At first glance, I was caught by Sumioni: Demon Arts’ looks. As a massive fan of Okami, I was able to compare art-styles and upon watching the trailer and finding out I’d be drawing ink lines to affect the game world, I was ready to embrace the game.
Sadly, fond memories of another game are about as good as it gets for Sumioni. The game got off to a rough start with a dreary and lengthy text-based opening. By the end of it, I didn’t know if I was a good guy, bad guy, demon guy or anything. He’s red and likes to wield a blade. Hellboy, Feudal Japan-style, if you will.
The game is a 2D action platformer. Jumps are done with buttons or pressing up, the latter of which is incredibly annoying, as you’ll often jump without meaning too. Attacks are dished out with the Square button or tapping the screen. The game’s selling point though is the use of celestial ink. Wiping a finger across the screen creates platforms wherever you please. Or you can change to water mode to erase the lines or dab away enemy fireballs.
Unlike Okami, the game does not pause while you paint the lines, making it a clumsy experience, as you have to keep adjusting your grip on the Vita. This is fine early on, but it isn’t long before it becomes a hassle as you hop around, create platforms, dodge projectiles, kill minions and try to take on a huge Cyclops or war tower at the same time. Ink is limited too, when you run out you need to tap or rub the rear touchpad to refill your supply. Because life wasn’t already complicated enough.
Thanks to the touchscreen also being used for attacks, the game often gets confused and will perform an attack instead of a registering a wipe that you intended to create a platform with. If the game allowed you to pause the action for painting ink lines the unresponsiveness would have been more forgivable.
Combat moves are limited to basic slashes although double tapping the d-pad and holding a direction makes your red warrior do a lengthy rolling combo, which is handy against towers that take epic amounts of damage to bring down. Standing on any ink-platforms also beefs up the power of your attacks. Well, it makes you glow red at least.
Progressing through the game is a strange affair as there are branching stages. You don’t get much say over which of them you take, but they seem to be tied into your time and damage received ratings for each stage. So, do really well for the first few stages and expect to be punished with a bloody huge Cyclops that keeps regrowing the hands you tiresomely slowly hack off. Around this stage you’ll realise you’re having absolutely no fun whatsoever and promptly wipe the game from yours and your Vita’s memory.
- Looks fantastic
- Authentic era-specific sounds
- Reminds you how awesome Okami was
- Level Tree structure cripples progression
- Unresponsive ink controls
The Short Version: The game’s origins as a mobile phone title are all too obvious to see and the unresponsive controls make the £7.99 asking price a joke. It’s undeniably good to look at, but playing through the boring stages and getting hacked off with the basic mechanics becomes highly irritating. Looks like I’ll just have to fire up Okami again for my celestial scrawlings.