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.
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.