INK – What We Think:
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of 2D platformers that specialize in offering an exceptionally challenging experience – from games like The Impossible Game and I Wanna Be the Guy – these games not only offer up that skills test that many players crave but they’ve also inspired so many other developers to create their own difficult games. INK by ZackBellGames, another of those challenging 2D platformers, is heavily inspired by its predecessors.
In INK you play as some kind of ink-filled sponge. The goal of each level is to reach the white door inside each level in order to progress. It sounds easier than it is, because every time you start a level, the level and platforms are completely dark blue. INK uses an interesting mechanic, similar to the painting mechanic found in The Unfinished Swan wherein levels are completely white and you have to shoot paint in order to reveal the environment and find your way around.
Color Your World
In INK, you use movement and jumping to reveal the environment. Every time you double jump you expel around twenty randomly colored drops of ink that scatter around in a varying ways. These drops of paint color everything in the game including platforms, walls, traps, and hidden coins.
The other way you reveal more of the environment is by an ink trail you leave behind on every platform you touch, similar to how Meat Boy would leave a trail of blood in Super Meat Boy.
Since the environment is undefined, it’s always a good idea to double jump in place every time you start a level to find where to go next. I found the first 15 or so levels to be somewhat relaxing. INK gives off a first impression that it is a minimalist experience, focused more on exploration and mood than challenge. Even the music it uses early on has a soothing synth/piano combination that helps create a mellow atmosphere.
True Colors Shining Through
Soon after you get over those initial levels, however, the game starts to show its true colors. It soon becomes focused on giving you a challenging, somewhat frustrating experience through devious level designs. It’s a lot of trial and error and level memorization as levels will have countless traps, moving platforms, homing missiles, keys that unlock gates, etc.
You’ll have to wall-jump through spiked pillar holes and firing turrets while making sure you don’t miss the moving platform. It all starts to feel familiar, very much like Super Meat Boy. Even the gates you need to unlock look very similar to the ones in SMB.
The controls take a bit of getting used to; the thing you play moves as if it’s always sprinting. Think of the sprint mechanic found in Super Meat Boy and imagine it is on all the time. Fortunately, once you get used to it, the fast movement does help a lot. It gives you all the ability you need to conquer the game’s most difficult levels.
A Brush With Meat
Based on how many times I’ve mentioned it, it’s clear that INK was heavily inspired by Super Meat Boy. Now there is nothing wrong when a game is heavily inspired by another game. However, once the INK mechanic serves its purpose in levels and you have to actually play the level instead of discovering it, it feels like you’ve done it all before. The levels themselves are good enough to feel like they’d fit in a great game like Super Meat Boy, but they don’t necessarily help the game stand out as something unique.
It’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed the first levels of the game so much. It didn’t feel like another game at that point; it felt more unique. Exploring levels with the INK mechanic was genuinely fun. I would have preferred it if the game was more about exploration with some kind of narrative mixed in. Even the INK mechanic could have been more developed and utilized in more creative ways.
INK is inspired by games like Super Meat Boy and the The Unfinished Swan, but I can’t fault its lack of creativity too much since it’s still an enjoyable game. Its simple mechanics mixed in with punishing level design do enough to keep you playing. It’s completely serviceable for people looking to scratch that platforming challenge itch, but don’t expect to find much else if you’ve already played games like Super Meat Boy.
Watch the trailer for INK below: