Inked – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
Developer: Somnium Games
Publisher: Starbreeze Studios
Platform: Android, iOS
Tested on: Android

Inked – Review

Site Score
7.4
Good: Striking visual style
Bad: Clunky controls
User Score
8.0
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.0/10 (3 votes cast)

It has been almost three years since Inked debuted on PC, and the isometric puzzle platformer has now arrived on mobile devices. While the PC version of the game was lauded for its aesthetics, the game received mixed responses when it came to gameplay. We gave the Android version of the game a spin to find out whether it’s a piece of art or just a scribble on a scrap of paper. Does the mobile version of Inked improve on its predecessor, or are you better off picking this title up on Steam?

Story

Set in a world that is literally made of ink on paper (hence the title), Inked tells the story of a ronin warrior known as the Nameless Hero. When the game starts, the Hero and his beloved, Aiko, are living a peaceful life, but naturally this doesn’t last for long. Things take a turn for the worse, and Aiko becomes the victim of a classic damsel in distress situation. It’s now up to the Hero to go on a perilous journey to save his beloved. Along the way, however, the Hero will have to make moral choices that will not only determine Aiko’s fate, but also teaches the Hero lessons about who he really is.

It’s a classic -albeit cliché- setup at first glance, but there is more to the game than meets the eye. The Hero’s journey is a thinly veiled metaphor for the life of the artist and narrator that is putting Inked to paper. The artist, named Adam, acts as an omnipotent force within the world of Inked, which makes sense as he is the one drawing everything after all, but the choices that the Hero faces are the same choices that Adam faces outside of the paper world. As such, the player is making these choices, creating a three-way synergy between themselves, the Hero and Adam. The choices are often questionable, and in this way, Inked is indirectly holding a mirror in front of the player. We won’t spoil the ending, but rest assured that if you’ve become invested in the layered world of Inked, then the way the journey ends will leave an emotional mark.

Graphics

The gorgeous visuals, which resemble ballpoint drawings on paper, are arguably Inked’s main claim to fame. The subtle use of color, combined with the hand-drawn aesthetics make Inked a visual joy. Even the colored bits show hints of what materials were used to create them, with water looking like it was added using felt-tipped markers, for example. The illusion is occasionally broken by the animations of the on-screen 3D models of both the Hero and the other creatures that inhabit his paper world. It’s logical from a technical perspective, as it would be nigh impossible to animate everything as a drawing, and instead the 3D models are textured to look like drawings. This is only a minor nitpick, however, and for the most part everything does look like a drawing that’s come to life. The game is also filled with tiny details that make the world feel even more unique, from the pen-headed birds, all the way to the wind swirls that move across the screen. It’s a shame that these aesthetics are occasionally broken up by 3D models of Adam’s hands, as these feel out of place from a visual point of view, although they do make sense from a narrative perspective.

Sound

A haunting and somewhat understated soundtrack accompanies the Hero on his journey through Inked’s world. Most people tend to turn off the sound while playing games on their mobile device, but we highly recommend you refrain from doing so while playing Inked. Not only is the fantastic soundtrack well worth your attention, but the game also features Adam’s narration at key points. The narration adds a layer of emotional depth to the events that unfold on screen, and really helps in connecting the player to the narrator. This is especially apparent whenever the story turns meta, with Adam directly addressing the Hero, as our protagonist fails to respond in the way the artist wants him to.

Gameplay

Behind Inked’s gorgeous visuals and audio lies a puzzle platformer presented from an isometric perspective. Inked offers up nine distinct chapters, which are defined by their puzzle mechanics. Things start out simple enough, with the first chapter seeing you use blocks to trigger switches, but as you progress through the game, you’ll be faced with figuring out how to manipulate water, melting ice blocks and wind streams in order to make your way through. Die-hard puzzle aficionados won’t find Inked’s offerings particularly challenging, but if you’re looking for a more casual experience, there is plenty to love here. There are still quite a few headscratchers among the puzzles, but none of them feel unfair or illogical as puzzles. Even so, the game can be frustrating at times, not because of the puzzles themselves, but because it can be quite difficult to perform the required actions due to the game’s touch controls, especially when you’re working on puzzles that require precise timing.

Controlling the Hero himself is easy enough but when it comes to manipulating puzzle blocks, things can be a bit tricky, especially when having to line stuff up at the right angle. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary here depending on your device, and screen size is a very important factor here, but the main issue here lies in the isometric perspective as it becomes difficult to tell whether or not blocks have been lined up correctly. We’re not sure whether or not the game plays more accurately on PC, but it is something to keep in mind when you’re deciding between the mobile and desktop versions. That said, the game is a relatively short affair, with each chapter taking roughly half an hour up to 45 minutes to complete. It’s best enjoyed in short bursts rather than rushing through its entirety in an afternoon, so the mobile port makes sense in this way as it’s unlikely that you’ll boot up the PC version for a 10-minute session before returning to your daily happenings.

Conclusion

With Inked, Somnium Games are offering up a lovely, pocket-sized adventure that is well worth the price of entry. The gorgeous visuals, engaging story and fantastic soundtrack come together to offer up a mobile game that is greater than the sum of its parts. While the isometric perspective does harm the overall gameplay experience somewhat, the impact of this is likely directly related to the device that you run the title on. (For reference, we used a Motorola Moto G8 Power to test the game.) Should you choose to accompany the Hero in his journey to save Aiko, you’re going to be in for a good time regardless.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Inked - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


1 Comment

  1. […] The final release is not yet known but will be announced soon. Below, you can take a look at the official launch trailer for Inked: A Tale of Love to get an idea what this game is all about, or check out our review of the mobile version of the game that released earlier this year here. […]

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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