There’s one thing that immediately hits you in the face from this Vita title by XSeed…
It looks fantastic, no ifs or buts about it.
The paint-brush style graphics are a joy to see and fit very nicely with the context of the game and it’s Japanese style. Those that found the artwork of Okamiden a treat will find the same here.
An ink demon called Agura (see where the art style choice comes from) is your character for this adventure, roaming the screen in a fairly standard right to left fashion dispatching evil demon types and assorted warriors as you go. Square button to attack and X button to jump are your standard fare, including some double taps and holds of buttons for extra attack choices. But remember he’s an ink demon so there’s more to be done. Chief among these ink related powers are platforms.
A swift finger swipe on the touch screen will draw a platform on the screen for Agura to use. Whilst on the platform his attack power increases and will stay increased for a short while after he leaves it. These platforms allow you to reach some of the more trickily placed foes and also to avoid some of the obstacles that get placed in your path. The platforms do however fade out after a short period of time, so don’t hang around on them for too long.
Taping the circle button activates water mode, which allows you to counter projectiles that are fired at you simply by touching them on the screen. The final set of powers can be activated by hitting the L button. This freezes time and allows you to do one of several things. Drawing a line on the screen and then unfreezing time will cause a burst of flame to appear onscreen and damage anything it covers. Holding your finger in one place whilst time’s frozen will charge up a lightning power that strikes at that one point when time’s flow is restored. Both very handy powers in a pinch but they drain your ink reserves quite heavily. These reserves do replenish over time but the process can be aided by standing still and rubbing the rear touch pad. The final two abilities available to you are summons, a lion and a phoenix. Touching either the bottom right or left corner of the touch screen triggers the summoning process. A symbol appears on screen and then it’s up to you to recreate the path that the ball of light follows. Once done, the animal is summoned and onscreen mayhem ensues.
This isn’t a long game, and if all you do is plod from right to left dishing out attacks you won’t take long to finish the game at all. However if you take the time to master the skills at your disposal and achieve the goals for each level for both time taken and damage caused, you’ll unlock different paths to follow and enemies to face, leading you to one of the different endings on offer. The length of the game may be short, but the replay value is there to back it up. There is however something troubling with this piece of playable artwork – the controls.
Given what the game does right, the controls really hampered what should have been a very enjoyable experience. Firstly, jumping is mapped not only to the X button but also to ‘up’ on the analog stick and D-pad. I found this incredibly frustrating when using the analog stick at first as I ended up jumping when I didn’t want to, just because my thumb made a slight upward motion.
Sticking to the d-pad for control put paid to this though. The second issue with the controls came from the use of the touch screen. When the game got “busy” onscreen and there were plenty of foes to vanquish, it became easier to dodge enemy fire than try and use the ink power to combat the projectiles. Quite often I found myself missing things as I was obscuring my view of the screen by trying to tap on stuff.
And it’s this control based frustration that keeps Sumioni: Demon Arts from a higher score. Everything else about it, the visuals, the audio and the actual concept of the gameplay, is great. But those control issues just cause problems, for me at least, in what could have been a fantastic game.