Thursday, 10 May 2018 09:00

Inked Review

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Inked, developed by Somnium Games, is a charming indie boasting a wonderfully abstract and absorbing art style. It's a puzzler set in ink and paper that follows the story of Nameless Hero as he traverses sketched landscapes in search of his beloved. Inked's vast potential is clear from the start, its brilliant visuals smartly complementing neat, geometric puzzles. Unfortunately, the wonder induced by Inked's novelty quickly fades in the face of other issues of mediocrity in story and gameplay.

Storyline Complications

Inked initially leads you to believe that the story will be told wholly in the ink art style it advertises. While the vast majority of this indie does in fact take place in its inky world, there are sequences of plot that happen outside of the paper, and these sequences, while perhaps viable in theory, are jarring in execution. You play as the Nameless Hero (a samurai-stylized gentleman) who is on a quest to find and bring back his loved one — but that's not the only plotline you're following.

You're also following the story of Nameless Hero's illustrator, a celebrated artist who interrupts your gameplay with temper tantrums and vengeful tactics of his own. These segments are played out with realistic graphics that, in comparison to the novelty of the ink art, are mediocre at best. Inside the ink world itself you will also come across realistically-designed things like ink bottles which, again, look very plain next to the beautiful art they obscure.

Sometimes the Smartest Puzzles Are the Simplest

The puzzles Inked throws at you are very simple and intelligently constructed. You have a series of geometric objects that you can summon at your leisure in order to scale cliffs or activate levers. You unlock these items as you progress, and you get to use more of them the farther you move forward, slowly building more and more complex solutions to the barriers in your way.

Action sequences are also implemented, usually in tandem with a brief cutscene regarding Nameless Hero's illustrator. These are a little more forced than the standard puzzles, but provide a new and sometimes welcome challenge.

Soul-Crushing Movement & Saving

Solving the puzzles may be easy enough, but actually executing those solutions is often savagely difficult. Inked's movement controls are bizarre and disastrously unforgiving, and given the fact that you're often forced to walk on extremely narrow and tiny surfaces with an abyss below you, you'll probably find yourself repeating certain puzzle segments over and over again.

Furthermore, you can't trust that when you complete a puzzle or two that Inked will save that progress for you. Since there isn't a manual save option, you'll be forced to quit out and cross your fingers that you completed a chapter. There was more than one instance where I had succeeded in solving several puzzle segments and even reached a new gameplay variant, but when I started back in all of my progress had been erased. This wouldn't be so painful if it wasn't so difficult to navigate some of the puzzles to begin with because of the awkwardness of the movement controls.

Boundless Potential Marred

Inked is visually stunning. Anyone would, and should, be excited to experience what its ink-on-paper style has in store for them. But — and if only there wasn't a 'but' — it strays from its strength too often for complete forgiveness, and its gameplay is broken enough to be seriously demotivating. Regardless, Somnium Games has a fascinating title on its hands. Future updates may remedy current painful issues, and, hopefully, a future title will fulfill all of the potential that this studio has to offer.


The Verdict: Fair

Gorgeous ink-on-paper visuals lift Inked beyond its humble mechanics and give it a unique flavor you won't find in too many other places. With its puzzles providing the bulk of the gameplay, however, Inked's problematic controls and technical issues cause it to fall short of the soaring heights its art readily promises.

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Taryn Ziegler

Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.


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