Although the idea behind INK isn’t a bad one, with controls that don’t feel precise and such basic gameplay, it doesn’t make for a game worth playing.
Genres: Platformer, Puzzle Platformer
Release Date: 5 August, 2015
As a person who enjoys colorful imagery, INK appealed to me at first glance with all the color that would spread across the screen from your character dying and splatting out paint so you can see the invisible walls. This seemed like an interesting basis for a platformer, especially since it would have to allow for unlimited lives (or be hecking hard) as dying was a basis for knowing the level layout and being able to make progress. It wouldn’t have been a good trailer to convey the point of the game, but I would have applauded a sarcastic trailer that’d show little more than pure black, as that’s what you see otherwise.
I’ve seen a few platformers tinker with limited visibility before, even to the extent that you’d use your previous deaths to gain more information, but none quite like this. Those other games tend to be a bit more grim or use dark humor, but INK puts a more colorful spin on this idea. Each stage opens with your character, a white square, resting in a black void, and sometimes you’ll be able to see a few enemies or hazards. Otherwise though, you have to seek out walls and platforms, able to splash paint across them so you’re able to see where anything is. After working out what your surroundings consist of, INK doesn’t present anything you wouldn’t see in other basic platforming games. Stages are short, requiring only a bit of screen scroll either horizontally or vertically, to reach the goal. If there are enemies present, IE color-changing squares, you’ll have to defeat all of them in order to make the exit active.
I played this game years ago using a keyboard, and struggled to make much progress for it. After trying it again recently with a controller, I was able to finish the rest of the game in about an hour. Although the visuals might suggest something more complicated, INK is a very basic platformer. All there is to it is moving left and right with the ‘L joystick,’ and using the ‘A button’ to jump, double jump, and wall jump. After double-jumping you’ll lose the ability to jump again until you either cling to a wall, land, or bounce off an enemy. Double-jumping sprays ink out around you, and is instrumental for increasing your visibility. Even though the controls are so simple, I did feel like I was fighting against them, making things harder than necessary.
There’s not a story to INK. You’re a block full of colorful ink, and you simply aim to get from Point A to Point B. Don’t thINK about it too hard.
INK is as much about what you don’t see as it is the spots where you spill ink and see what’s around you. Since the ink that flies out creates random blobs of intermixing colors on top of a black environment, it somewhat creates a black light or neon poster effect. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t play with the visuals as much as it could have otherwise. To be fair, it wouldn’t have made much sense to design complex characters, most of which would be invisible most of the time, so the protagonists and all the enemies are of minimalist design, IE geometric shapes. However, I’ve never been a fan of such overly simplified visuals. Also, the environments are just as simple, as all of the platforms and walls are made up of basic squares or rectangles.
INK would be a rather dull game if there wasn’t any music to make up for the lack of things to look at. The music is fairly mellow and a touch surreal sounding, including sound effects that remind me of underwater bubbles. It fits INK well enough, but I’m not positive about the OST for the game since the song plays constantly as you transition from one stage to the next. It might be a single, longer composition that loops, or it may be made up of a few songs. There are sound effects in the game, but unlike other games that play with limited visuals, there’s no audio cues or reverberations to try and direct you. With such a simple game, the sounds pertain only to bopping bad guys and spraying paint, and the noises used aren’t a bad fit.
- Even though the game can be challenging in places, having infinite lives and each stage being so short helps a lot.
- There’s arguably some rationale for why the graphics are so basic.
- You start each stage by dropping a slight distance, which disrupts your ability to immediately jump when the stage loads in.
- The homing attacks have such tight turning capacity, they’d make homing missiles in other games green with envy.
- INK is more style over substance, and with these basic graphics, that’s saying something.
- Bosses present a unique challenge, because you don’t gain an advantage from dying the way you do in every other level. However, beating them will work on the same concept, where trial and error will allow you to learn the basic patterns for defeating them.
- The homing attacks in the 3rd world are quite precise, but each set-up has a fairly simple way to counter it: running straight past it, timing a double-jump to bait the projectile, or most common of all back and forth wall jumps to zig zag the projectiles.
- Movement in the game seems to work better if you keep the momentum going, instead of shuffling back and forth in static hops. It feels floaty, and this seemed the best way to work with it.
My inflated play time for INK stems from a mixture of card-grinding, and the fact that I attempted to earn the achievement for beating a world without dying once, which was especially difficult with a keyboard. At this point, I have no interest in pursuing such a goal any further, because not only do you have to beat each stage without dying, you have to beat 25 of them in a row without messing up a single time. Otherwise, the game could be finished in about 2 hours, if you stick with it for that long. Although I was intrigued by the color scheme, the platforming is nothing special and is hampered by loose controls, so I wouldn’t recommend getting this game.