Ink-splosion Review – Quick, Throwaway Fun
There are few games now that let you just jump in and play. Gone are the days of the arcades, with their non-existent stories and quarter-munching difficulty, that many spent their childhood on. Games today need grand stories or an always online function to keep players invested in their products, or at least that’s what the big publishers tell us anyways. Ratalaika Games eschews that idea with its latest release, Ink-splosion. The game is short and somewhat entertaining but ultimately it will be over before too long.
Ink-splosion is a twin-stick arena shooter with randomized elements. The game comes packaged with three modes; Classic, Arena, and Hard mode. Classic is an arena that is randomized each level with certain obstacles and enemies. These obstacles take the form of white lines around the arena that damage the player should they come in contact with them. These lines can move or remain stationary, as well as flash in and out of existence allowing the player to slip by to get better ground. Arena is a Horde-mode with infinitely spawning enemies that you take down. Lastly, Hard is just a beefed up Classic with enemies that do more damage to you. Out of all the modes Hard feels the most superfluous, don’t bother with it. The other two modes however can be a lot of fun, you just need to settle into a rhythm first. The game can be very challenging when you start because you are dropped in the game with no instruction or context, rather the game says “See that skull, that’s you, now play”. This is where the game suffers somewhat, while the controls for twin-stick games are simple enough to understand there is an important mechanic the game does not explain. This being that the player can manually slow down time to avoid enemy fire at the cost of some of their health. As you progress this ability can be more and more helpful as dodging enemy fire is how you keep your score multiplier high.
Ink-splosion plays and feels like an arcade game ported to consoles. The game has a score system that multiplies as you get kills without being hit and has a high challenge level. The enemies in this game hit hard, two to three hits is enough to kill you. Every weapon is projectile based so you can dodge enemy fire if you are quick. Every time you enter a new level or a new wave is spawned you are given a random weapon from an arsenal of five weapons, all varying in usefulness, more on that in a bit. The enemy makeup is also randomly selected from scatter fire enemies to ones that have projectiles that swirl around to ones that fire sequentially in a circle. The variety is great but some of the RNG makes the grouping annoying sometimes. One particular enemy that is a constant annoyance is the seeker missile turret. The projectiles are very fast and even if you dodge them they circle around to come back at you. This enemy should not be in this game. They only lead to frustration and cheap deaths, as avoiding them will often lead you into another bullet. But as you play you’ll begin to notice that the RNG isn’t so random. It’s time to talk about the weapons and how they relate to the enemies. You have a ‘normal’ gun, ‘distance’ gun, laser gun, shotgun, and a rocket gun. They each have their own fire rates and projectile visual that help you identify what you are shooting. Most of the guns feel weak though, the ‘normal’ gun feels really under-powered, the laser requires precise aim that is not in the game, the ‘distance’ gun only has merit in Classic mode where your range may be determined by obstacles, the shotgun feels great, it’s easily the best gun, and finally the rockets are just downright bed. How do you fuck up a rocket launcher? They are a video game staple. How this leads back into the enemy types is that the game spawns certain enemies more frequently with certain guns, for example, if you get the rocket gun the game will increase the odds of the random number generator putting seeker turrets in the map. When I kept track I found this occurs 9 out of 10 times. I dreaded the game every time I heard the chipper announcer declare “Rocket Gun!” I prayed to whatever RNG deity may or may not exist. But in the end my prayers were met with expletives as insults escaped my mouth. At times this game can be a nightmare but others you’ll be holding your breath as you get one step closer to beating your high score. It’s moments like this where the game comes together to be something amazing. When you are having a good run the time slow ability really makes the trade-off worth it. While the ability drains your health as you use it you also gain health for kills. The amount of health you receive differs depending on the enemy type but if you are careful and use your ability at the right time you’ll be topped off on health often.
The visuals seem basic but as you get further into zones, especially in Arena, the floor becomes coated in paint or ‘ink’. Your color is static, which kinda sucks, with the player firing yellow ink and every other enemy has different ink colors, as well as different ways they spread their color. There are also randomized death splatters which are different from the projectile ink of enemies. The music is enjoyable with upbeat electronica tracks that give the game a sense of rhythm. It helps you get into the zoned-in mindset as you fly through levels, avoiding shots and upping your multiplier. The only issue with the presentation is the occasional slow down when playing Arena. This only occurs after you’ve died a good deal, it seems like the game is trying to store more information than it can handle causing the game to stutter which can kill you. The only way to fix this is to quit the game and start it again. But for a game that’s meant to be played multiple times a session this really hurts it.
I platinumed Ink-splosion after an hour or two of playing and I don’t plan on coming back. While there is fun to be had, the games shortcomings keep it from being in my regular rotation. It’s a fun little distraction that you can kill some time on between tasks during your day. In terms of recommendation, it’s hard to say one way or another if you should buy it. On one hand it is a quick, fun, arcade game that you can jump in and play. On the other, there are mechanical and technical issues. Either way this is a big step up from the last Ratalaika Games product I covered. While Ink-splosion won’t blow your mind it should bring a little color into your free time.