Review by King Broccoli
"Oni.....the game I just reviewed."
One Nice Intro!!
OH MY GOD! It's about time someone came up with this idea, because I've been hanging out for it for years! Ladies and gentlemen, Oni has delivered what all of us have yearned for all our lives!
Wait for it...
A lead character with a clouded past!!
Yes, that's right. Oni is another one of those third-person action games (the type where you beat up and shoot too many poor henchmen). Combining stealth and precision with full-frontal action and a fairly decent story, Oni is a nice change from your standard shooting title. Forget my earlier derision of Konoko (Oni's buxom protagonist) for in more ways than one Oni is a truly innovative title. Being a creation of the minds down at Bungie this was never going to be a simple shooter, preferring to throw never-before-seen styles of gameplay into the fray. Even the story, refusing to rest on the laurels of their clouded past discovery (sorry, more sarcasm) features enough layers to trick the shrewdest plot guessing guy. This is the absolute strongest point of Oni as a game. Shying away from the norm and offering the most intriguing and involving fight system I've yet seen along with a one-weapon limit, the odds are that you've never seen anything like this before!
Only Novel Ideas!!
You are Konoko. Novice agent of the TCTF and purple-haired goddess. The world is virtually on the brink of collapse, with a hodge-podge government and the evil Syndicate terrorising the poor civilians of the world. The game starts off - as per usual - innocuously, Konoko doing her little TCTF missions and kicking Syndicate arse. But it just wouldn't be right if we stopped there, so we're given our usual influx of traitors and backstabbers and the story snowballs into a disturbingly interesting package with all kinds of surprises awaiting you at the end of each mission. I don't want to ruin any of it for you, but I will say that Darth Vader is in fact Luke Skywalker's father, and that wall behind the bookcase isn't all that it appears to be.
But don't go pulling the wallet out of the pants just yet! I'm afraid that Oni isn't all just fun fights and jolly story development, for it has some deep-seated problems lurking below the surface. Now the fighting in Oni can be a truly joyous thing, and I'm sure most will agree....but it is not without its problems. It takes up ALL of your Dual Shock (TM) controller, even the stupid L3 and R3 buttons, and does so perfectly. But the player is given so much freedom and so many moves are at your disposal that the controller just can't handle all of them. Oni was designed with a computer in mind, and we're left with a fighting system that is brilliant but also unwieldy. Master the system and you've got some breathtaking action going on, but it's easier said than done.
Then we've got the anatomy of our missions, our 14 dear missions. I can tell you that it isn't always pretty. So much time and effort has gone into the characters and the fights that this aspect of the game is a tremendously overlooked one. We're basically dealing with 14 overly long episodes of ''unlock doors, run through doors, kill baddies, run through doors, kill baddies, unlock doors, repeat 3 times''. It's as if Bungie decided that they'd done enough in creating their combat system and wanted stages that would merely show off their handiwork. Cynics such as myself are never fooled by such patchy game design, and it really is a pity to witness such a glorious aspect of a game wasted so unnecessarily! But I can't deny the charm of a select few missions; a scintillating rooftop chase (ONE SLIP AND YOU'RE DEAD!) and a mysterious Konoko dream sequence will always retain a special place in my heart. However these shining lights do little more than illuminate the glaring faults of our other 12 missions.
Did I mention that there was fighting in this game? I must have...and hopefully you've all assumed that you are actually fighting against enemies (if you did then you're correct). But what you don't know, and what I'm about to tell you is that there are an extraordinary amount of foes for you to tackle in Oni, particularly in the latter stages of the game. We're talking about the kind of volume that you'd expect from a bloodthirsty shooter such as Syphon Filter. This is where one of those great ideas falls down in a big pile of dead bodies named Konoko. Armed with only a single weapon at a time and a lethally short supply of ammunition, you're usually found left with a mere reliance on hand-to-hand combat. There's nothing wrong with this in the earlier stages when you're taking on a pack of bugalugs with their shirts on backwards and chocolate stains on their faces, but as your enemies develop fighting techniques of their own, learn how to block, and grab hold of some serious firearms you know you're in a lot of trouble.
The above paragraph details the main reason why I'd have to classify Oni as a hard game. All of the running and jumping and sliding and flipping and disarming in the world can't save you when you're being pounded on by four simultaneous ''STRIKER SLAM''s. The weight of enemy fighters is too great for some of the most resilient gamers known to man to resist, and takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice to overcome. This is where Oni keeps falling down! It has some tremendous ground-breaking ideas here, really it does. It's just that the execution of said ideas is so poor that it can be hard to maintain interest for a full completion of the game. From about mission 4 onwards, it's going to be a painful experience on more than one occasion for you and whoever is within earshot.
Over Nearly Instantly!!
It wouldn't be a good idea to pay too much for this title, as it's not going to have the greatest lifespan you've ever seen. The positive aspects of the game could very well convince you to check Oni out, but at the same time the poorer aspects of Oni can drive a player away equally quickly. If I could use a sandwich analogy quickly - it's as if yesterday's bread was taken and filled with next month's peanut butter. I'm not the biggest fan of cheating, but throwing on invincibility during this game will instantly double your enjoyment! It's really just the involving story and combat/control system that provide the fun here, and negating the 23890237 deaths you're likely to suffer will do you nothing but good.
Hopefully what Oni offers us is a glimpse into the future. If we could only see the good stuff thrown into a Metal Gear Solid-esque environment then we would be in heaven.
Orange Never Invented??
Here we are in the land of the graphics. Notice how everyone here is asleep? That's because the visuals of Oni are BORING BORING BORING. If the structure of your missions wasn't enough to induce sleep then the colours and shapes that physically embody them are sure to. Running through a single room will provide for your viewing pleasure a massive 14 shades of grey, an impressive amount but not one that is conducive to visual stimulation. This is consistent throughout the whole game, each mission will provide perhaps one or two attractive locales, but 90% of the game is a boring gre.....zzzzzzzz.....sorry. A boring grey. The characters fare a little better, of course they'll stand out when placed against the dull surroundings, but they manage to look interesting and show off all kinds of cool little animations. But I'm afraid that the being boring of the backgrounds more than negates the not being boring of the foregrounds.
Sound now. And please note that the paragraph header above is a replica of the voice acting inside Oni. There is a fair bit of dialogue to be heard, and the vast majority of it is wooden and stilted. Some pundits have even been heard to say that the subtitles even have more life than the delivery. Along with the main characters all of your enemies have the ability to threaten you, they do so admirably. It's unfortunate that one meathead growling an ''I hate you'' in your direction won't negate a poor delivery from the leads.
Looking towards the bright side we can see that the rest of the sound is actually done pretty well. Most of the sound effects play their part well (gunshots are a bit wimpy) like good sound effects do. The music is the star of this section. Appearing only when tension and conflict arises and doing a good job of furthering the particular emotion. The sound as a package won't lose Oni too many fans.
Overall? Not Interested!!
You have to applaud Oni on many of its achievements. It has successfully broken new ground, merged certain aspects of action games and provided a bit of a refreshing change from the hurly-burly of everyday action extravaganzas. It just looks like this time around that these great new ideas proved too much for the developers, as they haven't handled them comfortably at all. If Oni looks like a good fit for you then I must suggest that you check out a computer version, the game seems like a better fit with all of the extra control options that they provide. I can't not recommend Oni, it could be worth checking out just to see what could have been. Just don't expect the most enjoyable gaming time of your life. Bungie have shot themselves in the foot with their own creativity...poor guys.
OVERALL SCORE - 6/10
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/02, Updated 07/06/02
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