The multi-developer, multi-distributor, multi-platform Oni attempts to resurrect the whack-a-mole close combat of games like Double Dragon, to see if the Tomb Raider generation will bite. For PC gamers, at least, this might cause some concerned coughs.
Oni is a third-person fighting game that relies on the old flip-that-switch-to-flip-the-other-switch template, following the tale of Konoko as she fights corrupt conglomerates and cybernetic baddies. A back story about the character's origins, not to mention some unsurprising twists in the narrative, only attempt to pepper the non-stop slap-fest with some reason to carry on.
At first it seems a fine enough hybrid, with plenty of fighting moves and a scattering of firearms to help get out of the tougher situations. There are many enjoyable hours to be had, flipping nasty guards off of balconies and sucking the life out of snipers with vaporous super-weapons. Unfortunately, that's about the extent of it. After playing for a while, enemies become indistinguishable, character interactions become annoying, and the drab levels (think gray and rectangular no matter the locale) start to bore.
Inexcusably, no up-to-the-minute save options are provided. Like most console fare, automatic "save points" are scattered throughout the game, a design that would be acceptable if you didn't so often have to replay the same 20 minutes just to get past a single bottleneck or two. And the game gets quite tough near the end. You begin drowning in swarms of bad guys, usually while at the top of dangerous high-rises, leaving almost no weapons or ammo to help out the situation (tip: falling is bad).
So what's an operative to do -- cheat? Well, yes, cheats exist but can only be unlocked one at a time for each completion of the game. There are terrible clipping problems (the most amusing is when snow starts to fall indoors) and a disarming limitation of configurable buttons. If that weren't enough, check this choice bit of dialogue that occurs late in the game: "Now what you doing hiding behind here?" Response: "Just trying to hide." Shudder.
Once the wrapper is off and the goods are on display, Oni begins to look like a small fiasco. It's an interesting premise with a fine fighting scheme - squandered by sloppy design and bugs. Definitely a title destined for demo-status gone awry and certainly little more than a game for those who like their games with little substance.
Graphics: Weapon effects and fighting movement are both noteworthy in their restraint from going haywire on the anime influences but the polygonal characters and plain levels smell of a rush job.
Sound: Sound effects are above average but voice acting is disastrous.
Enjoyment: The number of fighting maneuvers keeps you going for awhile but the linear levels and cruel learning curve don't offer much more.
Replay Value: Presumably the designers want you to finish the game to expose all the cheat codes but there's virtually no difference of style between the first and 30th time through.
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