Normally, platformers really aren’t my thing: especially when it comes to hardcore platformers. Now do not get me wrong, Super Meat Boy was a very enjoyable game, but it got to a point where it was just unbearably hard. However, when I saw the promotional images for INK, I knew that I had to get my hands on it and this game made me rethink my stance on hardcore platformers.
INK is a fast-paced hardcore platformer developed by ZachBellGames and published by Digerati Distribution, the folks that brought us games like Bleed, Uncanny Valley, and much more. It tells the story of Inky the Ink Blob on his adventures coloring the world and killing bad guys one stage at a time. His mission is to fill the world with color and he won’t stop until the world is his literal canvas. He is the destroyer of evil and the harbinger of the color revolution. The protagonist’s name isn’t actually Inky, by the way, but it probably would be…If he had one!
The gameplay mechanics of this game are very similar to Super Meat Boy, but with its own unique qualities. While you do traverse treacherous stages filled with adversaries, traps, and other things that are just not nice, INK makes it a bit worse by taking away your best friend in a platformer: the terrain. Yes, you read that right, the terrain is completely invisible the first time that you start each level and the only way to reveal it is by splashing color all over it. There are three ways to Picasso the level with your own beautiful painting. Every time you either walk across a platform, double jump or kill an enemy, the paint will fly from your body and reveal more of the terrain. Luckily for you and me, the terrain will stay covered even after you die. This allows the player to learn the level and something that might seem impossible at first slowly becomes easier and easier.
INK is comprised of 75 levels that are broken into three different worlds with a boss fight at the end of each world. The levels start off extremely easy by having you walking in a straight line or jump up a set of stairs. Sound too easy for you? Well don’t worry, if you are the hardcore type that only likes it when you are challenged to the extreme, it gets much harder. It starts off with simple pits or a set of spikes and maybe a few enemies here and there. However, once you start getting used to jumping over the spikes, they start throwing in pesky turrets. Some shoot in a straight line and some track you. It’s annoying enough jumping over turret shots, but once they start following you around corners, that’s when it gets a bit annoying.
While the soundtrack is exciting as it goes from calm and soothing at the beginning to super intense near the end of the game, it’s got nothing compared to the visual aesthetics of INK. At first, I didn’t think anything would stand out about this game. It was a platformer indie title that revolved around geometry, but oh was I wrong. The game is beautiful and the bursts of color were perfectly done and revealed the path with ease. I found myself in awe most of the time through this game and could not get over how colorful this game actually was. Going back to the soundtrack, it reminded me of The Impossible Game due to its peaceful music near the beginning of the game, but the further you went down the rabbit hole, you could tell that something intense was coming your way. This was a nice sound cue and a good way to identify harder levels before you even started.
I was interested in INK from the start. Although I did not know much about the game, I was intrigued by the premise of this colorful platformer and knew that I needed to play it. I am pleased that I was not disappointed by this amazing title. The game surely started out slow and simple and I was wondering if it was going to live up to its hardcore classification. The first world came and went and provide some challenge, but nowhere near where I thought it would be. Then came the second and third world and I knew I was in for a treat while I played through the first few levels. Each world started out simple to acclimate you to the normal stages after the boss, but after that, it goes uphill fast. The difficulty curve in this title was like a roller coaster. It would start out easy, then once you closed in on the boss it would get increasingly difficult and then mellow out for a bit, then spike up once again. While I feel this game takes a bit of skill, it is nowhere near as difficult as games like Super Meat Boy. I would put this game in a genre of as a hardcore-lite platformer. The game gets a bit difficult and sure can be frustrating, but it is nowhere near impossible. I was personally able to beat the game in about four hours and even the hardest levels became muscle memory after playing them for a good length of time.
In the end, INK has far surpassed my expectations and I loved almost every minute of the game. The game is priced at $10 USD, which I feel is fair. The game provides at least four to five hours of gameplay and much more if you go for collectibles or try and perfect the worlds. If you are a fan of any type of platformers, I would definitely pick this title up.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 9/10
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