ĎLong ago, an evil spell was created that had the power to bridge our world with the one of darkness. Before the spell could be invoked it was stolen and hidden away... until now.í So begins your journey as Rau, a heroic warrior, who embarks on an adventure filled with conflict, discovery, and magic. Accompanied by your loyal friend, a large black bird named Kuzo, you must battle the denizens of the dark across many lands to learn the truth about your familyís secrets and to prevent the invoking of the ancient, evil spell. This is the plot behind Sony Computer Entertainmentís new action, adventure game for the PlayStation 2 called The Mark of Kri.
The Mark of Kri begins as you (playing the part of Rau), use your skills to help free nearby villages from pillagers and bandits. As you begin each level of the game, you can use your companion Kuzo to scout ahead for any upcoming danger. You can command Kuzo to land on specially marked perches. After he lands, you are given the ability to see through Kuzoís eyes and see what he is seeing. If you are familiar with the movie and TV show called Beastmaster, youíll know exactly what I mean. This ability sometimes makes the game a bit too easy, but Kuzo is actually essential in some levels where you need him to lower ladders or activate switches, which canít be done any other way.
After youíve used Kuzo to scout ahead, you can attack your enemies in two different ways. If enemies are positioned behind objects or walls and you can get to them without being seen, you can use stealth attacks to sneak up on them and kill them silently. This is especially handy when dealing with Horn Blowers, who will signal other enemies of your presence. In instances where enemies are facing you, hitting objects with arrows or using Kuzo to disturb a group of birds on the ground can sometimes distract them. Like Kuzo, using stealth attacks can sometimes make the game too easy because enemies pretty much never hear you coming. In addition, you can use stealth attacks on groups of enemies, and while you are killing one, the others never seem to see or hear you. Of course, you donít really need to use stealth. You can just run into every level like a crazy person and start hacking away, which brings us to fighting attacks.
Although other games of a similar nature have presented multicharacter fighting, the Mark of Kri is quite unique. This game allows you attack multiple enemies in any direction while performing fluid fighting combinations. The key is to target the enemies you wish to fight before any actual fighting begins. By manipulating the right analog joystick on your PS2 controller, you control the direction of a targeting beam that shines out from and around Rau. When the beam hits an enemy, the enemy is targeted and assigned one of the three action buttons (X, square, or circle) on the controller. Pressing an action button makes Rau attack the buttons associated enemy. It may take you a short while to get used to the system, but once you do, itís quite cool. You can either attack one enemy until it dies, or you can alternate between targeted enemies, making Rau perform different fighting moves. There are numerous button combinations available for various fighting moves as well. And while your initial weapon is a broadsword, later in the game you get to use a bow, a battle axe, and a Taiaha (spear). In the initial stages of the game, fighting is quite easy. You must kill all the enemies in a level to advance to the next, but they can be easily dispatched with the usual button mashing, unfortunately. Later in the game, however, things get tougher when you go up against Archers and Armored Enemies. Thatís when things start to get interesting. In addition, fighting is made more difficult by the environment. For example, your sword can get stuck in wood when you strike it.
As you play the Mark of Kri, youíll notice the spectacular graphics and animation present in the game. They resemble something you might see in a Disney movie, and the reason for this is part of the development team consists of former Disney animators. I must say that they did an excellent job. The graphics and animated sequences are superb, but be aware that the Mark of Kri is rated M for mature. When you kill an enemy, you get to see his death in great detail, especially when enemies are decapitated with blood spurting everywhere. Itís wonderfully gory as this game should be, but itís definitely not for the kiddies. The music, sound, and voice acting in the game are also very good. Youíll know when you are in a dangerous situation. The only thing I donít like about the artistics of the game is that you are not allowed to skip the cutscenes. That can be irritating.
The positive aspects of the game, however, far outweigh the negative. Kuzo, stealth and multicharacter fighting, the immersive environment, and the engaging storyline all keep this game interesting. Depending on your skill level, the playability of the game may be a bit short, and once youíve played it, there isnít any variation the second time around. But, the Mark of Kri brings together sight, sound, and performance with a uniqueness that action, adventure players will definitely enjoy.