Stories about love and loss always tend to be bittersweet, but even though you know what to expect and you think you’ve properly braced yourself for impact, Inked still somehow manages to deliver an emotional blow toward the end.
In Inked, you play as the Nameless Hero in a breathtaking world of pen and paper. You explore the stunning hand-drawn visuals around you as a ronin-style protagonist, all with a stirring musical score accompanying your journey in the background.
What’s Inked’s story?At the risk of spoiling the ending, the Nameless Hero is actually in a bit of a clever framing device for the life of the artist named Adam. The narrator tells both his own and the Nameless Hero’s tale through a voiceover that plays in key moments throughout the game, so while Adam is narrating the ronin’s story, he’s also, in essence, talking to him like he’s a god-like entity overseeing the events in the game.
In that sense, it’s a little bit similar to The First Tree, in my opinion, only less emotionally charged (but I’ll get to that later).The First Tree review - "Death is not the opposite of life"
Now, the Nameless Hero starts off living his papery life with his beloved named Aiko, but things take a turn for the worse and he’s forced to embark on a perilous journey to save her. The road to redemption is paved with difficult moral choices, however, and soon, he’ll have to make questionable choices and see how far he’s willing to go to rescue the love of his life.
What’s the Inked gameplay like?Inked is essentially a puzzle platformer, but presented in an isometric hand-drawn design. The beautiful aesthetics make for a unique gameplay experience, as you try to find logical solutions to geometric puzzles to get through each level.
There are nine chapters in total, with each level differing in its theme. For instance, one chapter or level will have you moving blocks around using regular weights and other physics-driven elements, while another will task you with melting ice blocks to get from one place to another. A chapter will revolve around manipulating water levels and deciding which items to sink or keep afloat, while another will be all about rearranging blocks using directional winds from turbines you can shift around.
What’s the appeal?As a not-so-eager fan of puzzles, I appreciated the so-so level of difficulty and the variety in each chapter. Some puzzles are definite head-scratchers, while some are logically sound. I didn’t really feel like I got stuck with no way out at any point, and finding solutions to problems are actually pretty satisfying. Inked: A Tale of Love is a ‘pen-on-paper’ puzzler out now for mobile
The issue lies in the isometric view of the game, as sometimes, it can be a challenge to try and line up blocks at odd angles. To give you a better idea of the problem, using a wind turbine to effectively get a block to move in the direction you want it to means making sure both blocks are lined up properly - unfortunately, the isometric view can be a pain since there are times when you’re never really a hundred percent sure that both blocks are actually in line with each other. The whole thing gets magnified when you’re faced with timed puzzles - you’ll sometimes have to set things in motion and manipulate blocks quickly before a certain action ends. The added time element can be doubly frustrating when you can’t seem to line up two things to get the whole thing right.
Thankfully, Inked, it seems, is way more suited for mobile than for consoles or PC, because simply tapping away at the moveable elements is loads more convenient than having to manipulate blocks using a controller (which I did try, and it was pure hell). Moving items around is just easier and faster when done with a touchscreen since you can intuitively just tap where you want your blocks to go.
Overall, Inked did manage to entertain me, mainly because I’ve always had a soft spot for narrative-driven games. It’s a tragic story of love, loss, and redemption, although to be honest, the beautiful score and the stunning artwork are what magnify the feels a thousandfold. I mentioned The First Tree earlier only because both games use the narrator as a framing device, but Inked actually packs less of an emotional punch. Still, the hand-drawn aspect is a good way to make it stand out from other mobile games out right now, so at £2.99, it’s still a good deal.