Okami HD review – Doodles with wolves

Okami HD PS3 screen

Games generally don’t do harmony. Most would rather let you destroy life than nurture it. Sure, they’re great at letting you off rare rhinos (oh, Cabela’s) or allowing you to pummel men trying to offer you a pork bun (good old Sleeping Dogs). But the majority would rather let you blow stuff to pieces than have you forge peace. That’s the main reason I love Okami HD: it’s basically videogame Ghandi.

Okami HD review

Alright, so Capcom’s anime-style adventure ditches the tiny bald preacher for a wolf goddess called Amaterasu who cuts enemies in half with a magic paint brush. But at its core, this is a game focused on the harmony of restoring life. You make dying trees bloom with dazzling petals, replenish dried-up lakes and occasionally draw wangers with the Celestial Brush… just us on that last one, then?

Bizarrely, the game’s closest PS3 compatriot is probably Darksiders 2. Though less impaley than Death’s apocalyptic jaunt, structurally the games are similar. You explore vast spaces that eventually lead to puzzle-centric dungeons, take quests from eccentric characters and fight deliriously twisted bosses – hello the Fabulous Mr Nine-tailed Fox monster.

Away from foxy foes, Okami is also defined by a unique beauty. Thanks to an art style that taps into the spirit of Japanese watercolours, the game looks like a moving painting. Distinctly handsome when first released on PS2, it’s now more striking than ever with newly buffed up HD textures and a world of natural wonder which shimmers with the sort of artistic flair that shames most modern PS3 titles.

Pausing time to paint in objects is also more graceful and precise than before because of well-implemented Move support. Where drawing patterns with the DualShock can occasionally be clunky, Sony’s magic wand gives Ammy’s Celestial Brush a natural elegance.

Okami HD PS3 screenAnd oh what pretty pictures you’ll paint. Draw circles among the clouds to illuminate the sky with a striking red sun – useful for drying an old hag’s laundry. Sketch bridges to cross previously impassable chasms. Or simply scrawl a big slash across the screen to go all scratchy on your enemies. No one puts wolfy in the corner.

Just like all the best stories, this is a tale of boy meets girl. Although granted, the girl is a hairy lupine goddess who can harness the power of the sun and the boy is a multi-headed Hydra that’s choking Mother Nature to death. Brimming with wry, knowing dialogue and staking out a winning line of randy insect jokes (don’t ask), Okami’s likeably twee sense of humour proves a highlight.

The only place the game falls down somewhat is with some misjudged pacing. Honestly, glaciers are formed more quickly than the game’s protracted opening. Okami’s mid-act is also disorientating. Around ten hours in, the story seems to reach a natural end… then proceeds to go on for another twenty hours. Hmmm.

Still, even when proceedings are drawn-out a little too much, your adventures are anything but predictable. Whether exploring a sunken pirate ship and fighting its shape-shifting crabs inhabitants or racing a sentient piece of paper (you heard) through a temple, Okami’s journey is a constant imaginative treat.

okami PS3 HD screensWhile the game’s temple design is never quite as consistently expansive or ambitious as a Legend Of Zelda, Okami’s art, sturdy combat and inventive noodle-teasers have aged as gracefully as Jeff Bridges distinguished chin fur.

Even when the pacing sags and the constant chirping voices grate, Okami is never less than a charming adventure of unforgettable colour, wide-eyed exploration and twatting monsters with paint power. Now that’s what I call an art attack.

 

Our Score

Score: 8