Gathering of Developers sent us the final version of the anime-inspired action game Oni, and we were able to play through the initial stages of the game. The first thing you see in Oni is an animation sequence similar to those found in various Japanese cartoons, and while it doesn't necessarily explain who any of the characters are, it falls in line with the game's overall theme. After the opening sequence, Oni opens with Konoko standing inside a training room, ready to receive orders from Shinatama, Konoko's advisor. In the training mode, you're taught basic maneuvers such as running and jumping, as well as variations like slides, flips, and cartwheels. After you become familiar with Konoko's basic moves, Shinatama instructs you to move into the combat areas, where you learn the finer points of hand-to-hand and weapons combat. After the training session, Oni moves into the first mission, where you must infiltrate a warehouse to find a fellow agent of the Technology Crimes Task Force. These initial stages can be found in the Oni demo.
Visually, Oni looks a little plain. Specific objects within environments, like crates or large machinery, tend to repeat a little too often, with only slight variations in color to distinguish them from the same objects found in other rooms. The same applies to the environments in general, as rooms and individual sections of the stages seem to make repeat appearances as you progress, which can make your experience both confusing and dull. The character models in Oni are somewhat disappointing, due to the use of low-quality textures and the lack of a lip-synching feature. Conversely, the animation in Oni is quite good. From running to fighting, all of Konoko's moves flow well into other animations with very few animation cuts taking place, which makes for fast-paced action. Of course, there is a slight downside to the smooth animation: You must pay a little more attention to the timing of punches and kicks.
One of Oni's greatest aspects is its control, as the mouse and keyboard interface seems to be a popular choice for developers making third-person action games. While the default key mapping is a little awkward at first - the use and taunt button are the same by default - the relatively simple controls let you jump into the game quickly. Konoko's kicks and punches are performed with simple mouse clicks that you can string together, along with movement keys to perform different combinations. Aiming and firing weapons is equally easy with Oni's FPS-like control scheme.
We'll have more details on the final version of Oni in an upcoming review.