It’s been a while since Sony released a game through its PlayStation 2 Classics line-up that was worth writing about, but don’t count the program down and out yet. There is still plenty more to come, like this little gem of an action game.

“Stealth and espionage adventure” is probably a better way to describe SCE San Diego’s The Mark of Kri. Muscle bound protagonist Rau might look like he can hold his own in a fight, but he’s actually at his best when dispatching his enemies from the shadows. How does such a big man keep himself hidden in the environment?

The Mark of Kri‘s stealth mechanics rely more on knowing what is coming ahead rather than hiding and waiting for the perfect moment. Rau’s pet falcon can fly ahead of the hero and perch upon tree branches, transmitting his vision through a psychic connection. Rau can use these visions to plan a full on assault and take down his puny foes with some brilliantly animated stealth kills.

Of course, if the plan bombs and Rau becomes exposed, he can indeed mop up an entire room of enemies with simple one-button combat maneuvers. He’s not invulnerable though, and will most likely take a few hits in the process.

Don’t let the childish art style fool you. SCE San Diego created the game by wanted to juxtapose Disney style animation with gratuitous violence, and the result is a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek presentation poking fun at every spectrum of video game art direction and levels of violence.

This came out in 2002, the same year as my favorite early PlayStation 2 sleeper-hit Way of the Samurai, and I remember an intense rivalry between the two factions. I warmed up to The Mark of Kri after abandoning forum posting and trying the game for what it was worth. I never got my mind around the combat or stealth, but I would like another try. The graphics are screaming for an HD clean-up job, though.

SCE San Diego never got the chance to follow up with a game in the same fashion. Imagination had been tossed aside to make sport games, and the ill-received sequel was sent to be worked on by someone else.

It’s hard to believe such a game came from the guys who made all those horrible 989 Sports games back on the original PlayStation, but that just goes to prove that just about every studio has a personal masterpiece waiting to be made if given a decent break from their usual jobs. To be fair though, MLB: The Show is one of the better reviewed baseball series out there nowadays.

Check out The Mark of Kri when the PlayStation store updates this week. It’s a steal for a great game at $9.99. And be sure to check out PlayStation Blog for a brilliant write up from Executive Producer Jonathan Beard on the game’s fascinating development phase.