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Review

Sumioni: Demon Arts Review

  • Game release: March 20, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • VITA

Painting destruction becomes tiresome in the repetitive Sumioni: Demon Arts.

Ink as a weapon. Only through divine intervention could a tool for creative expression be used in acts of aggression. In Sumioni: Demon Arts--through the blessing of the gods--you paint destruction with the flick of your fingertips. Fire erupts and allies are summoned as you call forth the power of a higher being. And you feel this power coursing through you. Even the act of building platforms with the swipe of a finger creates a feeling that you have strong friends in high places.

Too bad it doesn't last.

The motivation for the ink-infused battles is one of Sumioni's most glaring weaknesses. Slow-scrolling text attempts to breathe life into the characters and events but fails miserably. The kinetic action needed a storytelling method that could complement rather than detract from its feel, and the text crawl only elicits mighty yawns. One positive aspect of this dull delivery is the dynamic nature your conquests take. The story twists and turns in concordance with the path you take through levels, and six unique endings give proper narrative resolution to every branch you venture down.

Once the text fades away and the action takes its rightful place at the forefront, the inkling that something magical is about to happen begins to blossom. Sumioni is an action-focused 2D adventure in which you walk from left to right vanquishing every foe in your way. You have only one attack that isn't aided by your blessed ink powers: a sword strike. You perform this on the ground, in the air, or while dashing, and all are effective ways to bring down foes. Because of the smooth movement controls, you can avoid attacks, retaliate with authority, and hack down those who dare to challenge you. It's not a diverse assortment of moves, but tearing through the enemies makes you feel like an unhinged demon slayer on a mission to stop the rising evil.

It's when you move beyond the standard attacks that things become more interesting. By pausing the game, you freeze the creatures in place while you ready special ink attacks. Draw a design with your finger that bursts into flame when you resume the action, burning troops and towers alike with just a casual gesture. Or summon bestial buddies to do your dirty work for you. A celestial bird and cat can be conjured by tracing the outline of an hourglass. This technique is limited, so you can't rely on it all the time, but letting your animalistic pals work on the offensive side of things while you dance away from potential death is a satisfying endeavor. Swiping the screen also draws a platform for you to stand on. This is handy when trying to cross a bed of spikes or slash an exceedingly tall monster in the face, and you build up attack power for every second you stand on this weight-bearing ink.

Admire the flames from your platform perch.

Fantastical ink-based powers mixed with the precise controls of your standard attacks ensures that the early hours offer nonstop excitement. Downed angry beasts expel trinkets to expand your health and ink bars, and raising your maximum levels makes it much easier to take down the tougher foes. Stage structure is more complicated than the standard linear progression. Depending on how well you perform (one to three stars), you can move to a higher difficulty at certain branching points. Fail to get a high mark, and you automatically set off down the easier path, so it takes time and practice to become proficient enough to embark on the harder levels.

All of these moments are well realized enough to keep you invested in the proceedings, but that engagement lasts for only so long. Your character doesn't grow in meaningful ways, so while you can live longer with each power-up you collect, your move list never expands. And you aren't given many attacks to begin with. This means that you perform the same basic actions repeatedly throughout the adventure. When an end-of-stage tower halts your progress, you summon your feral friends to attack, draw platforms to reach obvious weak spots, and repeat until the tower topples. Shaving off a second or two may open up the next stage, but striving for efficiency is tiresome after just a couple of attempts.

Enemy types fail to enliven the experience. The same assortment of birds, soldiers, and oxcarts roll out en masse, and there isn't much strategy in cutting them to shreds. Bosses come in only a couple of varieties. A floating eye develops different attack patterns the second time you see it, forcing you to slightly alter your initial technique, though not impressively so. Tearing through every level could take up to a dozen hours depending on your skill level, but your character reaches his maximum health/ink cap just a few hours into the adventure. Once progression is halted, you dutifully attempt and reattempt each stage for higher scores without any meaningful changes to keep you engaged.

Ah, the stinky pleasure of hiding in a giant's armpit.

Attempts to inject variety are appreciated, though they don't resonate enough to overshadow the sameness in other areas. In certain levels, speed is your guiding force. A towering beast slowly chases after you, so you sprint through levels pell-mell to escape his monstrous wrath. There is some thrill in burning enemies while you sprint past, or deftly jumping over spiked pits by drawing platforms in midair to keep you safe, but the levels play out so similarly that the initial appeal fades away. In other stages, hordes of enemies flood the screen and you have to survive for one minute. The added difficulty in these stages keeps you fully engaged, but you can rely on the same techniques ad nauseam to come out on top.

Sumioni is a game you want to enjoy. The delicate artistic style and novel ink mechanics offer an enticing introduction, but the momentum halts after just a few hours. Once the novelty wears off, you're left with a competent brawler that repeatedly peddles the same recycled content instead of injecting new ideas to keep you invested. Sumioni: Demon Arts lets you use magical ink to paint victory, but it really needed to draw a few new ideas onto the sturdy foundation.

The Good
Novel use of ink abilities
Responsive controls
Performance-based progression demands efficient play
The Bad
Dearth of new moves and concepts
Tedious storytelling
5.5
Mediocre
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28 comments
tr1n1tr1n1
tr1n1tr1n1

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Granpire
Granpire

I got this game as a promo code, and I must say I very much enjoyed my time with it. The core gameplay is so different and frantic that it lasts for a long time, beyond finding all the endings. Yes, the enemies models are recycled, but they are given better abilities as the game progresses, so you'll need to think fast about where you'll paint. I give the game a 6.5 for originality and beauty. I got a very enjoyable 8-9 hours out of it.

Victorious_Fize
Victorious_Fize

I am slowly starting to see why people disagree with Tom Mc Shea...

Rat_King
Rat_King

@TomMcshea, I totally understand and from the video completely agree, but I think it would've been nice to mention its variation from other "ink based attack" games, maybe in reference as to why this one failed compared to those. Not a huge deal, Okami was just already so underrated, and the follow up sucked, so I say give it all the attention it deserves!

TomMcShea
TomMcShea

@Rat_King -- Okami's implementation of ink-based attacks is very different than Sumioni's. Such a reference would have proven I totally know Okami, I guess, but wouldn't have helped people understand Sumioni any better.

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

might not be a masterpiece 9.0 editors choice, but I still will give it a try anyway is not that expensive and I think I will enjoy it

Rat_King
Rat_King

Not even a slight mention of Okami in an "ink attack" based game? For shame...

cameio
cameio

I bought this game and download it at day one, it deserve 8 at least it's a piece of art but it would be better if it coast $15 so you can wait for a discount later but it really a must buy i hope they release a Demo and i'm sure most of Vita owner will love it, About Gamspot i don't respect or trust your Reviews anymore after the 5.5 for Ninja Gaiden 3 really Damn you and your score i start belive that EA and other companies pay Reviwers like Gamespot and IGN... to give high score for their games. P.S. Ninja Gaiden 3 is Awesome

Chronosknight
Chronosknight

Thanks for the review. I was eyeballing this game mostly due to the lack of Vita games that I want to play at the moment. The gameplay did look a bit bland to me. At least Disgaea 3 will be out next month. =)

Granpire
Granpire

Cool game, needs more meat. There's your review. :D That's kind of what I thought from reading other reviews. It would be fine for maybe 5-10$, I think, but 20 is asking a bit much when games like Journey are only 15.

nate1222
nate1222

Being a DS owner, I have the option of Okamiden anyway.

megakick
megakick

I don't think Gamespot can appreciate games for what they are anymore. mostly B.S. scores.

CassadyH
CassadyH

Thanks for reviewing this, Tom. I have had my eye on it for a while too bad it didn't turn out to be something special.

snxx
snxx

Interesting how he review this game without even mentioning "Okami" and "Muramasa: The Demon Blade"... Now, about the game per se, I looked at the pictures and thought "wow! amazing!" then I watched the video and started to understand why the game was rated 5.5.

ManzX
ManzX

i bet the reviewer never heard about Okami

soulless4now
soulless4now

I'll wait for more reviews before I decide on purchasing this in the future.

glez13
glez13

LOL True the description is better than some of his reviews.

jaifrecap
jaifrecap

Oh, look! Another mediocre game for the VITA.

KillerJuan77
KillerJuan77

"you can just call him the jerk who hates all the things you love and loves all the things you hate" I could say that about every reviewer out there.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@iPostMaReviews -- Well, to be fair, that classic got a 9.0, and this one got a 5.5. How many games are as wonderful as Okami? It's my favorite Zelda game that doesn't say Zelda in the title!

iPostMaReviews
iPostMaReviews

"Novel use of ink abilities" I've seen better before in a certain PS2 masterpiece.

da_post_office
da_post_office

Lmao I love the description for Mc Shea at the bottom of the review.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@anticusho1984 It is pretty expensive compared to most downloadable-only games, but I wouldn't mind grabbing it if it ever gets a good discount.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@megakick Except the Metacritic rating is about the same. Meaning most reviewers gave it around the score Tom did.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@iPostMaReviews You can't use your drawings in Okami as platforms like in this (which would be cool, if a little unfair), but still.

Sumioni: Demon Arts More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    Sumioni: Demon Arts is set in a fantasy world where players guide an inked character through a colorful landscape portrayed in the classical Japanese "sumi-e" art style.
    5.8
    Average User RatingOut of 25 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Sumioni: Demon Arts
    Developed by:
    Acquire
    Published by:
    Acquire, Xseed Games
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Language