A work of art or painting by numbers? A bit of both, actually.

Give us a magic paintbrush to transform the world and we know what we'd do with it. One quick wave and we'd part the crowds at the bar and zip to the front, snap the headphones of every ingrate playing naff music too loudly on public transport - and, with a final flourish, transform our flat-chested girlfriends into voluptuous Jordan clones.

Sadly, in Okami you only get to paint stuff that helps others, which we guess is one of the drawbacks of being a selfless god reincarnated as a white wolf. Through the course of over a mammoth 50 hours of gameplay, you'll use your brush for everything from fighting enemies and turning night into day to repairing bridges and transforming barren landscapes into lush, blooming fields.

Using the brush couldn't be easier. At any point, you can hold R1, which turns the environment into a canvas upon which you can draw thick or thin lines by moving the left analogue stick and pressing Square or Triangle. There are 15 specific brush techniques that you learn one by one at set points in the game, from a simple line, which can slice enemies and objects in two, to a circle with a slash through it, which represents a bomb.

You don't need to be Picasso to get by either - a vague oval-type shape is accepted as a circle. And while the stroke limitations and the fact the brush is only really useful in pre-determined puzzle locations makes painting a bit gimmicky, if you take the time to search around and experiment, you'll find plenty of hidden and occasionally amusing uses for it.

Exploring the world of Okami is a joy. The art style is fantastic, subtle and utterly unique, and it feels like you're moving through an actual painting come to glorious life. Although it looks good static on the page, you can't really appreciate just how great it is until you see it in action. Even tiny details, such as flowers springing up beneath your wolf whenever she lands after a jump, are captivating.

For all the style and attention to detail that's been put into this game, it's a pity the bulk of your time is spent fannying around completing boring and what feel like irrelevant side-quests. Endless missions in which you must find object A to bring back to character B in return for information stopped being original 15 years ago, and in the wake of Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King, it's only right we should demand a lot more from our adventure games.

Being a Japanese adventure game at that, Okami is also, unfortunately, rather dialogue-heavy. The humour hasn't come off at all, so the bug sidekick that follows you around throughout simply annoys rather than offers the intended comedy relief. And the high-pitched nonsense-speak that passes for each character's voice means you'll end up clicking through text faster than you should if you want to appreciate the story.

Okami isn't strictly a case of style over substance, but it is a terribly old-fashioned, traditional and slightly boring game wrapped up in cutting-edge graphics and a good deal of charm. If you're even merely curious, it's definitely worth a look.

The verdict

Stunning graphics and utterly weird, but painting is a bit gimmicky and the quests are old news.

  • Amazing art style
  • Lots of hours of gameplay
  • Hokey dialogue overload
  • Many trivial and tedious quests
PlayStation 2