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May 13, 2003
The Mark of Kri - Review
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See and adult game - decapitation!
The Mark of Kri is one of Sony's latest flagship titles developed over 2 years by SCEA's San Diego Studio. There was a large amount of hype surrounding the game, with respect to the large fighting scenes where the lead character fought large crowds of enemies with ease. The game was a big hit at E3 in 2002, where the Disney-like cartoon look temporarily misled many people into thinking that this game was a child's platformer; that was until they saw impaled and dismembered bodies flying about the screen. So is this game just another blip on the radar in the adventure/action genre? At first glance perhaps, but there is far more depth to the game than first impressions give, as The Mark of Kri is a bold and successful step into a new realm of adventure games.

The story begins with the tale of an evil spell, known as the Mark of Kri, which is able to bridge the current world with that of darkness. Many years ago, the Mark of Kri had been split into 6 pieces and scattered throughout the world, put into the trust of 6 separate families. Fast forward many years later, after the meaning and significance of these pieces has been lost; a dark faction now wants to collect them all, wanting to bring evil and darkness to the world. In The Mark of Kri, you fit the shoes of a young man named Rau, a heroic warrior who is looking to prove himself as a swordsman. Beginning at the village inn, he begins his quest by removing a gang of bandits from the village, and from here on embarks on a task which sees Rau stumbling upon one of the pieces of the Mark of Kri. Without being able to turn back, Rau embarks on a quest in pursuit of the remaining 5 pieces.

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Time for a jumping slash.
The Mark of Kri has its story told by means of a series of narrated sketches, featuring Rau together with the characters that he encounters throughout the game (in a similar manner to that in Ace Combat 4). The style of sketches is very similar to the in-game graphics, and they have quite a 'cartoony' look about them, but all childish feelings are soon lost once the game starts. The game is played from a 3rd person perspective behind Rau and his raven Kuzo. The left analog stick controls his movements, however the right analog stick acts as a 'focus' controller, and is used to select enemies in range for Rau to focus on. Once one or more enemies (up to 9 depending on the weapon equipped) are selected, an icon appears above their head indicating the square, cross or circle button. Then to attack the desired enemy, simply press the button with the same image above their head! This simple approach is not only intuitive, but enables battles with multiple enemies to be won with ease, preventing the normal issues that games like this have (where you must position your player to face the enemy before striking). There are also combos and different moves to be performed, depending on the button sequences pressed, and are all easily accessible from the pause menu in-game; both convenient and functional.

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Press 'X' to attack enemy ahead.
The game isn't all about hack-and-slash however. Kuzo is smarter than the average raven; he can fly to multiple perches scattered throughout the levels, and gives Rau the ability to see through his eyes; hence showing Rau what may lie ahead. This way puzzles and hazards can be analyzed before you get caught up in them, and watchmen can be spotted before they spot you. Couple this with the stealth moves that Rau has (sneaking and stealth kills) and the bow and arrow (1st person perspective weapon); you can take out enemies with ease, and without them knowing about you until it's too late. Although the game is traditionally an adventure game, it draws so much more from classic titles such as Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid (stealth moves and kills) and ICO (the ambience and the simplistic beauty), where it hasn't 'copied' ideas, but more incorporated the best parts of them, without resulting in overkill.

There isn't much at fault with The Mark of Kri; everything that the game has set out to do has been done well. But, like all good things it has to come to an end at some stage, and 10 hours from start to finish may seem a little short for some gamers. However, there is a wealth of bonuses and checkpoints to complete for each level (in addition to the level objectives), which unlock movies, special items, costumes and more, so the game can easily last twice that. Another point of concern is that the game contains some jaggies; they're neither distracting nor common, but still one would think that jaggies would be a thing of the past for the PS2 by now, especially for a game such as this.

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Damn this game is brutal!
As mentioned previously, the game bears a striking resemblance to a childish Disney cartoon. The visuals are bold, rich and colorful, and the characters have a distorted caricature look to them; which suits the game just fine. The violence in the game is quite detailed, but given the attention paid to all the other details here, detailed violence is to be expected. After all, if you use a heavy battle axe against an enemy (as compared to a light sword say), why shouldn't it remove limbs and cause excessive damage? Likewise, finishing moves and death combos often result not only in blood, but also well animated sequences. Returning to the caricature look of the characters; buildings, surroundings and structures are drawn in a similar fashion, and give the game a unique feel. The polygon count for characters isn't through the roof, but more often than not there are plenty of characters on screen without a hint of slowdown. Lighting effects are abundant throughout, given the many temples, campfires and torches found all over the levels, and the water and particle effects are equally as detailed and effective.

Sound effects in The Mark of Kri are varied without much repetition, and are all high-quality. All the conversations in the game have voiceovers, which are of a very high standard, without the usual 'forced acting' tone of voice (although the voice for your trainer at the beginning is excessively 'enthusiastic' in his yelling of the commands). In-game music is courtesy of Juno Reactor, who has created some nice jungle-ethnic style beats which suit the game perfectly. The music also fades in and out and changes style depending on what is happening in the game. Audio on the whole is done very well; a possible improvement for next time would be to have Dolby 5.1 sound perhaps?

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Attack the tribe...
The Mark of Kri is one of those titles which are bought by serious gamers who know the ins and outs of games, but ignored by casual gamers due to a lack of advertising. It's a shame this is the case, because many people miss out on such a great game, and this impacts the developers themselves. There are very few reasons why you wouldn't want this game in your game collection, so do yourself a favor and at least give The Mark of Kri a rent; I'd be more than surprised if you were disappointed with it.

(There's also word of a possible trilogy of titles in this series; SCEA would be crazy not to make a sequel, and I know I'll be first in line for a sequel which would only improve on the great The Mark of Kri.)

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSA great cartoon style, with many fluid animations.
SOUNDGreat sound effects backed by nice jungle beats.
GAMEPLAYA control scheme to die for makes it a breeze to play.
VALUEA tad short, but has a large array of extras to play again for.
OVERALLThe Mark of Kri is so much more than just another adventure game, or even a good adventure game. Its innovations and blending of so many gameplay elements deserve it to be placed up there with titles such as ICO and Metal Gear Solid. Definitely worth renting, definitely worth buying, though it's not for the young or squeamish.

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