Suimioni: Demon Arts review
Sumioni: Demon Arts had me intrigued at first. Without knowing what the game really is, I expected it to be similar to the Wii game, Muramasa: Demon Blade. And why not, they both have a similar setting, and both have the word demon in the name! Alright, I admit that last reason was a stretch, but honestly, can you blame me?
What I got, however, was something completely different. The storyline revolves around a young hero with two spiritual animal beings who set out to save the lands from evil. A decent premise if I ever heard one, and one that would make me rise to the occasion any day, except the game itself struggles to make you care about any of that.
It controls like you would expect. Though there are several control schemes, the one that makes the most sense is strictly relying on the analog stick and face buttons for movement and combat. The game then lets you paint using the touch screen to either paint platforms for you or ignite your enemies in a blaze of fire. You can also switch the function of your brush to erase enemy projectiles, though it doesn't work on every single enemy. You also have the ability to summon either a giant bird or giant lion/tiger to your aid by painting a symbol; that will help you annihilate some of your enemies on screen. This is essentially a recipe for success, except that it falls apart due to some extremely bland gameplay.
The way Sumioni works is you're essentially going through bite-sized levels, some not even 30 seconds long, in hopes of eventually reaching the final boss. Various armed enemies occupy the stage, which are all easily dispatched with your sword, but there are also many hazards that you have to be wary of. The deceptively easy early stages make you think that the rest of the game is a cakewalk, only to realize that it will kick your ass again and again if you don't memorize enemy patterns and don't effectively use your brush. What's more, if you hope to get anything out of this $20 purchase, you better be on your A game, because earning anything less than three stars every level won't get you to the best ending of the game.
What I mean by this is some levels branch off and lead to another path, but to get to this path, you have to not only take minimal damage, but complete the level as fast as possible, earning you three stars. Like I said, the early levels are laughably easy until you keep progressing, only to learn that the game is unfairly hard. I don't mind a challenge, in fact, I welcome it, but this game crosses the line between challenging and being unfair due to gameplay. The biggest culprit in this is undoubtedly the controls. The jumping and attacking feels stiff and almost nonresponsive. It's easy to take care of peons that are constantly trying to slash you to death with a simple sword slash, but couple that with the stiff jumping and some relentless archer enemies, and you have yourself a fairly frustrating experience.
It's a shame because the way the game should work is actually good! The fact that you can replay the game multiple times to achieve multiple endings is a great idea. It gives the game some truly great replay value, coupled with the fact that each time you play, you're required to do better in order to reach the alternate stages and endings. It's a shame then that the gameplay mechanics just fall apart, and you're left with frustrating controls.
I think what's worse is that the $20 price tag is fairly unjustified. A game like Super Stardust Delta, which is only $10 for instance, has much more replayability, extras, and increasing difficulty which doesn't feel cheap and unfair, but rather relies on player skill. There are a few people that will enjoy Sumioni, and those people are generally gluttons for punishment. Again, it's not the worst game ever, but it has great ideas that unfortunately never come together into one cohesive experience.