There are many video game reviews out there, and even a few on this game Ink. Yet those reviews really just explain personal opinions and don’t dive too deep into the game design itself. There is so much game developers can learn from even the smallest of games, and I intend to share this information.
This will not be the traditional game review. It’s more of a game analysis. I will dive deep into what makes this game fun, innovative, and how other game developers can learn from Ink. Unfortunately this won’t be the best read for you if you purely want a x/10 game review. However, for you game devs out there you can learn a thing or two to help make your next game be even better.
Ink is a small platformer, that at first glance seems like just another game. But Ink has some interesting mechanics that reinvents the genre. When you first load into a level, all you see is you white cube and a dark background. Though if you run, jump, or climb, ink will splatter out of your cube, painting the canvas of the world in vibrant colors. Eventually, more and more platforms are revealed, allowing you to progress further and further in the levels. There are also occasional boss battles that add a twist to the normal platform gameplay. It’s not a big game, with 75 levels that take < 5 hours to complete. However, a series of design choices make this game special and shows even the smallest of stars can shine brightly.
What I think Ink does excellently is the progression. Unlike most platformers, you have to reveal the world using your ink splatter. This makes it so you not only have to progress through the world itself, but discover it too. This sense of discovery adds more gameplay, as not all the information is presented to the player. In some games, you might be given information such as where the enemies are or their strengths and weaknesses. Although useful, this makes the gameplay stale, because the challenge is now lessened. By simply making the world only visible by the ink splatter, the devs adds more layers of gameplay and raises the skill ceiling. It’s okay to restrict the information given to players, because as they play they will learn. That sense of accomplishment motivates the player to continue playing.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Reward the player for progressing, while still making the level a challenge to complete.
Variation ties in closely with progression. Woven between the 75 levels of Ink, there are 3 boss levels. Each boss is interesting and different, providing a brief relief to the normal platforming gameplay. Instead of trying to reach the end gate, you must defeat the bosses through expert timing, trickery, and an ounce of luck. Once you have defeated the boss, you are usually presented a new gameplay mechanic. All these things are important to have, especially in a platformer. The platforming genre can get boring if not done right. Running and jumping from platform to platform is fun for the first few levels, but sooner or later it gets old. New gameplay elements need to be introduced to keep the player interested. That’s why in games like Mario, there are new enemies, environments, and obstacles introduced as you play. That’s also why in games like Civilization 5, there is a technology tree that unlocks new units, buildings, and mechanics. In Ink, it is no different. It may just be spikes or a static turret, but it’s something new. This keeps the players interested and creates new gameplay. From a development standpoint, it is good to add more mechanics like this, as it enables you to create more diverse levels without much effort. Changing up the level design can help a little, but ultimately to create a fun game, you need to have many mechanics that can be used in tandem. If you want a further look into variation, research game dungeon design. Especially in games like Skyrim and World of Warcraft that are built around dungeons, they need to be diverse to keep the player interested.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Add a variety of mechanics that can be used together to create different levels. One mechanic can be great, but will get boring if not added to/varied.
So that has been my take on Ink. For a short and seemingly simple game, it is well designed and contains some aspects that make it special. From it us game developers can learn how to progress our games in a fun and interesting way. We also learn to mix up the gameplay to prevent repetitive experiences.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know your comments and criticisms about this article on my social media. Let me know if you want me to in the future address other gameplay elements in other games, or to elaborate on certain topics.
If you are interested in playing Ink, check out the link below: