Sometimes a game comes along that has the simplest of ideas but with an abundance of charm and for some reason these type of games occasionally get overlooked. With a formula that is not only addictive but also a little refreshing, INK is a challenging platformer with a bit of a twist and that twist is that it has no platforms, well not until you discover them yourself that is. Players take control of a square ink sponge like object with the goal of reaching the coloured door in to the next level. In order to highlight the path ahead, players have to double jump to splash ink around the level, exposing platforms that can be used to get to the door in to the next level, but the ink has a limited distance so some of this discovery will end in failure, but don’t let that put you off, it will encourage you to get it right.
Each level starts off as a blank canvas and the idea is to splash ink around, exposing platforms to give the player some kind of idea as to where to go. INK is more of a puzzle platformer than anything else and discovering the routes ahead is both addictive and therapeutic at the same time. Walls can be used to jump off in order to get to higher platforms, Super Meat Boy style and there are some later levels that are laid out in a maze type structure and a big part of the fun on offer here is figuring these mazes out.
Along with its fairly simple concept, INK does a good job of keeping its controls simple too and it plays as well as you might expect. Jumping is responsive and movement is smooth but deliberately slippery, so precision and timing has to be on point when playing through. The levels get more difficult as you progress as they become bigger in scale both vertically and horizontally. The game doesn’t give the player any hints as to where they need to go so some strategy is needed when exposing platforms, especially at the start of a level. There is no denying that INK gets difficult in its later stages as the levels not only become larger but they become more complex in their design too, so if you are not up for a challenge then you could lose interest fairly quickly.
There are even boss fights, which are small puzzles in themselves, that require some figuring out in order to progress and in doing so results in a change in shift of the levels. These changes include little enemies that you must eliminate by jumping off the top of them in order to open the end level door. Other changes involve rotating blades, moving platforms and homing ink missiles being fired at you from all different angles. INK plays as well as you would expect as its simplistic approach to the controls are on point and responsive with very little to complain about other than it isn’t the deepest of control schemes, but it doesn’t need to be with a game like this.
There really isn’t much to the visual side of INK as it relies mainly on the coloured splash effects to fill the screen, but much like the controls, its simple but has a charming appeal. Its unique art style compliments the gameplay really well and despite being basic, the visuals still seem to pop on screen. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals aren’t anything special, but they really don’t need to be as the effects it needs to incorporate in to the gameplay work well to capture what the game is aiming for and the style it adopts.
The coloured ink effects look vibrant and it’s a great to see the levels develop the more you play, as the coloured ink flies around a blank screen, eventually becoming filled with brightly coloured platforms. The audio within INK is quite melodic for a game that can have its infuriating moments and having something fairly mellow in the background is a welcome balance. It is a pleasant soundtrack that suits the overall look and feel of the game and is accompanied by the sounds of your jumps and ink hitting the platforms. It makes for a light hearted atmosphere to what can be a fairly tense experience.
INK is made up of lots of little ideas that combine together to make a unique and addictive experience. It’s not going to win any awards but with its fairly familiar concept, it has enough about it to please not only fans of the platform genre but also anyone who likes a challenge. Each of the levels have been crafted with a fair amount of thought to them and it really shows here, especially later on in the game where the levels become a lot more complex and the puzzles within them rely more and more on timing, precision and a lot of patience. It’s safe to say that anyone who is familiar with games like Super Meat Boy and to a point ‘Splosion Man, will immediately feel right at home with INK.
It may seem to be a simplistic game on the surface but deep down its actually pretty smart with plenty of variety and enough of a challenge to keep players busy for a while. It’s not an overly long game and it offers very little to go back too once completed, except for achievements if you’re in to those of course. But if you like a challenge and want something that feels fresh to get your teeth into then I would recommend giving INK a go, I think you might be surprised by how much you end up liking it.