Sumioni: Demon Arts Review (Vita)
The shadow of Okami looms large before you’ve even started to play Sumioni: Demon Arts, with the sumi-e art style apparent right from the LiveArea. If that were all there was to it, it’d be easy to shake off the idea that Sumioni is something of a knock-off, but then there’s using a magic brush to paint platforms and set enemies ablaze.
So with the look, music and a bit of Shintoism as well, that idea persists a little longer, even as you see that Sumioni is a 2D game. It really is not the same kind of game as Okami, however. It has a lot more in common with traditional brawlers and, at the start of each level you can see the overall tree-like level structure. You don’t get to choose which level you do next, but rather, each successive play-through gets a less bleak ending (and another trophy). This means you always start on the same level, with branches coming later. If this sounds monotonous that’s because it can be. Which is an accomplishment, given a play-through can be done in half an hour.
The next problem is the structure of the levels; there’s almost nothing in them. Scratch that, there is nothing in them. It’s really down to the enemies and your brush skills to bring variety to the table, since it’d be a straight walk from left to right without them. This isn’t completely terrible though, as there is a fair amount of variety to the enemies (I can’t be the only one to smile and think of Castlevania when I see a big spiky wheel rolling slowly towards me). Really though, that’s only relative to the festival of disappointment that is the rest if the game.
It bears being a little more specific about the game’s ink mechanics, lest we be accused of giving the game short shrift. So you draw platforms on the front screen, which fade after a while, or you can tap L then draw a path to set ablaze. Ink is also required to summon either of your friendly gods; a bird and a lion. It’s a good thing the ink recharges itself slowly, but you’ll really want to speed up the process by rubbing the back panel of your Vita horizontally. If it sounds like it’d be awkward to recharge your ink while trying to create platforms to avoid enemy fire, it is. A lot!
The greatest issue here though? The price and content don’t really fit the platform. There’s not enough game for the £7.99 (or $14.99 on the US PSN) being asked, and it’s the kind of light experience you’d expect on a tablet or smartphone. In other words, if Sumioni were a £2.99 game for your iPad, you’d probably be fine with it.
It’s kind of ironic that you at first expect to feel bad about the game for being a cheap Okami knockoff, realise it isn’t, then end up wishing it were.
4 inky demon gods out of 10