If I had to choose a single game genre to play for the rest of my life, it’d be a close call between platfomers and RPGs. It would really come down to the type of platformer and RPG, I think. I’m a big fan of platformers. So much so, that the first game I ever made is a platformer (download it for free here). Throw in a coop element and I’m so there (as seen in my review of “Super One More Jump” here). So when Digerati announced they were releasing “INK” on the Switch, I was on board: it promised hardcore platformer with a 2-player aspect to it, and boy was I ready to tackle it. Did it live up to my expectations?
Well, it’s a tough question to answer.
There’s a lot to love about INK: the presentation is great. The idea of your character “inking” the stage as it moves and jumps is, while a clear homage to Nintendo’s Splatoon, still a new enough mechanic (I don’t want to use the word gimmick here) that it still feels fresh. Also, it serves a purpose in the overall mechanics for the game: the stage itself is invisible upon start; it is only as you travel and jump and die (a lot) that you can start to see the walls. I like how they implemented the need to die in order to succeed, and how the aesthetics of inking were made a core mechanic. Very cool.
The level design is also devilishly good (and yes, tricky). There are some stages, especially later on in the game, that will require you to die multiple times in order to reveal enough of it for you to traverse it safely. Sadly, this is where we arrive at INK’s first (and for me, also the biggest) issue: the controls.
The platforming mechanics here mimic that of Super Meat Boy, for example: you can double jump, cling to the walls, etc. However, the controls aren’t tight enough to do precise platforming from the get-go. You eventually grow used to the imperfection in the physics engine and adjust your movement to compensate, but I feel like it shouldn’t have to be that way. It’s a hardcore platformer, and tight controls should be a top priority. Instead, controls feel spongy and unresponsive, and very imprecise, particularly after jumping. I really wish the controls were tighter as it would make the whole game 10 times better.
Going back to things I like, though, we find the fact that it’s 2-player compatible. Single joy-con compatibility is a huge plus for me in any Switch game, and we usually have tons of fun playing couch coop or couch versus games with my family. INK, however, implements this in a somewhat lackluster way: there’s nothing to distinguish you from the other player, so you can’t (or don’t need to) use strategy to beat the levels. There are no coop exclusive levels, and aside from the fact that the other player is also inking the stage and therefore revealing more of it, there’s no incentive to playing with someone. If anything, it’s harder to advance, and somewhat frustrating, because the spongy controls mean relative newcomers to the genre will die repeatedly, and unfairly, holding you back.
The music is nothing to write home about either, and that’s a shame, because I feel like some pumping chiptunes could have really helped the game along. As it is, we get forgettable background music with very minimal sound effects.
I know it sounds like I’m having a massive downer on “INK”, but I actually liked it. However, I wanted to love it, and I could have done. If only the controls were tighter and didn’t make me die unfairly and constantly, I think I would have loved the game instantly, and would have forgiven it its other, and minor, shortcomings. As it stands, it’s a game with a ton of potential that could have done with a couple more weeks in development polishing the physics and controls to make it tighter and more fun to play, while still remaining challenging.
It’s an affordable, fun game, but be warned: you’ll die. A lot.