Introducing our Sumire Review
If you knew you had one day left, how would you spend it? Aside from being one of my deeper introductions to a videogame review, this is the premise to GameTomo’s Sumire. The game deals with issues around dealing with loss and change. Themes that I intend to try and keep in one section for those who may be affected by it. But what is on offer here is a short romp through a young girl’s life as she tries to cope. So, care to take that first step with me?
One Day – Make it Count
We start off with Sumire being woken up from a dream to the sound of running water. She quickly finds the source and contemplates the meaning behind her vision. Determined to discover the ending, she consults the shrine of her grandmother, who we discover had recently passed away. Rather than recreate the library scene from Ghostbusters, instead we are bombarded with seed. Crashing through the bedroom glass and almost waking our depressed mother! Sumire quickly finds some potting materials, conveniently located on a nearby table, and falls asleep in front of her freshly planted seedling.
The next morning, defying all laws of Biology I might add, Sumire wakes to find a fully grown and sentient plant. Our blue petaled companion tells us that it has only one day to live on this Earth and wants to have the “perfect day”. “But I need sleep,” comes the reply from any sane person who had just fallen asleep while planting a seed. “If you had one day left, is THAT how you would spend it?”… … …
Choices & the Karma… Chameleon
Naturally we agree to help flower have their perfect day and to do so, we compile a list of things we want to achieve in a perfect day. These form the goals and checkpoints that Sumire wants the player to achieve. These are fleshed out with side quests from NPCs along the way. From helping out the rice paddy scarecrow or finding a true love for the grass snake. As you progress more of the story unfolds and with them, changes to the list until eventually Sumire begins to check items off.
The game has a mild morality mechanic whereby decisions made can influence the game later on. Positive decisions will create a different coloured icon to indicate the choice (think renegade and paragon from Mass Effect). A good example is forcing an NPC to interact with a character against their will triggered a negative response, but it also meant that the original quest was failed as the recipient doesn’t want a forced encounter. These interactions are mostly small, but trigger into the wider “Karma” mechanic also.
A number of NPCs in game, including a lizard (not a chameleon but I couldn’t resist) are able to determine your overall Karma in game. This only really helps when completing challenges toward the end of the game though. There aren’t any conversations that are blocked by having a certain level of karma for example. Simply whether you are having a “good day,” or not.
So many Elements Wrapped in a Tiny Package
The majority of the game is a 2.5D side scroller with occasional control of the Z axis, to travel into and out of the scene. Some parts of the map incorporate this into the game play, with essentially a digital version of “red light, green light” at one point. In fact, it’s safe to say the game has tried its best to cram as many mechanics into one day as it could possibly fit. The controls are a little sluggish and boxy at times, and almost feel better suited for a D-Pad than an analogue stick, but for the most part they work fine.
There are a selection of minigames tied into the main story. Some are themed around card and board game tropes and help to progress the story a little. While others are just, well a fishing minigame. There really is a lot to unpack in a tiny game. From “water pipe” mechanics where mixing colours determines the outcome to gachapon machines that dish out a variety of collectibles. There is both something for everyone and a real call out to Japanese culture, without resorting to overused story tropes.
There is the option to replay the day or start again. With the built in achievements there is incentive, but it is not strong. For example, one of the achievements completely goes against the main goal of the game. But if you are the kind of player who wants to see the world burn, then this option is available to you.
The game deals with a lot of themes around mental health and the dealing with change and loss. Sumire has a lot on her shoulders. Both with the already mentioned death of her grandmother but also the separation of her parents. Like all children, Sumire tries to deal with these in the best way she knows how. By fixing them. But as we see from the start of the game, she has lapsed into apathy and depression.
Sumire’s depression is explored through her friend flower. Their ability to change colour based on emotional decisions often reflects the mood at the time and there is even a section where Sumire’s anger is allowed to flow. The game doesn’t exactly follow the signs of grief, but a lot of them are brought to the forefront and bounced back and forth. There are times Sumire questions whether she is the cause of her parent’s separation, something that is common in reality.
The game does a lot to encourage the player to embrace the themes in the game. Acceptance, a sense of Carpe Diem and a drive to treat others well, no matter the harm they may have done. You are frequently given the option to exact vengeance or, in its own words, heal. These have a very cleansing feel as you progress through the game and help you to feel as though you have helped Sumire to grow and overcome her demons. Even if those around her haven’t changed much.
Sumire is nothing short of a work of art. It certainly will be used as additional evidence for video games as an art form in themselves. The game employs a watercolour scheme to the colour palette that within moments had me reminiscing of Rosalina’s story in Super Mario Galaxy. You almost expect each level to turn into the next, but the game does the closest thing by having the world on a rotating drum, similar to Animal Crossing games.
Musically the game is complemented incredibly well. With shifts in tone and key matching the shift in story. Other sounds are kept to a minimum but also fit into the aesthetic well. There is even a beautiful scene where art and music combine in an incredibly reflective piece as Sumire travels from one area to another. The combined force of art and music really bolster the story to the point that the simplistic gameplay is entirely a non-issue.
I didn’t encounter any glitches while playing, but as mentioned earlier the controls did feel a little sluggish at times which was a little removing. The game runs at around 3 hours for one playthrough, though this could be longer if you agonise over choices or stress over, “should I do X?” But as I’ve mentioned before, short games can be a true tour de force and this title is a great example of that.
And I said to myself…. What a Wonderful Day
Sumire is a gorgeous vignette into the life of a young girl dealing with the world around her. With a beautiful mix of art and compelling story, this is definitely one to pick up. Whilst the game does nothing really new mechanically, what it does, it does well and ensures it integrates to give an overall experience that will really tug at the heart strings.
- Heart wrenching story
- Beautiful watercolour like aesthetic
- Colourful almost ghibli-esque aesthetic with updated cut scenes
- Limited replayability