Chi does a good job of covering most of the game's flaws, but I disagree about the curse of being a game critic. To me, the worst part of being a critic is actually having to play games like Oni. Nothing puts fear into my heart like the thought of being stuck playing bad games like this for hours at a time. I didn't have any prejudice when I started it, but I sure as hell did when I was finished with it. My verdict: Chi was definitely WAY too kind to this game.
First of all, the tutorial was extremely dull and long. While the controls are laid out much differently than the usual 3-D action game, I didn't find them difficult to learn, although they were very cumbersome to use. I'm not a big fan of the recent incarnations of Nintendo's Zelda series, but I will readily admit that "Z-Targeting" completely blows away a junky control setup like the one Oni employs. I also agree with Chi in saying that using the guns was not nearly as effective as just running up and putting a fist to someone's head or tossing them across a room. It's too tough to aim at times without auto-targeting to help out, especially on moving targets.
Once I got past the tutorial to the actual game, my jaw dropped. I don't know who Bungie thinks its kidding with the mindless, brainless, this-was-old-and-uninspired-years-ago type of simplistic FPS gameplay they've got here. Flipping switches and opening doors? Running up and punching bad guys is supposed to make the rest of this limp disc fun? Please. I did not buy a PlayStation 2 for this. Nothing good or original here.
Not only is the gameplay ridiculously dull, the graphics are just as drab. There's not a thing to show off to your friends since the themes are empty hallways, empty rooms, warehouses with crates and simple, non-interactive boxes of various shapes scattered about. Konoko herself is modeled fractionally better than something I'd expect on the PlayStation, and the other character models don't even look as good as she does. For a system as "powerful" as Sony is so fond of reminding us, this game is a serious underachiever. It takes absolutely no advantage of the hardware it's on.
As far as the other aspects of the game, I can't think of anything to praise, really. Some various "highlights" include the menu, which shows instructions and pictures for weapons you don't even have—confusing and lame at the same time. Also, there's a lot of polygon clipping, most often noticeable as some walls and doors disappear when walking close to them at angles. I don't even want to get started on how small and unreadable the type was for subtitles and menus.
Still, as anyone who has read some of my reviews knows, one of the things I enjoy most in games are strong characters and interesting plots. In my opinion, a mediocre game can often be saved by some excellent work in these areas. In the case of Oni, there is no redemption. While the opening anime cinema is actually fairly decent and looks like it was done in Japan, dialogue scenes during the game are laughably pathetic. The 3-D characters stand and move stiffly, and all you get are small accompanying character portraits in the corners with no animation! Most PlayStation games have more style and class than this. No, forget the PlayStation—most Genesis games have more style and class than this.
Great games grab a player from the start, hook them with interesting ideas and gameplay and don't let go. If a game can't be great, it can at least be good by offering something new, or by presenting a very solid and enjoyable package. Oni doesn't do any of those things. Games like this are a waste of my time and money, and I feel it's my duty to warn players against spending their hard-earned dollars on a product like this despite a real lack of quality titles to choose from on the PlayStation 2. However, the good news is that since it's now March, there are going to be a whole slew of better games coming soon to help me forget the time that I will never get back from playing Oni.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.