The most striking thing about PlayStation 2’s new action/adventure title “The Mark of Kri,” is the extreme level of violence against the epic-cartoon backdrop. Developed by some of Don Bluth’s former animators, the world and characters are standard (though fully realized) of the non-Disney animated adventures of the 1980s (think “An American Tail”). But decapitations, impalings and buckets of blood thrust the G-rated graphics into a healthy R-rated gore-fest.
You play as Rau, a young man who has spent his life in serious training, but has no battle worth fighting. The game begins in an alt-world pub, where you meet a kindly mentor willing to “teach you a few new tricks” as an excuse to learn the unique controls.
“Kri” is interested in group battle, Rau fighting several enemies at one time. The right analog stick is used to aim at an opponent, and once highlighted, an icon (X, triangle, etc.) appears over their head. You can highlight up to three at once, and by hitting the control button that corresponds to the icon, you can attack one right after the other or use various combinations to take on five or six different enemies at once. While their is a certian amout of “one baddie hangs back while you fight another,” Rau is still forced to take on multiple enemies.
The bigger fights are more prominent at the end of each level. The levels themselves are slower paced, with Rau attempting to stay out of sight. There is a feature that allows Rau to sneak up on guards and sentries, around corners and either slit their throats or smash their skulls into pieces.
After a few get-to-know-ya missions, Rau and his spirit guide, a black bird named Kuzo, are roped into preventing the forces of evil from attaining the Mark of Kri. The Mark of Kri is the key to a nearly unstoppable spell that opens the gates to another dimension, one rife with demons that just may destroy the planet as we know it.
Another interesting feature is Kuzo can fly ahead of Rau, and you can see through the bird’s eyes. While a guard with a horn will alert his brutish friends of your presence, Kuzo can move around unhindered. This makes the game almost too easy, as you know what’s coming and how to deal with it before it happens.
The game itself borrows liberally from “Metal Gear Solid 2,” in it’s fighting and strategies and is almost identical to “Onimusha: Warlords” in movement and design. The graphics and storyline are interesting and impressive, but the game itself feels like a retread. The attractive backgrounds feel stinted by the limited movement alloted to Rau. He cannot venture off paths, or into the water, or even accidentaly fall off of a high wall.
Also, the game is very short and there isn’t much replay value. You can open up special levels, which basically amount to a grudge-match in an arena, but your rewards are often new costumes or other, equally unnecessary items. The arena matches are fun for the sheer amount of carnage you can inflict as Rau, but they become repetitive quickly.
“The Mark of Kri” is a pretty game with some interesting controls and a lot of wasted potential. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but it could have been so much bigger, better, more, well, epic. If you enjoy this sort of action game, it’s fine to rent, maybe twice to finish it off, but save your money, and hope that the boys at SCEA come out swinging with their next release, and live up to the potential they show with this lively, flawed title.