Not exactly hot on the heels of Mark of Kri, this sequel, Rise of the Kasai, has been years in the making. It has many of the same features as the original which is a very good thing but it has some new elements that aren't such a good thing. If some of these new features had been done properly or left out entirely, Rise of the Kasai would have been a much better game.

Team play is the new feature in question as Rau's sister, Tati, joins the adventure. Not only will you play as Tati but there are other characters such as Griz and Baumusu to control, although they are minor in comparison to Tati who accompanies and co-ops with Rau for most of the game. The two characters have similar control systems but they have different weapons and techniques. Each will take different paths in the same levels but when they work together the results are less than spectacular due to the faulty AI mechanics.

While Rau is still the focus of the game and remains a very playable character, we begin the game by learning that he's dead. To find out what happened to him events in this game take place 10 years before and 10 years after the events in Mark of Kri. In the early years we see a young and resilient warrior making his mark in the world as he gains great respect for his talents which combine might and magic. Many years later, Rau's sister comes to his aid as she too has inherited the legendary powers of her heritage, the Rakus. They are the chosen ones that must confront the evil Kasai from destroying their world.

Revealed with beautiful, artsy, cutscenes the story is well told. It gets to the points and doesn't waste time with superfluous characters or conversations. The voiceacting is great and compliments the visuals perfectly. I have no complaints about the graphics or animation other than the environments are a little barren and some of the ground textures are low res. The levels are absolutely huge, they seem to go on forever. I've played games that didn't last as long as one level, and there are 10 of them.

Blending stealth and action, the balance of gameplay variation should be duly noted. For the most part it's unpredictable which is an essential gameplay element. You'll want to sneak around and explore the areas as carefully as you can to see what lies ahead. Kuzo is your spirit guide in the form of a large black bird that you can send ahead to scout out locations. Through the use of your magic powers you are able to see through his eyes to give you a bird's-eye-view of impeding dangers.

There are many different ways to sneak up on guards. Some of these situations are presented in the form of puzzles as you have to find some way to get past them or silently kill them. If they spot you they will blow their horns and you'll be surrounded by scores of guards in no time. By sweeping the analog stick in the direction of the enemy it will lock-on to the closest ones and assign a face button to them for you to mash. The other guards will wait their turn as slice and dice your way through the first wave. Combos are plentiful and will put a quick end to your foes. All of the playable character use the same basic control system but will use different weapons and display different animations. It keeps things simple but brings variety to the gameplay.

Tati has a unique stealth weapon in the form of poisonous mushrooms. She can throw it at a specific location or place it on a guard that will hopefully carry it back to his lair where it will erupt as a deadly gaseous cloud. While having these new characters to play around with makes the game seem more interesting it's not without some major drawbacks as some of your teammates will just stop for no apparent reason. It's as though they just can't go on. Other times they will betray your cover when you're trying to sneak past some guards. This is especially frustrating when you've worked so hard to make so little progress. It doesn't happen all of the time but enough to make it a concern.

Rise of the Kasai would have been a great game if the co-op system weren't so damn buggy. It's a good idea but its execution is spotty.

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System: PS2
Dev: Bottlerocket Ent / SCEA
Pub: Sony
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Dan