Wednesday, November 15, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

INK Box art Sometimes simplicity is key, as you don’t always need fancy graphics when pure gameplay is addictive and entertaining enough. INK is the newest indie platforming game to release, hoping to make a splash for fans of the genre with its minimalistic approach to game design. Don’t expect any type of story or deep game mechanics though, even though INK is as bare bones as it comes for simplicity, it’s still an entertaining platformer while the fun lasts.

INK begins as a ‘at your own pace’ type of platformer, but eventually you’ll be racing against an imaginary clock with enemies out to get you and moving obstacles that require near perfect navigation to complete. INK would be best described as a mash up of Splatoon and Super Meat Boy, though both in their most simplistic forms. The main object is to complete each of the 75 levels found in the game, and these levels become progressively more difficult. The catch is that you need to splat ink around to uncover the initial blank canvas of a level. It’s a clever mechanic, but one that I wish had a little more depth to it in the grand scheme of things.

INK begins with you as a simple white cube, seemingly floating on a blank screen. As you move and jump, ink splatters around you, landing on the previously invisible 2D landscape. Having multicolored ink touch the surface of the levels is how you’ll know where the platforms are and how to reach the exit of each stage. It sounds simple, and it is, in the beginning at least. You’ll spend time double jumping around and sliding down walls to paint the surfaces so that you know where to traverse to reach the exit. Given that levels are only maybe 30 to 60 seconds long, half your time in a level will be uncovering most of it with your ink, then finally reaching the end.

The premise stays the same throughout the entirety of the game, though obviously more challenges appear as you progress, like spikes and enemies. Luckily when you die, all of the ink that’s been splattered around the level stays, making each attempt easier now that you’re aware of your surroundings. This is a good thilng as you’re going to die a lot, from spikes, enemies, pits and more. It takes some time to get used to the gameplay, but even jumping out of bounds of the level on the sides, or even top, will kill you as well. Each death makes you explode with ink, thus covering the stage even more.

Once you stop worrying about death and trying to complete the level in one go, it becomes much easier. For example, on new levels I purposely jump and slide all around, even die on purpose, until the majority of the stage is covered in ink, allowing me to make a real attempt at completing it. This mechanic made me not worry about death, but instead use it to my advantage, uncovering the world with my mutlicolors.

The difficulty curve is fairly decent, but there are some random spikes (pun not intended) in the last half or so that require precision timing to avoid enemies and spikes. Levels begin incredibly easy, as you’ll blow through each one in about 30 seconds, if that, but eventually they become much more complicated, and you’ll spend a few deaths just painting the level. There’s only a handful of enemies, the most annoying being the triangles that shoot in a specific direction, requiring you time your jumps perfectly to avoid dying and restarting.

Many levels are crafted in a very smart way, especially when you’re dealing with moving platforms, shooting enemies and the need for exact timing. Progress enough and you’ll face one of the three bosses. I don’t want to give much away, as there are so few of them. I do wish there were more, as it was a great short term distraction from the standard gameplay. The bosses aren’t very difficult to beat, as you simply need to memorize their patterns and jump on them a number of times.

INK is simplistic in nature, but almost too simple to a fault. There’s an option timer you can toggle on to see how long your attempts are taking, but there’s no reason to, as there’s no leaderboard or bonuses for completing stages faster. There are hidden pickups that need to be inked to be seen before being collected, but this is only for those that are really trying to stretch the value of their purchase. Some sort of leaderboards would have been fun, being able to see ghosts of other players speed runs, but once you’re done all of the levels, there’s very little reason to replay, given that there’s no relation to how fast you complete levels.

The art style is very minimalistic, but the ever changing colors as you slide, jump, and splat on the platforms is quite beautiful, even if it’s basic at its core. It’s refreshing to play a game that simply relies on its gameplay, even if it’s basic in premise, rather than fancy graphics or any other distractions.

What stops INK from being truly great is that the controls are very slippery, so many of the precise movements will cause many deaths from trying to overcompensate your jumps and landings. If simplicity is your thing, and you enjoy platformers, you’ll have a great time with INK, even if it’s beatable in a short amount of time. Now get INK'ing everything you see and move onto the next level.

Overall: 7.1 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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