The idea of the “bucket list” is all at once hopeful and ominous. To reach for your dreams knowing your life will one day end straddles the line between optimism and pessimism. In Sumire, we are pushed into completing one such list in a single day, facing great challenges and realizations along the way.
GameTomo, an indie game developer and publisher based in Tokyo, Japan, brings a colorful journey through a young girl’s hopes and dreams. The colorful landscape exploration feels like A Short Hike, while the emotive watercolor ambiance recalls Gris. This narrative adventure game banks Sumire’s – and the player’s – hopes on a mere rotation of the Earth. Can her greatest wish come true on one ordinary day?
Story – Give Me Moments, Not Hours or Days
The young hero Sumire is not having the time of her life. Her beloved grandmother has passed away, her parents are fighting, and she has lost her best friend. It’s been a rough life for the lonely girl, and her heart yearns for her grandmother’s presence for comfort. This desire manifests a golden seed that blooms into Flower, who insists they join Sumire for one “perfect day.” Thus, your quest begins.
The world of Sumire is a mix of colorful characters, from the flora, fauna, and inanimate objects you come across, to the real people you deal with every day. As your progress in your quest, you get entangled in their hopes and fears. Even though Sumire has pain in her heart as well, you can’t help but come to the aid of these very human characters, even if you can’t help all of them.
Don’t be fooled by the Sanrio-like art and colors – as you venture away from home, there are some deep psychological themes being explored in the game. One thing that the game captures perfectly is the simultaneous innocence and cruelty of kids. The narrative doesn’t hold anything back, shocking players with words and concepts that feel like they don’t belong in Sumire‘s world, but they do – oh, they do. The brutal honesty and straightforward manner the game tackles its themes makes players think and sympathize with our hero.
One gripe I do have with the game is the speed of the dialogue, which could sometimes lead you to accidentally making a choice that you didn’t mean to. While there are a lot of choices peppered into the game, there are a few that don’t really do anything or significantly change any reaction or dialogue from the NPCs (I tried a few out on my second playthrough). They do lend more to worldbuilding and helping the player process their thoughts as they walk a mile in Sumire’s shoes. Thankfully, there are a lot more interesting choices than plain, inconsequential ones.
Sumire‘s themes are clear – the importance of communication in the healing process. Seeing these themes through the eyes of a child reveals the strength and courage to face life’s challenges can be found in anyone and everyone. It’s truly a message of hope.
Gameplay – Ticking off a Bucket List
Sumire is a collection of fetch quests and minigames. The wide variety of activities within the game help flesh out the idea that you are doing different things and favors for different people. Aside from the fetch quests, there’s an in-game deck builder and board game you can play with NPCs.
Gameplay and controls feel good as you explore a 2.5D world. The fast travel option also makes doing the sidequests more convenient. The notebook, which is your log, map, and inventory screen, is not only super cute but also neat UI. It knits together the idea that you are really ticking off items on your list, which is cool to see.
The game employs a karma system, wherein your choices determine whether you received good or bad karma. The neat thing about this feature is that it’s not always clear what the “right” thing to do is. I’ve honestly chosen the options that I felt were right, perhaps more honest and straightforward than the game would have liked because I got some bad karma points I didn’t expect!
One full playthrough will take around 2 to 3 hours.
Audio and Graphics – Ethereal and Emotional
Sumire is a ridiculously beautiful game. There are scenes that play with light and shadow that seem to pull the emotions out of you. The environments evoke an elegantly colored children’s book, accompanied by sound design that brings it all to life.
Its main color palette of purples, indigos, and blues (the protagonist’s name means “violet” in Japanese, after all) gives an inherently somber atmosphere to each scene. There are some genuinely terrifying portions in the game as well, much to the surprise of anyone who takes this game at face value. These are the parts of the game that benefited from the designer’s attention to detail the most.
The emotional and exploratory scenes are propped up by an excellent soundtrack and sound design. Performed by the Japanese band TOW, their soaring melodies will pluck at your heartstrings. The game’s title track is an arresting piece that takes you to an idyllic Japanese countryside.
Sumire was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a key provided by Homerun PR.