When I got the review key for Sumire, I thought that it would be easy. By all estimates, the game takes up to two hours to complete, looked simple enough to review and seemed to be a self-contained package that would be easy to get into. I mean, an indie game meant to be completed in one sitting can’t be all that hard to cover. Oh, how wrong I was…
Sumire is, at its core, a 2D side-scroller following one very special day of its lead character, Sumire’s life. The story is set in a quaint Japanese village that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Studio Ghibli film if it was animated in a charming watercolour style. The gameplay is nothing out of the ordinary with most of it being centred around completing minigames and finding items to progress both the main plot and a variety of side quests.
Sumire is deceptively difficult. Not in the same way that Elden Ring pits you against demigods and not in the same way that DCS makes you read a textbook before you fly.
It’s hard because it covers real, human challenges in relationships and deals with difficult topics like parental abandonment, depression, and even death. It’s all told from the perspective of a young girl not entirely sure of what is happening and how to feel about it.
Despite the magical floating flower, haunted houses, and supernatural crows, everything is easy to understand. After all, it’s something we’ve all felt before. Through its young protagonist, Sumire recontextualizes those challenges by framing them through innocent eyes that lack the experience that comes with age and poses the question: what would you do?
That question is made all the more compelling by the constant reminders that the entire story only lasts a day. Once that’s over, everything will go back to normal, though the consequences will last. With that time limit pushing the player on, every decision carries more weight. After all, tomorrow would be too late.
Whatever answer or decision you arrive at would be something that’s tinted through your own experiences. I found it impossible not to think back to the times I was in Sumire’s shoes and make a decision divorced from the real world.
At the end of it all after spending a day confronting personal demons and watching Sumire grow, not as a character but as a person, does the game feel most rewarding. Staring back at a gorgeous watercoloured sky and reflecting on the two hours I spent on the game was every bit as satisfying as a challenge from a different game.