If I had to describe Ink using an artistic movement, I'd say minimalism. Boot up the game, get a couple of company logos and a start screen, then get thrown right to the level select. Select the first level, and you're presented with a completely blank screen. The only thing you'll see is your player character, which is nothing more than a small white square. Once the game gets going the art gets more flashy, becoming less minimalistic and more like a neon-tinted Jackson Pollock. If your idea of art is a constant spew of rainbows, then Ink's protagonist is the greatest artist that ever lived.
Here's what I liked:
Making a mess – Every level begins as a blank slate, just a dark purplish void with the only blemishes being your character, the exit and possibly some enemies. There are floors and walls hidden somewhere in the darkness, and it's up to you to find the path by rubbing paint all over every surface you touch. You can also throw a splash of paint by double jumping, allowing you highlight farther parts of the environment. Dying also throws ink, which helpfully covers hazards so you can avoid them next time around. The painting mechanic itself is just fun to mess around with, splattering your ever-changing rainbow of ink as you decorate the world around you. Uncovering the world (and hard-to-reach collectibles) hidden in plain sight is cool, and makes what would normally be a dull single-screen level feel like a small puzzle with a rewarding conclusion when you reach the exit.
Jump around – There's more to the game than just painting. At its core, it is a simple platformer with double jumps and wall jumps. Over the course of its 75 levels, you'll be jumping over bottomless pits and navigating around beds of spikes to reach the exit. Some levels also throw enemies at you, which must be taken out in order to unlock the exit. These baddies only amount to sluggish rectangles that pace back and forth, which can only be defeated by jumping on them. Level designs are small and simple, but they use their limited space to the fullest extent and can pack a real punch.
Here's what I didn't like:
Watching paint dry – Ink can be a pretty difficult game, especially in the final third where almost every level has you being shot at by very accurate homing missiles. You end up dying a lot – which isn't inherently bad, but it really feels like it defeats the purpose of the game's main selling point. You can quickly cover a level with ink, to the point where you're basically staring at a regular level from any other game. The game's main distinction becomes a moot point after your first few tries of a level, so it might as well be a run-of-the-mill platformer.
Slippery when wet – So, if we have to rate the harder levels purely on their platforming contents, things don't stack up too well. It only uses the most basic of platforming concepts; while that was obviously done to accommodate the inking mechanic, it still feels like they could have done more in some areas, especially enemy types. The controls are adequate, but adequate doesn't cut it when you're wall-jumping past a constant stream of bullets. Everything feels just a tad too slippery, making it too easy to over-adjust your trajectory. They're far from the worst controls I've seen in a game like this, but if they were a little tight the difficulty spike in the last third would not be so dramatic.
Even though I got pretty stuck on some levels, it felt like Ink's 75 levels just sped on by. It's a quick and inoffensive experience with a fun mechanic that loses the spotlight the longer the game goes on. It's fine but nothing special, unless you always wanted a game that lets you convert the world into bad 90s sitcom title cards.
Score: Reader's Choice