Sayonara UmiharaKawase +, or Yumi’s Odd Odyssey as it is known in North America might appear to be something of a low key oddity on the PS Vita (and I suppose it is over here), but in its native Japan, this is a series that has been around since way back in the Super Famicom days.
Don’t be alarmed if the name means nothing to you though as this is far from a narrative driven experience with the game held together primarily by its quirky aesthetic and unique physics rather than any real sense of story. Of course, some will inevitably be put off by the inexplicable PSN cover art which portrays Yumi rather provocatively as an extremely busty anime girl, but please note, the cover and menu art point towards a very different experience to what you’re actually getting – the game itself is a family-friendly platformer at heart with Nintendo-esque art design that combines its vaguely 70s setting with Japanese culture and nautical themes to create an odd but far from offensive aesthetic.
Playing in the mind of the fishing obsessed, Umihara Kawase, a 20 year old backpacking Japanese sushi chef armed with a fishing rod, a rubber fishing line and a fishing hook, the core challenge is to essentially get from one door to another in the shortest time possible. There are more than 50 stages in all (the original 50 3DS stages and a number of additional Vita exclusives) with a handful of boss battles thrown in along the way that essentially play out like giant puzzles.
Via the use of Yumi’s fishing rod, you’ll need to traverse each stage’s collection of challenging jumps and platforms by swinging, jumping and bouncing your way across each level. There are a handful of enemies dotted around each level, but the bizarre walking fish, while aesthetically interesting, don’t really do all that much and certainly add little in the way of challenge. They appear to be there for nostalgia sake more than anything else and add very little to the experience.
The true challenge unquestionably comes via the games unique method of traversal. Dragging yourself towards platforms via your trusty fishing rod is simplistic enough, but when it comes to swinging or launching yourself towards higher platforms, the games’ unique physics and odd sense of momentum certainly make for a relatively taxing experience.
You’ll get used to it after a few stages, but this strange “rubbering action,” as it is referred to by the series creator, will not come naturally to the majority of gamers – it certainly took me a little while to get used to the decidedly unique movements and momentum required to get through the games’ many levels with any sense of speed or grace. But then, that’s half the fun isn’t it; mastering the controls and flying through previously challenging stages makes this game what it is and unquestionably drove me towards repeated attempts to beat my previous best times. 50 + stages might not sound like a great deal of content (especially considering that the majority are relatively short), but with online leaderboards and an all-new Time Attack Mode, bettering your previous effort proves to be an often compelling temptation.
With the original, Super Famicon version of UmiharaKawase also included in full, an improved frame rate and additional stages, the PS Vita version is unquestionably the way to go for long standing fans and newcomers alike. The strange sense of momentum will take a bit of getting used to and the visuals, while conceptually interesting, can be a little dull with the game making little use of the Vita’s additional horsepower. Still, despite these minor issues, Sayonara UmiharaKawase + is an enjoyable and often highly addictive platformer that, thanks in part to its unique sense of motion, feels quite unlike anything else on the platform.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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