The Vita is on a roll with yet another downloadable-exclusive title, Sumioni: Demon Arts, brought to us by XSEED. This stylish 2D action-platformer combines traditional mechanics found in similar titles, while also utilizing the Vita’s touch screen capabilities. It’s a perfect fit for a handheld and there is a lot of promise to be found, but it never quite lives up to it.
Like many games of its kind, your goal in each level is to get through waves of enemies to the end of each level. The game is split up into multiple paths, and completing each one rewards you with a different ending (with six in total). When you complete a level, you are given a rating, which might continue you to the next level on the path or take you down a different path entirely, with each different path becoming more difficult than the last. You’ll find a decent amount of challenge here, so those who breeze through the first couple of branches will have a lot to look forward to later on.
What separates this game from other side-scrolling action games is the ability to draw on the screen to create platforms or summon one of two unique monsters to aide you in battle. This works perfectly in tandem with your regular attacks and movement, and you can even tap the screen to attack if you prefer. The combat is fluid and each level presents you with a nice obstacle course of enemies to fight and hazards to avoid, allowing you to test your skills in both combat and platforming. On top of all of that, the game has very imaginative visual style that suits the gameplay perfectly. This all sounds good, right?
The biggest problem is twofold: each path is very short and very repetitive. You would think the branching paths would allow the game to expand upon concepts that were introduced in the earlier levels or even allow for more enemy variety, but there is none of that to be found here. You end up fighting many of the same enemies, taking on the same bosses and avoiding the same traps in each path. The only minor differences are enemies becoming more aggressive or their patterns changing slightly. There were many opportunities to switch things up entirely, but they are never capitalized on. Instead, you’ll be playing what seems to be the same group of four levels repeatedly.
Despite there being multiple endings and paths to be found, it won’t be long before you struggle to find a reason to play through the game again. The game’s story, which is relatively simplistic, won’t be enough to compel you. And each path will take you around 20-30 minutes each, so even if you were really into the experience, it would be over before you know it.
Sumioni never struggles to find an identity of its own, but it doesn’t seem to expand upon them the way it should. The game controls perfectly and has a style that really grabs your attention and then leaves you hanging when you expect something with a bit more substance. What you’re left with is a somewhat dull action game that is only worth checking out if you’re absolutely desperate for something new to play on your Vita.
Pros: Impressive visuals, fluid controls
Cons: Very short, gameplay gets stale quickly due to the lack of variety