, giving him the upper hand. This can prove very useful when determining which enemies to kill first, and which route presents the best opportunity. In addition, you can oftentimes cause distractions (such as shooting a pig from a distance so it runs around squealing) making the guards turn in the other direction. While the enemy is turned away, Rau can sneak up on them and "stealth kill" them in one swift blow, rather than take the trouble to assault each one. Rau is lethal enough to kill the enemy with his bare fists, but can also use a bow capable of killing enemies in one shot. (Sometimes it takes more, but it's difficult to miss as Rau generally auto-locks his aim on an enemy's head.) Some enemies wear armor to prevent such one-shot kills, in which case they must be dealt with by stealth or brute force.

As if all the blood, flying arrows, and spirit birds weren't enough to satisfy gamers, Mark of Kri includes many side quests. There is a main quest in the game to pursue, but you're also presented with a series of challenges. These can range from stealthily slaying 10 people within a level, to killing 3 soldiers with 3 different combo moves. If you manage to complete all the goals within a level, you can unlock new options, such as different outfits for Rau, and numerous cheats. There's even an Arena where you can test your skills, seeing how many enemies you can kill within the allotted span of time. All these additions are great for those with the time and interest to dedicate, but you won't miss any unique gameplay experiences if you just stick to the main story.

Despite its shortcomings, Mark of Kri was a fantastic attempt at reinventing a genre filled with stale offerings. Had the combat system been somewhat reworked, Sony would've had a game they could easily call a masterpiece. Even so, it's refreshing to play an action/adventure game that tries to break new ground in actual gameplay, rather than just giving gamers the latest animated woman with an oversized chest in a wetsuit.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 25, 2002 6:39 PM.

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