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Akuji the Heartless
Score: 92%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
The first thing youíll notice in Akuji the Heartless will be the graphics. They are outstanding, and very reminiscent of Tomb Raider. Despite the fact that you are battling your way through the Underworld, everything is lush, with the exception of a few pools of bloody goo here and there. Thereís a mysterious FMV in the beginning which tells Akujiís sad tale, and also cinematic to guide you from level to level. A steady stream of jungle-inspired background music beats continuously, but itís not overpowering, just ambient.

Gameplay:
You play Akuji, an unlucky guy whose heart was cut out by his brother during his marriage ceremony. And you thought you had it bad. Needless to say, he is bitter. To make matters worse, his bride has been kidnapped by his brother and is going to be sacrificed. Akuji has to act fast to save her and exact his revenge. Youíll travel (3rd person) throughout a 3D Underworld, battling hideous monsters of all types, collecting various spells and also the souls of your ancestors. Gameplay is similar to Tomb Raider and is pretty good. Akujiís control is a tad awkward at first. He just seems to be in a hurry constantly (wouldnít you be?). But it doesnít take much getting used to. There are Hint Tables scattered about to help you learn his moves and what is required of you. Also, in the first Level, whenever you pick up an item for the first time, a ďspirit guide,Ē I assume, instructs you on what itís for and how to use it. Pretty cool. From time to time, your girl will pop in to encourage you. Ah - the cheerleaders of the spirit world.

Difficulty:
Not too bad. Donít get me wrong, though. Itís not an easy game, just not ridiculously hard. Some enemies are a breeze, while others are quite a bit tougher. One particularly irritating guy is actually just a skeletal trunk who crawls around on hands and knees, chasing you. If he gets close enough - BAM! Heíll smack you with his spinal cord. All at once, cool, hilarious and really demeaning.

Game Mechanics:
Akujiís moves include the basics like jumping, climbing, hanging (monkeybar style), and heís pretty good with the blades. Oh Ė he also has a ton of cool spells he can use to whack his foes. Heís very fast, as I mentioned earlier. When heís climbing a wall, itís like watching Spider-Man. All in all, Akuji the Heartless is a cool game with tons of solid gameplay and awesome graphics. It may not be for everyone, but I see it as another winner from Crystal Dynamics, and it only makes me pant for Soul Reaver all the more.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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