There is something borderline upsetting about a game that can be played, fully understood, and essentially finished in less than a half hour. When you look to games of years gone by, they tended to take hours to accomplish, mostly due to difficulty, glitches and poorly designed controls. But still, time was take and it was the only game in town. Now we have titles like Battle Chasers which take upwards of 40 or 50 hours just on the main quests and ridiculous entries like Legend of Heroes which sometimes go triple digits in standard plot. That’s not for me, and I’m not saying every game should be. But holy crap, Inksplosion, I was hoping for just a little more.
Right out the gate, Inksplosion is a bizarre title because, upon seeing the name Ratalaika, I imagined this was a mobile title of some kind. I mean, it looks like one, so why shouldn’t that be the case? But no, this incredibly simple twin stick shooter was first released, of all places, on current Gen consoles (XBox One, PS4 and Vita) and has only now come to the Switch that’s to the combined efforts of Ratalaika and the core developer, Petite Games. So there’s this interesting unbalance of it being exclusive for big name machines but looking and feeling like it could/should be on a phone, or a 3DS at best. Strange, but alright.
The premise couldn’t be simpler: shoot the other guys. You start with a randomly selected gun, a chosen arena with a moving white line of death, and then four other bots spawn and shoot at you in different colors. Get shot, take some damage, eventually die. Shoot them, restore some health, live to fight another day. Touch the line, die, the end. As you shoot, different colored lines of “ink” appear as tails to the shots, but there’s not a reason or rhyme for it other than aesthetics. Not a problem, but it can get a bit confusing once a lot of shots fill the stage and you get awash in destruction.
Here’s where things go off the rails. Inksplosion does plenty right: the art style is simple but engaging and I certainly enjoyed the mixture of black and white levels and characters with vibrantly colorful shots and trails. The music is good, I can’t fault it, and it does a lot to help capture the effect of “Let’s get some destruction going!” without being heavy metal or too obvious. There’s plenty of potential here, but the lack of execution is what kills it. Everything I just described to you? That’s the game. That’s the whole damn game, and there’s not even a chance for multiplayer so that you can have a poor man’s Splatoon. It’s just you, a square, shooting at other shapes, making inky messes and then being promoted to the next room where the weapon and layout are randomized.
The randomization thing should be good: this way, you can kind of adapt your strategy on the fly and it keeps things interesting. But there are weapons that purposely have a shorter range than others, and these guns are suicide machines depending on where that line of death might be. If the line is the perimeter of the stage, whatever, but when it’s a cross that’s slowly closing in on you and the last remaining enemy is hiding in the adjacent corner, what the hell are you supposed to do besides die? It’s frustrating, especially because the need for scoring is incredibly important if this game has any longterm viability whatsoever.
Inksplosion is a single player joint, true, but they boast having two additional modes, Arena and Hard Mode. Firstly, you just get more of the same in these modes, just either different stages or slightly better AI. But they aren’t available from the get go. Instead, you need to grind a whopping 100,000 points per mode (100k on Classic to get Arena, 100k on Arena to get Hard) for unlocking. To give you an idea of things, if you manage to chain death all four of the other dudes with a single shot (possible with the laser), you’ll get about 1400 points, plus a little extra if you don’t take a hit. That’s absolute best case scenario. I did get some higher points on other levels, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how because you can’t see your score until you die. My best was finishing about 8 levels and getting to the tune of 28000. Doing some quick math, you gotta finish at least 28 levels in a really good state in order to unlock the next mode, and that’s a possible feat, and I’m not even going to say a hard feat, but it’s not a fun feat.
Inksplosion becomes a lot of “lather, rinse, repeat” very, very quickly. You figure out which gun you have, aim, and fire as fast as you can while mildly strafing. Don’t touch the white line. Try not to get hit too much. Continue until you stop playing. Without a multiplayer incentive or even any kind of prime directive, the game feels joyless. It’s a good concept, and it looks pretty, but there’s nothing there. It’s like getting a knockoff American Girl doll for Christmas: the eyes are still dead, the dress is pretty but you still feel like someone cheaped out somewhere. It’s not terrible for the price, but it really just isn’t anything special.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 4/10
Graphics - 4/10
Sound - 4/10
Replay Value - 4/10
User Review( votes)
Inksplosion doesn’t offend anyone or work poorly, but there’s so little here to get excited about that I’m left wondering why instead of why not.