Well, today I received my copy of The Mark of Kri, and seeing as how everybody is puzzled as to whether or not it should be bought or left alone, allow me to throw in my 2 cents and attempt to make things clearer. For one, if you enjoyed ICO's beauty, you'll love the art and atmosphere in The Mark of Kri. The game tells its story with art stills that are being drawn, filled in and completed as the speaker voices his lines. It's a really nice touch that Sony's San Diego Studios put, as it makes the story telling aspect of Kri almost feel epic-like -- you'll see what I mean when you play the game for yourself. The gameplay, and more specifically combat, is what's been talked most about Kri. While some call it repetitive and boring, it is in fact pretty intuitive and innovative -- quite possibly every bit as innovative as Ape Escape's control scheme. Spin the right analog stick around to lock onto the nearest opponents (up to three) and engage into combat with them. By pressing specific and assigned buttons you will attack a certain enemy. X, O and Square are the three primary buttons to use. Depending on distance, in some cases you'll be able to attack all three opponents subsequently. By holding R1, you will also be able to block attacks from the tougher opponents you face, and believe me this will come in handy. Some may think it gets boring too fast, but I like the combat system in The Mark of Kri. It's well done and doesn't take too much to get a hang of.
The game utilizes a wonderful blend of stealth and all out action. There are times when you'll be required to keep your tracks thin, and times when you'll have to kill everything in sight. The stealth plays out much like Metal Gear Solid. By placing your weapon away, you'll have to sneak up on an unsuspecting opponent and snap the poor bastard's neck. If you want a good view of where the enemies are, all you have to do is point Kuzo towards a mark and tell him to fly there, by pressing L2. When landing on a marked spot you can use Kuzo to look around for enemies and alert Rau, or move onto the next mark if there is one or if he can see it. Many times, Kuzo will be the factor for completing a stage. He may be required to fly up high and grab something that Rau wouldn't be able to get. Most of the times, Kuzo will be necessary to pick up Save Scrolls, which are like the equivalent of Resident Evil's ink ribbons. Once you have a Save Scroll, press start and select the save option. Once you save, you'll be able to pick up from exactly where you left off. There can be a total of up to 4 Save Scrolls per stage; the earlier stages have no more than 1 or 2.
Kri's environments are huge! The game is loaded with a bunch of large stages, complete with wonderful art and atmosphere. Each level feels and looks distinct, and many will even awe you. Aesthetically, it may look simple, but if everybody remembers, so did ICO -- does anybody see where I'm going here? Kri also animates extremely well and looks much better in motion than it does in screenshots. The textures, despite being simple, are very well suited and make the whole storybook atmosphere even more apparent. To put it in other words, the simplicity makes the game scream with charm -- much like Super Mario Sunshine and Ape Escape 2. But the perhaps the biggest difference between Kri, Mario and Ape Escape is that Kri is a rated-M gore fest, despite its bright, vivid and lush imagery. It's like a hybrid of Soul Reaver 2 (the whole impaling of the sword makes it feel that way, at times) and Conker's: Bad Fur Day.
The Mark of Kri involves a lot of interaction between other [supporting] characters; pressing the Triangle button, whenever it appears over somebody triggers interaction. The voice acting is superbly done, and is easily some of the finest you'll hear all year round -- right up there with the likes of Nintendo's Eternal Darkness. As far as nit-picking technicalities are concerned, I haven't experienced any frame rate issues or nasty visual bugs. Everything looks and runs as smooth as silk.
I happen to like The Mark of Kri a lot. It's nicely executed and intriguing title with excellent atmosphere, and a great and intuitive combat system to boot. If you're still torn as to whether or not you should purchase the game, I'd certainly recommend at least renting it and giving it a shot -- it's certainly worth that, if not more.
7/25/2002 Arnold Katayev