The indie landscape has brought us so many things, from throwbacks to classic genres, to advancements of these genres, to totally unique games fishing from a well of creativity some were born to use. INK is a game, that at times, fails to be what it could be, but it’s nature has been brilliantly gathered from that well.
INK by it’s nature, is a simple 2D puzzle platformer. You’re a square shaped sponge that jumps from platform to platform, needing to get to a coloured door. You can double jump, wall jump, around the complex puzzles. Starting with simple geometric enemies and spikes, the levels get harder and harder. Wall jumping through small spaces lined with spikes, with no room for error quickly tests your willingness to go through sadistic punishment.
Once enemies become involved, the door doesn’t open until you beat them all by landing on top of them. This simple mechanic doesn’t add much from an action perspective, but instead incorporates the enemies as a part of the platforming puzzle. Every so often a boss gets thrown into the mix, such as an aggressive triangle that I couldn’t help but picture as a shark fin. Again, they involve watching movements, learning how to act, and beating the puzzle.
So far so generic, right? Well here comes what makes INK special, each level starts totally black.
When a level begins you see yourself and the enemies, but every platform, ceiling, spike and any other landmass is totally black. As a sponge filled with colourful paint, everywhere you travel\touch gets lined with paint, but more usefully every time you die, paint splatters around you.
Fortunately, every time you die, it doesn’t reset the paint, instead as you die, a lot, you will fill each challenging area, and a little way in front, with the reminder of your failure. Believe me, when a stage is almost totally filled in with colour, it stings a little knowing how bad you are. You need to guess, and die, to make the levels playable because you just don’t know where platforms are, but it still stings a little to see it so lit up.
The game goes from black, to becoming very colourful because as you move, the colour of paint you leave changes. This results in levels looking gorgeous with bright colours everywhere and mixed with the splatter shots reminding you of your many demises, it becomes a beautiful reminder, that you suck at games.
Unfortunately, deaths aren’t always your fault, and not just because you can’t guess where a gap between pikes are when it’s totally black. The controls have a very soft landing, in that I fell I caught the edge of platforms a lot, and regularly died. Other times jumps wouldn’t land exactly the way I expected. After time, and knowing dying is part of the game, you do adjust, but hours in it was still annoying me at times, especially after nailing some wall jumps and getting splattered on spikes that you should have cleared.
There really isn’t too much more to INK. Its simplicity makes it easy to pick up to jam a level or two, and its aesthetic certainly makes it a treat to play. Unfortunately thanks to some shifty controls, it can be unnecessarily frustrating to enjoy the cleverly built levels. Still if you want a puzzler that is easy t pick up for a bit between games, you could do a lot worse than INK.
Blair received a code for INK for review.