|System: PS Vita|
|Release: TBA 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
"Sumioni" roughly translates to "ink-demon" in Japanese, and that sums up the game Sumioni: Demon Arts quite nicely. Essentially, Sumioni is a game that allows you to command power magic by drawing on the screen using the PS Vita's touchscreen controls. If this sounds eerily familiar to the 2006 hit Okami, that's because it is. Sumioni takes a lot of pages from Okami's book, including the traditional Japanese art style, the cel-shaded graphics, the story about ancient Japanese gods and demons, and more. The one key difference between the two, though, is genre. Okami was a 3D Legend of Zelda-style adventure game, while Sumioni is a 2D hack-and-slash platformer more reminiscent of titles like Odin Sphere.
The main character, Agura, is controlled in the same style most 2D action protagonists are controlled. You move him with the d-pad or left analog stick, dash by double-tapping left or right, attack with square, and jump with X. You can also jump with up on the D-pad or analog stick. This may seem awkward, but it's included specifically to allow you to draw and jump at the same time. In that respect, it's actually quite an elegant little fix.
You can draw on the world by simply swiping your finger across the touchscreen. Drawing is sort of one part Okami, one part Kirby: Canvas Curse. The primary function of ink is to alter the environment around you. For example, you can draw platforms over spiked pits to make traversing them safe. If there is a powerful ranged enemy that you simply don't want to deal with, you can draw a wall between you and it. If you trigger a trap that sends spiked balls falling at you from the ceiling, you can draw a roof over your head to remain safe.
Much of the game will center around these basic ink mechanics. You'll have to draw platforms to ascend to higher areas, guide heavy objects onto switches, and otherwise solve puzzles using your ability to create stationary platforms of ink. You'll also have to learn to remove your unneeded ink by using the water ability. Your ink is unfortunately not infinite. To generate more, you'll have to wet your ink stone, which you'll accomplish by rubbing furiously on the Vita's rear touch panel. While generating more ink, Agura is completely vulnerable and stationary, so be sure to create huge reserves before stepping into danger.
By pressing the left trigger you'll gain access to "techniques," which change the nature of your ink strokes. For example, one technique allows you to draw flames rather than platforms. These flame waves deal damage to enemies over time and light torches and other flammable environmental objects. You will find that there are some enemies that cannot be defeated with Sumioni's trusty spear and instead have to be burned in order to bypass their defenses.
You can also use your ink to summon powerful magical beasts. As of now, we know of two companions that are activated by drawing summoning sigils. One is a giant flying bird that shoots projectiles at your enemies from afar. The other is a tiger-like animal that follows you and attacks from melee range when you swing your spear.
The object of Sumioni is fairly simple. Traverse a stage from start to finish and kill the boss at the end. However, there are a few twists added to this standard action formula. Stages actually branch off into different paths, and many of these paths need to be unlocked through your actions in a stage. If you wander through stages aimlessly, you'll find yourself completing the game in a few hours, except you'll only have experienced about half of the game. In a Castlevania-like twist, the true ending is only obtained after thirteen long stages, while the bad ending can be achieved in six rather short ones.
Overall, Sumioni is looking to be a pretty good game. The enemies aren't too tough, the bosses are gigantic and fun to fight, and the ink spells, while blatantly plagiarized from Okami, allow you to interact with the environment in interesting ways. The game makes good use of everything the Vita has to offer and will certainly be a fun little diversion when it releases.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: March 15, 2012