GamesCom: Okamiden Hands-On

By Lee on September 10, 2010, 3:53PM EDT

Okami is one of those classic titles spoken about in hushed, revered tones by those in the know. Released on PS2 back in 2006, then in 2008 on Wii, it was wonderful concoction of puzzling and combat, with more than a hint of charming Zelda-eque exploration. It also sported a beautiful Japanese brushwork art-style and some truly lovely music. It was irresistible.

That Okami sold relatively poorly only served to strengthen the game's exclusive majesty. The Nintendo DS' Okamiden has a lot to live up to.

So what's new? For Okami's spiritual successor the main character is still a celestial wolf, but this time it's the adorably fluffy Chibiterasu that takes centre stage. Joining little Chibi is the even littler Kuninushi, a young girl who rides on the wolf's back offering hints, tips, and various cutesy bon mots that'll make you all fuzzy inside.

The top screen is where you'll guide Chibiterasu and chum around the environment, opening chests, breaking pots and exploring, while the bottom screen is employed to display the map and options. A flick of either shoulder button will enter you into "brush mode," pausing the action and moving it down to the touch screen so you can get all creative with the stylus.

This is where the bulk of Okamiden's really interesting stuff happens. Transforming your view of the world into ink-sketched, sepia-toned parchment you can use your "Celestial Brush" to solve the various environmental puzzles scattered around the land.

An simple early example of this comes during the tutorial when you encounter a broken bridge. Flipping into brush mode, you'll have to draw the outline of the collapsed bit to plug the gap and proceed over the stream.

The mechanic is just made for the DS' stylus, an improvement over both the PS2 and Wii methods. What's more, the screen senses whether you are methodically dragging the stylus or wafting it across with a quick, light touch. The resulting thick or faint lines allow you to create nice expressive brush strokes. It's the details that count, you see.

As well as chirping away on Chibiterasu's back, Kuninushi also proves a key player in solving some of the game's puzzles. Unlocked via the Shirabe brush power, you'll gain the ability to get Kuni to leap off her mount in order to access hard to reach areas.

This can happen in two ways. Chibi can either leave Kuni behind to traverse a spot unable to bear both their weights, or Kuni can be sent scampering off down particularly narrow paths that Chibi cannot fit into. This is achieved by drawing the path you'd like the little lass to toddle along.

It's just these kind of moments you can expect to see plenty of in Okamiden. There's combat - a single button melee attack allowing you to soften up enemies before finishing them off with a Celestial Brush flourish - but the focus is largely on the puzzles. This is a noticeable change from Okami and a concession to the game's platform. Makes perfect sense.

While our time with Okamiden was extremely limited, it did offer a tantalising glimpse at what to expect. For sheer charm alone, it has already earned a place in our hearts. And with gameplay that makes the most of the hardware, that gorgeous art-style and a knowing, playful tone, Okamiden could prove to be one of the DS' very best titles. No hyperbole, this looks brilliant.

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