Yumi's Odd Odyssey
Bouncing through life on a string and a prayer.
Preview by James Cunningham (Email)
August 15th 2008
Back in the days of the Super Nintendo there was a strange little platformer called Umihara Kawase. It starred a young girl whose only tool was a fishing pole, which, as it turned out, was one of the single most powerful items ever created by man. Not only could it reel in the fish walking on their fishy legs around the level, but its elastic line could latch on to walls and ceilings, allowing the girl to swing across the gaps and use the bounce to fine-tune her trajectory. It was cute, bizarre, and creative, but never saw release outside of Japan. However, all that's about to change, as Natsume brings the PSP version of the PS1 sequel to our side of the Pacific. Due to the impossibility of translating Umihara Kawase into anything that would make sense in English, it's been retitled as Yumi's Odd Odyssey. Say what you will, it's better than the literal translation: Sea Belly River Back.
While it's great to finally get to play Umihara Kawase without the bother of importing, Yumi's Odd Oddysey is a good news/bad news kind of release. The good news is that the PS1 version was an incredible platformer, loaded with technique for those willing to put in the practice time, but still fun and accessible for players of more moderate skills. The physics of the fishing line allow for some incredible moves, limited only by the line's length and the player's imagination. Learning the line's capabilities opens up more and more paths through the levels as you begin to understand how to hook on to a ledge and swing up and over the platform, or how to time the swing and bounce to rocket the girl over incredible distances. While the controls are simple, the platforming action is deep and rewarding.
The bad news is that the Japanese release of Umihara Kawase Portable was a buggy mess. The line physics that are the heart of the game were unreliable, leading to some serious venom directed at this version of the fan-favorite series. The visual presentation looked sharper than ever and the widescreen format suits the game well, but the busted physics completely killed high-level play. There's no word yet on whether Natsume is addressing this issue in Yumi's Odd Odyssey, but I've got my fingers crossed.
If its issues are addressed, then Yumi's Odd Odyssey could be one of the best platormers on the PSP. It's a fantastic challenge in the classic arcade style, focusing on great gameplay to back up its pleasantly bizarre world of floating platforms and walking fish. Umihara Kawase should be remembered by more than just fans of obscure imports, and with a bit of fixing Yumi's Odd Odyssey could finally get the series the attention it deserves.