Drift Sumi-e Review

Our Review by Robert Corra on April 15th, 2010
Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: THE SLOW & THE ZEN
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Line-drawing, ink & wash paintings, and drift racing are melded for a pretty, albeit shallow experience. Drift Sumi-e is too rough around the edges to be considered a true stroke of genius.

Developer: Objectify
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Drift Sumi-e combines line-drawing gameplay with a Japanese ink and wash painting aesthetic for a stylish drift racing experience. The visuals are the main draw, providing a zen-like atmosphere that suits the rather slow pacing. Things tend to get bogged down in the clunky interface, but not enough to derail the game completely. Drift Sumi-e may be a bit tedious at times and short on overall content, but the art style and core gameplay are compelling enough to hook patient gamers for a while as they seek to perfect their lines.

There are a total of 8 winding tracks in Drift Sumi-e that are shown as single-screen, top-down canvasses. The goal is to quickly draw a successful racing line from start to finish within these courses. The key to obtaining a high score is both the speed at which you draw your line, and how well your car drifts across the track on its subsequent run. Each course has a series of red zones located on the extreme edges of the turns, which net you a high style score if you can drift through them. There is risk involved in cutting a corner too tight, as your car will spin out if it hits the edge of a track, thereby disqualifying your run.

Once you've quickly drawn your path, the course slowly comes to life, as trees, etc. are drawn and your car takes off on its path. You have the ability to speed up this process by holding a finger to the screen, which I found myself using all the time as the build-up and even the general pace of your car gets tedious on repeat runs. You can switch the camera angle to different spots along the course by swiping the screen, in order to get some more dramatic looks at your drifting in action. You can unlock the ability to take snapshots, night-time mode, and snow effects for each course by repeatedly completing them.

Drift Sumi-e keeps track of your top 10 scores for each track, but there are no global leaderboards or achievements to obtain. There are also no multi-player options. Both of these features would enhance the game significantly, as the incentive to perfect your runs loses steam fairly quickly. The try-one-more-time gameplay is also hampered by the cumbersome handling of things such as continuing or restarting. The interface is simply not intuitive when it comes to getting you in and out of a track, and you cannot quickly redraw a path if you know you've screwed up or if the line recognition has an awkward hiccup.

The 8 available tracks all have nice subtle themes, with appropriate ink and wash panache, but it would have been really slick to have some dynamic placement of the drawn-in elements. The zen-like mood could use some accompanying, ambient music, as well, although you are able to start the game with your own music playing in the background.

Drift Sumi-e does a good job of capturing the ink and wash style that has been made popular recently by games like Okami (PS2, Wii) and Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers (iPhone). Marrying that style of brush-strokes with the flow of drift racing works very well artistically. The actual line-drawing gameplay, when compared to others in the genre such as DrawRace, feels somewhat underwhelming, mostly from the lack of features and overall content. Drift Sumi-e would definitely benefit from some more polish and pacing. As it stands, Drift Sumi-e might not be the most fun or lasting experience, but it is a very attractive package for those who appreciate the art style and are willing to take a patient approach to the game.

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