Sumioni: Demon Arts is a side scrolling platformer for the Playstation Vita that aims to take advantage of a majority of the consoles features, added to PSN this Wednesday in Europe, this title is a download only release published by XSEED games. Suiomi: Demon Arts has the potential to be an interesting title but falls short in so many ways that is barely warrants the six replays that it attempts to thrust onto you.
Addressing the good parts of Suiomi first, it is definitely a stylistically interesting game. The artwork is familiar of the Okami series with thick borders on each character and that distinctly Japanese style, mimicking the feel of Feudal Japan. The theme is there and Suiomi succeeds this far. The washed out colours remind you of a water colouring and the bolded edges around characters gives it a truly anime like feel. Sadly, it is a shame that the gameplay is not up to the same standard.
The first thing you receive is a large information dump, the story is fed to you through a wall of scrolling text. The artwork in the background is nice and distracts the tedium of the initial 5 minutes of exposition. You play a stereotypically lazy Ink God named Agura, who’s personality seems to have be taken right out of a shonen manga, he has been summoned by a man named Tengan who sacrifices his life in order to bring Agura to the mortal plane and save the chancellor Michisada who has been kidnapped by a man named Seimi. It is your job to draw path ways and chop your way through levels, dodging arrows, erasing projectiles and collecting items.
The first thing to note is that Sumioni is a mess to control. Sumiomi uses three different control options at once. Touch screen, back touch panel and the standard buttons. Each of these is used in a different way with the touch screen being used to draw bridges or pathways in order to traverse across spikes or reach objects in the sky, alternatively you get a water orb option which can be used to destroy projectiles and erase previous drawings. Whilst you can attack by flicking the screen most of the options for this fall down to the standard buttons, you press forward to strike once and then tap it again to do a “dance” attack, which is a flurry of strikes. This can be used to avoid obstacles by delaying your fall time, however you’ll spend a majority of your time walking forward into an obstacle or, just forward. To keep drawing patterns using the touch screen you require ink, ink is measured in the top left of your screen and you recharge this by just standing still, and rubbing the back of the vita. This is awkward, the controls have you constantly crossing your hands to reach things and there is a delay on many actions, an example is if the character is falling and I went to draw a bridge under him the screen would scroll forward and move my bridge ahead of Agura, this was frustrating especially when I began drawing in one spot and found my drawings appearing on another.
If it has been used more extensively throughout, the drawing aspect of this game could have been quite a quirky little addition, however the problem is, Sumioni does not strive to be much more than a simple action game so the addition of this mechanic falls flat on its face and adds little, it doesn’t diversify the gameplay enough to warrants its inclusion since it acts as no more than a method of adding platforms in the absence of them, the stage design is what limits it with stages being simple 2D side scrolling affairs with a genuine lack of possible exploration with most stages only featuring the obstacles of gates and towers that you have to get past and nothing else.
Stage layouts are overly simple and have no potential for exploration, move from point A to point B as hordes of generic enemies walk towards you one by one. There are a few obstacles such as towers and fences and for the most part you can easily jump over these or just hack and slash through them. Stages as a whole aren’t overly complex and are just a case of seeing how many obstacles the game can throw at the player, none of the levels feel particulary challenging but the game itself is intended to be sped through and completed as fast as possible, with my first play through lasting only around twenty minutes. The game tries to challenge you by trying to get your path to split off by completing levels in with a perfect rank, this is especially frustrating since the game does not have a “Restart level” option at the end of each stage and as such forces the player to continue onwards (although I found restarting the application was the simple way to get around this). Your rank at the end of the stage, 3, 2 or 1 stars, is determined by how fast you got through the level and how little damage you took so more often than not it is in your best interest to speed through the levels ignoring enemies. Most of the enemies pose little threat, being taken down with one strike.
Boss battles are nothing spectacular. Most boil down to charging at the enemy and erasing their projectiles by focusing on the tip of their firing point with your water tool, the water tool is infinite and I found myself very rarely having to dodge out the way in order to avoid it. The only part that makes bosses difficult is when you have to draw path ways to avoid shots, due to the poor reaction and pathing of the drawing mechanic it often drops you in the damage radius. Otherwise it’s just a matter of avoiding projectiles or giant drills / saws with very minimal reach. In the middle of most fights you’ll find yourself summoning an Ink God which deals large amounts of damage to the target but can be damaged itself, these makes the fights go quickly and do not damage your rank. Letting you easily clear most areas with ease.
There isn’t a wide selection of tracks available, the games music is average, eventually it just loops and becomes more irritating than charming over time. The sound effects in the game suffer from the same issue.
The best way to describe Sumioni is “wasted potential”. The games stage designs are boring and the combat is cumbersome, clunky and repetitive. The entire game makes you endlessly repeat tasks until you perfect them and even then the entry barrier for the separate path ways is a matter of grinding rather than discovering secret path ways or exploration, the best way to actually complete the game is completely avoid combat for starters and rush your way through levels. If you enjoy collecting trophies then this game may warrant some replay value for you but otherwise, the gameplay isn’t deep enough or interesting enough to warrant six separate play sessions.
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