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At its core Inked is a puzzle game with platforming elements, although the overarching style and narrative leans towards a more emotional experience than is typical in most games of this ilk.
The basic premise is that the player assumes the role of a pen-and-ink samurai warrior who must traverse an ink-drawn world to rescue his lover. This is made challenging because the warrior has given up using weapons. Instead of a sword, he wields a paintbrush that allows different shapes to appear, which he uses to overcome the challenges set before him.

In an interesting decision from the developers, these challenges are the product of the creator of the world and all its characters, who serves as game's primary antagonist. Adam, the creator, repeatedly tests the samurai by plunging him into ever more complicated and dangerous situations. His motivations remain largely concealed for a lot of the game, with small bits of information leaked to the player at irregular intervals.

Though colourful and whimsical in presentation, the story in Inked is not a happy one. Deeper meaning is implied at every stage of the journey. The creator vs content theme is not a new one, but the manner in which Adam takes out his personal issues on his creation creates plenty of intrigue. Searching for the pay-offs to these early hooks is what drives the player to progress.

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Sadly, the game loses momentum as it develops. Those early hooks aren't enough to keep motivation high as much of the commentary about the human condition, told via an artist's creation, has been done before and in better ways. We suspect that most players will become gradually less engaged the more they play this eight or nine-hour experience.


The charming graphical presentation of Inked will draw interest from a fair number of people, and rightly so. The paper-and-ink world is wonderfully realised and distinguishes it from similar puzzle-platform titles. The visuals compliment the mostly relaxing and often slow-paced gameplay nicely with ink colours such as blue, green, red, and black being used to suggest location and epitomise mood. For example, the welcoming pink cherry blossom trees that act as save points. Working your way towards one of these visually striking landmarks always feels like a relief from the sometimes-arduous challenges, as well as a relaxed opportunity to celebrate what has been overcome.

That's not to say that the presentation is flawless. Most of the game relies on a fixed isometric view that, while mostly working well, can conceal important parts of some puzzles. Also, much of the platforming elements require highly precise accuracy, and this can be frustrating due to the awkward camera perspective. There are also fleeting moments where the game switches into a 3D 'real world' that does not seem to have been rendered with the same love and care as the pen-and-ink world, which makes these moments jarring in comparison.

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In terms of gameplay, puzzles require the player to use the magical paintbrush to make geometric shapes appears in the world. The player must place objects such as cubes, ramps, and spheres to bridge gaps between platforms, climb to new heights, activate mechanisms, and reach levers that open doors or add new objects to the environment. The controls are fairly straightforward and most players will pick them up easily. However, there is a lack of precision when placing shapes in the world which can be annoying, especially during time-sensitive puzzles.

Early challenges are not too taxing and introduce the shape-slotting mechanic nicely. What can and can't be done is established early on, and these rules are consistent throughout. As players make progress, the amount of shapes they can create increases, indicated by the ink-blue samurai walking through a spilled ink pot.

There is decent variety in the puzzles on offer. Conventional block puzzles involve managing a limited number of objects in the correct way. Water puzzles involve carefully planned timing and forward thinking. Light puzzles will test players interpretations of patterns. Dodge and block puzzles require quick reflexes and bold decision making.

Unfortunately, not all of the game mechanics are well introduced. We enjoyed discovering some of what we could do through trial-and-error as the lack of handholding made for feelings of victory in discovering what could be done but some later mechanics are so imperceptible that figuring them out is more of a chore than a welcome challenge.


Later in the game, trickier puzzles may take several attempts to overcome. The solutions can often be unexpected and unintuitive. Inked isn't Tetris, the blocks don't always fit together nicely, and some solutions are too cryptic. Because the answers to these problems can require shapes stacked in peculiar ways or exploiting the games mechanics, rather than using them skilfully, Inked did occasionally fall slightly on the wrong side of frustrating. Then again, in Inked your creator has deliberately stacked the odds against you, so it fits thematically.

Aside from the graphics, the audio deserves some praise. The music is atmospheric and appropriately mirrors the themes of the game and the locations players will find themselves in. Not only does the soundtrack add charm to the pen-and-ink world but it also gives plenty of contextual thrust to the games emotionally-charged moments.

Inked doesn't have much voicework but what there is has been executed relatively well. The main voiceover players will hear is that of the creator, Adam. Every now and then he will chime in with threatening or taunting remarks as the samurai presses onwards. Another voice chimes in every now and then - a dark and grisly one that encourages menacing thoughts such as killing. This demon voice reflects some of the main themes so we won't give too much away other than to say it definitely adds to what is a mostly good narrative.

Although much of what it does well is marred by things that could have been done better, namely the inelegant solutions, confusing mechanics, and awkward camera perspectives, Inked is still a visual delight that presents an intriguing narrative and some stimulating conundrums.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
Delightful visuals, Creative soundtrack, Variety of puzzles.
Sometimes awkward camera perspective, Poorly introduced late-game mechanics, Inelegant puzzle solutions.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Jon Newcombe

"It's a visual delight that presents an intriguing narrative and some stimulating conundrums."

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