A game for killing time

Product: Ys: The Ark of Napishtim Price: $230 Pros: There are little 'Ice Age' squirrel-like critters for you to kill and nicely designed bosses Cons: Unpleasantly long load times

There are only a few role-playing games (RPGs) available in the market for Sony's PlayStation Portable system.

Those games fall into one of three categories, just like the 1966 Sergio Leone spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Developed by Nihon Falcom and published by Konami Digital Entertainment, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is a PlayStation Portable-based action game that falls into the bad category.

Rarely has there been a game that annoyed me so much. Playing it stressed me out, instead of helping me unwind.

I usually do not write very negative reviews, but this game was so egregious it is beyond words.

This is an example of a PlayStation2 console game that did not port over well to the portable system.

The most annoying thing about the game was its load time: It took me 10 to 15 seconds on average to load the next scene.

This did not only happen when cutting to a major scene, it was the norm for everything - from walking into a village, entering and exiting a dwelling, to going from one area of the battlefield to another.

You will probably fall asleep while waiting to load scene after scene.

The game's hero, Adol Christin, is stranded on an uncharted island after his ship gets tossed by a powerful storm.

Here he starts an adventure which will lead him to discover the legend of an ancient power hidden deep in the waters.

After that setup was established, I found the whole game lacked originality.

I reckoned one or two elements appeared to have been borrowed from Konami's other long-running RPG series, Suikoden.

Monsters in Ys: The Ark of Napishtim occasionally drop a special stone which can be used to upgrade a player's magical sword, giving it special abilities.

That is a device used in all the Suikoden games. As for game play, this is simply hack-and-slash action similar to the Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore - two great games for the Super Nintendo console.

A player spends too much time back-tracking to get items and levelling up in The Ark. Levelling up in RPGs occurs when a character passes a threshold number of 'experience points' - representing a character's improvement in skills awarded after defeating opponents, monsters and other obstacles.

The game delivers a lot of monsters for a player to kill. But the bosses are just above average. Bosses represent the hardest enemies to defeat in a game. They are traditionally used as choke-points in RPGs, ensuring a player has taken the time to level up.

The graphics reminded me of a few old RPGs from the PSone era, when 3D computer graphics were used to make villages and cities less flat. The effects are pretty standard with elemental attacks looking like every other RPG.

If you want game play with the hero running around to collect magical swords and killing everything in sight, then choose the martial arts-themed Kingdom of Paradise which I reviewed a few months ago.

It provided better graphics, storyline, music and game play. But most important of all, it had short loading times.