Mark of Kri
When I started up Mark of Kri I really didn’t know what to expect, aside from the fact that it’s an action/stealth game. I was quite aware that it was rated “Mature” but from what I’ve seen of it, it looked a bit like Disney’s animated film “The Emperor’s New Groove” with the cartoony characters and all. As I approached the first group of enemies, I unsheathed my sword and prepared for combat. In the battle, I cut off a guy’s arm, impaled someone with their own sword, and then stabbed a bad guy trying to crawl away from my punishment. After that experience I was hoping for a completely refreshing game, but instead I ended up with a slightly simplistic (though still satisfying) romp.
Am I the only one who thinks he kind of looks like The Rock?…Probably.
You battle your way through swarms of enemies as Rau, a heroic warrior trying to make things right in ancient Latin America. He thirsts for adventure, and then one day while lounging around the bar (which serves as the interactive hub of Mark of Kri), he’s finally granted his wish. Things snowball into something more sinister as the game progresses, but it’s pretty much just a throwaway plot. The combat is evidently the main focus of Mark of Kri.
The unique hook of the game is that the often neglected right analog stick finally gets some usage. Pointing the stick in the direction of any enemies locks Rau onto to them, and then either the square, circle or X button is assigned to the baddies. Hitting the button results in attacking the corresponding enemy. I always found that combat in many 3D games is rather sloppy and random, but with this excellent system things are always kept under control.
Get off my sword!
It’s just too bad the combat system doesn’t work as well as it should. In order to use these powerful moves usually no more than two enemies can be locked onto at once, and then you have to execute a simple button combination. It doesn’t sound that bad, but if you get hit or an enemy dodges one of your attacks, it fails. I’m all for a challenge when it comes to powerful combos in games, but this is just frustrating, especially when you’re only one button away from such an impressive-looking attack.
At least there manages to be a good amount of variation in the combat thanks to four different weapons, in addition to some hand to hand attacks. Each weapon has a distinctive feel and varying combos, and you can even headshot fools with your powerful bow. Aside from the bow, there’s the default sword, a spear, and a massive axe that cut people in two. Sometimes three.
But the combat is only about two-thirds of the game. The rest of the time will be spent stealthily executed baddies. If you’re used to the stealth of Tenchu or Metal Gear Solid 2, then this portion of the game will seem like a kiddie version of those two in terms of complexity. Most of the kills will be done by casually walking behind an enemy who refuses to turn around and look at you. Sometimes you have to use Rau’s falcon, which can scout areas ahead and occasionally provide distractions to help with the kill, or once in a while you’ll have other similar, simple distractions to utilize. The only thing that makes the entertaining is the brutal animations that follow when you pull of a successful kill. Sometimes Rau bashes in the guy’s face with the blunt end of his sword, or snaps his neck, or slams him into a wall, etc. Eventually they become repetitive though, and there’s only so many times that they can remain interesting.
I’d make an awful “hanging around” pun but…aw, screw it. “Hey random bad guy, what are you doing hanging around up there!”
The simplistic level design doesn’t encourage all but the most basic stealth, and for that matter it also doesn’t provide much variation throughout the six lengthy levels. The sparse forests and ruins aren’t too exciting to look at, and each of the stages provides the same basic formula of light stealth, with the only variation being the different weapons you gradually find. The only exception to this is the final stage, which is just wall-to-wall action, but it actually made me yearn for the other stages because it seemed to go on forever.
Earlier I compared the game to a Disney movie in terms of visuals, and it turns out that some ex-Disney animators actually worked on Mark of Kri. These guys obviously had some pent up frustration considered the obscene (not to mention awesome) amount of gore in the game. Keeping up with the Disney vibe is the excellent voice acting. It’s appropriately over the top, and incredibly professional in terms of quality. And even though the levels are usually a little boring, the tense drum beats that play during a fight will quicken your pulse at least a little.
I think an “OWNED!” would be appropriate here.
Most action games are usually on the short side, and Mark of Kri is no exception. It comes to less than ten hours, but there’s a decent amount of extras that adds some more action. If you fulfill a set amount of requirements during a level, an “arena challenge” for that stage becomes unlocked. There’s nothing but combat in this mode, but if you fulfill more requirements you can unlock new pictures and costumes. Also, if you find a certain item in each level, then when you replay the game you automatically start off with all weapons. Busting out your axe and absolutely slaughtering the runts in the first couple levels is a pleasure, but the novelty wears off soon.
Despite the surprising replayability, the amazing brutality of the kills, and the excellent targeting system, Mark of Kri is “only” an above-average game. The blandness of the levels really lessens the worthiness of brave Rau’s quest. But hey, the game’s dirt cheap, so you could probably skip dinner for a night or two and purchase it.
NOTE: This is an unhealthy lifestyle - do not try often!
Eight out of ten