Sumioni: Demon Arts Review
It’ll take 20 minutes to finish Sumioni. Before you wail in panic, however, know that this is kind of the point. Yet as you’ll see in our Sumioni: Demon Arts review, that’s not what’s wrong with it.
With a unique conceit and a gorgeous Okami-esque art style, there’s every reason that you might be interested in Sumioni.
The original idea here, if you weren’t already aware, is the ability to draw thick lines with the PS Vita’s screen, with your finger acting as a traditional Japanese calligraphy pen.
The effect is well done, with slower strokes making thicker lines and increasingly their longevity while quicker strokes meaning longer but thinner lines.
These can then be used to bypass obstacles, whether it’s ground based enemies or mid-air hazards. The longer you stay on these ink-formed platforms the more powerful you become – but take damage or step back on solid ground for even a second and that temporary power boost will dissipate.
It’s an interesting mechanic that ties into the combat system. As you progress through each stage you’re rated on both speed and damage taken, and to tackle some of the tougher end-of-level battles with haste will require careful building of this enhanced strength.
It does look lovely, that much is true.
Initially it’s not such a problem. Play through the earlier (and easier) stages and Sumioni is a quaint – and albeit unchallenging – combat platform game.
Play through levels with speed and safety, however, and you’ll earn three stars, unlocking different branches to the game. As these branches unfurl the difficulty increases, unfortunately leading to highlight just how finicky the combat system really is.
It’s not slick or fast enough to manage on the latter stages, and while the boss fights are sensibly about interpreting potential attacks – meaning an element of trial and error is involved – the system just fails to give you the breathing room needed to handle it.
It’s frustrating to perfect so many of the levels prior – in spite of the awkward controls – only to hit a brick wall when Sumioni throws everything it has at you.
It provides far too much for you to use too, which might sound like an unusual criticism but is actually valid when you can’t use half of it.
Two types of spells and two powerful summons are available to you whenever you might need them, but both tap into your well of ink, a mana of sorts for the game’s unique abilties.
Glowing red means you’re at your maximum damage threshold. Make the most of it.
This alone wouldn’t be such a problem if it meant careful balancing of your ink was possible, but since Sumioni relies so heavily on creating these paint platforms it can be a little irritating that those add-ons of power are practically unavailable.
There’s a lot of replayability to Sumioni – the different stages practically enforces it – and to see every nuance of the story and battle difficulty will take a good few hours of hard work and practice.
But the stages themselves rarely differ from one another. The platforming sections are often too short to be truly entertaining, with the majority of boss fights – represented in this case as fortified structures – follow a disappointingly similar pattern.
What Sumioni needs is a little more subtlety and depth to, well, everything. There’s a great idea underpinning the game as a whole, but the same level of thought that went into the ink-based platforming hasn’t gone into the rest of the game, and that’s a shame.