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INK Review


I’ll start this one off by saying that, in many ways, I’m a fan of minimalism and the simplicity that it brings to games. INK, by ZackBellGames, is perhaps one of the most minimal games I’ve played. A straightforward platformer that puts players in control of a plain white square, there’s very little in the way of frills, gimmicks, or complex systems. The entire game operates around a principle that’s reminiscent of early play in The Unfinished Swan. Players must navigate a formless area, filling in as they go to reveal platforms and pitfalls as they make their way to each level’s exit.

INK starts off with a few simple tutorial levels to allow players to become accustomed to movement, jumping, and wall-jumping mechanics. These are the only tools that you’ll have at your disposal, and precision will be necessary if you hope to proceed beyond these introductory stages. The twist, for lack of a better term, is the game’s titular ink itself. Every time you touch a surface, bright colors spread out across any and all platforms in your path. Double-jumping, another key to survival and success, throws a splash of this vivid material in all directions, and is probably the best way for finding a path to navigate through each of the game’s many levels.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of INK is that death can be a useful tool, as well. When you die, a burst of color spreads out from the point of death, painting everything nearby. You’ll be returned to starting position, and all enemies within the level are reset, but anything you’ve managed to make your mark on stays marked. This means that even tough levels that players fail repeatedly become easier to navigate through with each attempt. By throwing out any real penalty for failure, INK creates a unique approach that keeps play moving despite the increasing challenge of each new level.

Flinging ink through the air is the most basic and important strategy when trying to find your way through the game's levels.

Flinging ink through the air is the most basic and important strategy when trying to find your way through the game’s levels.

Speaking of enemies, INK keeps these simple as well. Most of the foes that stand in players’ paths are colorful squares that also paint the ground they’re on as they move back and forth in simple patterns. In levels populated by these, each one must be defeated by jumping on top of them in classic gaming form. There are also boss battles, pitting players against more dangerous and difficult opponents to proceed. Players will also have to navigate moving platforms, avoid deadly spiked walls and floors, and dodge projectiles thrown by triangular turrets in latter stages.

All told, INK‘s 75 levels and curious, if basic, design more than add up to the $4.99 asking price on Steam (10% off as of this review). While it’s not exactly reinventing the genre or creating anything brand-new, INK is a decent and inexpensive addition to the library of platfoming fans. There’s plenty of challenge, but it’s presented in a way that keeps punishment for death light and free from the ‘cheap’ feeling that many games can have. Losing in INK doesn’t feel like a game cheating you out of a win, but a slight error on your own part that can be corrected with careful retry. It may not break new ground, but it does at least accomplish some fun and a unique, curious aesthetic.

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