Platform: PS Vita
The PS Vita is a year old; Not that you would know it really. The doomed SONY console suffers from the same problems that the Wii U does, in that there are little to no games for the device, or that the ones that do come out in bunches. SONY have tried various tactics to bring more games to the handheld market with the introduction of Playstation Mobile for phones that are certified devices and with the continued push of PS Minis; one of the best of these being that of FuturLabs Velocity, a game that has gone on to give the studio well deserved success and an upgrade to a full Vita version.
Sumioni: Demon Arts is a 2D side scroller that aims it’s sights firmly on the genre that Shank and (if you fancy a throwback to the 80s) Golden Axe, made famous. Released in Japan during the Vita’s launch-window, it has taken a whole year for it to appear on European shores. This is due to the game going through regionalisation, etc.
After a brief historical introduction as to what the game is about, we are eased slowly into the game's initial gameplay mechanics. Hack and slash is the order of the day, but it takes inspiration from a rather diverse game for its primary control scheme. Max and Magic Marker was an indie game developed by Press Play back in 2010 that had a secret gameplay asset: It allowed the user to draw out lines using Max’s aforementioned marker to overcome obstacles, puzzles and enemies.
Sumioni brings this mechanic into play through the use of drawing lines to create platforms on the screen plus designating the back touch screen to recharge the crayon brush is inspired. The crayon dictates special attacks otherwise known as ‘Arts’ that allow you to summon creatures to help you in your battle against the samurais and other mythical beings that inhabit the world.
Battling in the game is pretty standard, with button combinations allowing you to pull off attacks and execute more powerful moves. Sadly, this doesn’t really add to the linearity of the game; the multi tracked level progress can’t even help it, as bosses are still defeated using the same attacks that you use on even the lowliest enemy. The game could have saved itself from the perils of repitition through the use of levelling up, gaining new moves etc. It also doesn't help that you can finish the first story line of the game within minutes of starting; Ok you have to fail massively to get that ending (which sometimes can work positively for a game), but in the case of Sumioni it’s more of a deterrent against finishing the game a further 5 times to actually get the better ending.
If you can get Sumioni in a sale, then I would say it might be worth the money - however that would be pushing it. The graphical style is worth noting as it looks beautiful on the Vita’s OLED screen, but the gameplay shown on it is what really lets it down.