Sumioni, or Ink Demon, is a beautiful and artful new platformer for the PS Vita, which takes full advantage of the system’s touch screen capabilities. Is the game worth your time, or should you give it the brush-off?
In Sumioni you control the ink demon Agura, who has been released from his ancient prison in order to free Japan from the grip of the evil sorcery Seimei and his horde of demons that now rule the land, killing the people and destroying the country. The game controls like pretty much any other platformer style game you have played in the past, but it is its use of the touch screen and art style which sets it apart from the rest.
I can not stress enough how beautiful this game is. The art style, which should be instantly familiar to anyone that has played the game Okami on the PS2 or Wii, resembles the gorgeous Japanese ink paintings known as sumi-e. Thanks to the Vita’s touch screen interface, your finger is the brush and the screen itself is your canvas. By simply sliding your finger across the screen, you can create bridges to traverse the stages’ various obstacles, or even re-direct the numerous spinning spike wheels you will encounter back at enemies. You can also summon two Ink Gods to aid you in your battles by pressing the left shoulder button and than tracing the pattern that appears on the screen. The left shoulder button is also used for drawing ink lines which spontaneously burst into flames upon release, which is super helpful. If you accidentally draw a combustive ink line near something you didn’t actually want to set on fire, fear not; a handy little feature the game sports is the inclusion of an “eraser”. By simply pressing the “O” button, or tapping the water icon in the lower-left hand corner of the screen, you can the use your finger to erase any of the ink lines that you have drawn. The only things you set on fire will be the things you want to see burst into flames. You can also use the touch screen to control the combat in the game, simply tapping the screen to have Agura slash at enemies. However, I found it easier to rely on the touch screen for only controlling my ink based attacks, and used the standard controls for the combat.
As beautiful as the game’s art style is, and as well-crafted as its touch-screen controls are, it’s unfortunate that those two are the only things that really set this game apart. The gameplay is incredibly repetitive, with each stage following the formula of kill a few enemies, dodge some spikes, and then destroy the castle at the end by summoning your Ink God companions. In fact, I was actually able to beat the game in only about an hour or so; however, that was only one of six possible endings you can receive. You see, Sumioni uses an old-school branching system, in which you can warp to another series of stages by earning a high enough ranking on specific stages (which you get by avoiding damage and having a low clear time). You can only see the game’s true ending by clearing all six stages, which will actually take you a fair amount of time; welcome to forced replay value.
I admit I still enjoyed Sumioni quite a bit, but its repetitive nature simply can’t be overcome by the games amazingly beautiful art style. It is definitely worth picking up when it is released in America sometime this summer, but I would wait sometime until it drops in price, to around $20, as $40 is a tad too much to pay for such a repetitive, albeit gorgeous game.