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Okami

A few years back saw the dawn of cartoon-like cel-shading, which was as nifty as it was soon overused. Now, Capcom is pushing gaming's visual boundaries once again with Okami, a beautiful game that resembles "sumi-e," an ancient Japanese art form. It's one of those cases where we didn't know we wanted something until we saw it, and now we really, really want it.

Okami means "wolf" in Japanese, and so you play the role of a white canine who's actually the earthly incarnation of the sun god Amaterasu. Okami's world has been sucked of its color, and it's your job to assist Amaterasu in restoring it by battling the demons responsible. This will take the form of a wide-ranging, seemingly free-roaming adventure across beautifully rendered Japanese countryside; think a more stylized Princess Mononoke, and you're halfway there.

At first Okami resembles a very stylish platformer, albeit a rare four-legged one. Your wolf moves nimbly through the lush environments and is enjoyable to control. Soon, however, you'll encounter a puzzle or obstacle that requires a bit more than fancy jumping, and that's where the "celestial brush" comes in. Using one of the controller's analog sticks, you can move a brush around the screen and paint brush strokes straight out of Japanese calligraphy.

This is no handwriting test, though. Properly drawn brushstrokes can unleash a variety of powers and abilities. For example, drawing a line across a chasm might make a bridge appear for Amaterasu to cross. Draw swirls to blow some wind. Draw over an enemy and they might be blinded, or make quick slashing movements to cause damage. You can even create little vine-like strokes that will catapult your canine to wherever she needs catapulting to. All told, there'll be 13 or so celestial brush powers to acquire and master, adding one very unique gameplay mechanic to an already inventive game.

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