When the most memorable element of your game is a bug, you’re probably doing something wrong. But as we sat down to form our thoughts for Saomi, it was the bug that shuffled to the front of our brain.
Every time you get an achievement in Saomi, you are booted back to the game menus, where you’re promptly signed out. Halfway through a particularly devious level and pop an achievement? Congratulations, you’re signed out and have to retrace your steps through the menus and redo the level all over again. We’ve never dreaded getting achievements in a game before. Congratulations, we guess?
The game forums promise that the developer will fix it, but we’re not so sure. It’s been six weeks since Saomi launched, and there’s no sign of an update. We guess it’s a feature now.
We will remember nothing else about Saomi in a couple of months’ time. This is the most basic and lifeless of platformers, and we struggle to generate enough energy to even form an opinion on it. It’s that bland.
You play the plucky Saomi, who is eager to recover the family diamonds from a series of sixty single-screen levels. She appears at one end of a level and needs to get to the door at the other end. There are diamonds in between, but for all their plot importance, they’re completely optional. Grab them if you like achievements (and being dumped out of levels by bugs).
We will happily admit that Saomi is pleasant enough to look at. The pixel art is clean and sharp, and while it won’t make us delirious with joy, it doesn’t disappoint either. File under ‘fine’.
Saomi hasn’t got all that many moves – at least, not for the first ten levels or so. She can jump, and jump is all she can do. But abilities begin to stack up at a slowish rate: soon she can double-jump, dash in a direction and wall-jump, among others. By the end of the game, Saomi has accumulated about the average number of moves for a platforming protagonist. It just took the whole game to get there.
The levels develop at a similarly slow rate. Spikes become moving spike-blocks, which eventually become spinning blades. Crabs become mummies. Springboards of various colours get introduced, and levels get just about complicated and difficult enough to warrant checkpoints.
The levels are a bland old bunch. The toy box that the level designers get to play with is too limited, and the result is simplicity, a lack of variety, and a building sense of ennui. There’s nothing wrong with them particularly; they work, and escalate in difficulty we suppose. But you’ll soon get bored of double-jumping over spikes, landing on single blocks, and timing a leap so that you avoid an enemy. These are the only real tricks it has. Things are a bit Saomi… sorry, samey.
Sixty levels is commendable for the £3.29 asking price, but we’d checked out by roughly level thirty. There just isn’t enough juice in Saomi’s tank to keep you playing. There are achievements to hunt, which don’t come as freely as those of other QUByte titles, and there’s the promise of more abilities to unlock. But if you are expecting a single new idea, or a level that makes you sit up and admire, then you are playing the wrong game. Saomi is the most basic of foundations, and nothing else has been built on top.
Co-operative play might have added a bit of spark. If the collectibles unlocked anything of note, then maybe we’d have paid more attention. Highscore tables, hidden areas or a discernible story would have zhuzhed proceedings. But this is so slimline that you could post it through the Xbox disk drive.
It’s a workout for the fingers, we suppose. Saomi serves up a moderately challenging platformer that will sharpen your reflexes. But even for the modest price tag, Saomi is missing something fundamental. It just doesn’t inspire interest or feelings of surprise.
Saomi might have been one for the achievement hunters, then. But with the crash-bug triggering after each one, even that is kind of ruined. Bah humbug.
You can buy Saomi from the Xbox Store