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Preview: Okamiden

Kyle Orland

Okamiden on the DS manages to capture the painterly art style of the PlayStaton 2's (and then the Wii's) beloved Okami while also adding a heavy dollop of adorableness to the mix. This really comes through in some of the animations, such as tiny wolf god Chibiterasu's darling backflip attack, or the way he flails his paws in mid-air, Saturday-morning-cartoon style, before he falls from a collapsing bridge.
Okami's trademark magical paintbrush is back in the DS game, of course, and the short Gamescom demo showed it being used to manipulate the world in some of the same ways as the original game -- slashing rocks and obstacles in half, circling trees to make them bloom, and building bridges across gaps. Using the stylus to do all these things feels a bit more natural than awkwardly painting with the Wii remote, but was essentially similar.

Gallery: Okamiden (Gamescom 2010) | 12 Photos

My one complaint is that the game still forces you to pause the action to use your magic, after you tap a shoulder button that brings the game scene down from the top screen to the sepia-toned touch screen. The transition interrupts the enjoyable experience of just running around the world (with flowers sprouting in your wake), and can take you out of the moment, albeit in a rather gentle way.

Gameplay in the Gamescom demo is based around puzzles that use both Chibiterasu and young partner Kuni, who usually rides on his back. The pair can split up with a tap of a button, and are forced to do just that to cross various bridges that are too weak or narrow to be passable together. Chibiterasu is still fully controllable with the d-pad during these splits, but Kuni has to be guided by a magical path drawn by the stylus.

This split is put to good use during a boss battle at the end of the demo, fought against a giant fish that has swallowed some magical seeds that are essential to the health of Kuni's village (of course). Once Chibiterasu has forced the seeds out of the fish's mouth (using a combination of standard attacks and magical slashing), the player has to guide Kuni with the stylus while also protecting him from the fish's disturbingly long, waggling tongue.

It's hard to judge just how well this partner-centric fighting and puzzle-solving will develop from what is essentially a tutorial level, but as a proof of concept Okamiden's Gamescom demo definitely proved that cute, magic-infused Japanese landcape paintings can work on the DS.

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