The humble ballpoint pen forms the beautifully understated Japanese folklore setting of Inked: A Tale of Love. You play the part of an unnamed Ronin, traversing a charming isometric world. There’s a story driven by themes of conservation and romance. .But also with a touch of fourth-wall-shattering interplay with the artist himself who has drawn the whole thing to life.
Inked, which has been around on other platforms since 2018, is well suited to the Switch. On the handheld screen it looks sensational. It provides an engaging, yet relaxing few hours of gentle puzzling. It does not challenge your brain too much, but like that other clever art-based classic Okami, it lets you interact with the gameworld in unique ways.
Inked: indie puzzling
Most of the puzzles are based around helping your hero and his beloved wife traverse the landscape. This could be moving a block to provide a bridge across a chasm, the old classic weighting down of a switch gimmick, or moving a ramp to create a course for a ball to roll down towards a predetermined goal. Everything is narrated by the artist. And while the voice acting isn’t a tour-de-force on a par with the likes of Bastion, it tells the story very effectively. The soundtrack and environmental sounds are quite wonderful. A gentle, Japanese influence prevails. Birds caw, fires crackle, stone slabs sound weighty and ancient.
I spent most of my time within Inked marveling at how the world looks. The subtle linework evokes memories of doodling in your exercise books at school. Most of the game is monochrome, but when colour is used it is vibrant and captivating. Azure blue pools teem with leaping fish. Splashes of crimson signifying interactable parts of scenery. As you venture further out into the wilds, the colour palette alters. Dusty ochre deserts, verdant green jungle, but always drawn in the same spidery biro brilliance.
Simple and intuitive
Controlling your sumptuously animated avatar and his magical paintbrush is simple and intuitive. It actually becomes second nature very quickly. You are sometimes guided through the process by the hands of the artist himself. It feels a bit like when Tony Hart would interact with Morph back in the day. As well has helping your adorable hand-drawn couple towards their environmental goals, there are also hidden pieces of artwork in the scenery that can be collected using a magnifying glass.
Don’t expect game-changing puzzle mechanics or oodles of additional content. This one is short, undemanding ,and nicely constructed. Inked is still a couple of hours well worth exploring, however. With a thought provoking plot that satisfies, and a sense of gentle escapism missing from a many games.
Easy to pick up