Following its episodic release on PC over the last few years, Bendy and the Ink Machine has finally made its way over to consoles with the entirety of the game available in one complete bundle. The best way to describe it would be as a sinister cross of Bioshock and 1930s Disney, which might sound like a weird combination but it’s one that actually works – even if the gameplay does hit a few stumbling blocks throughout each episode.
The game puts you in the shoes of Henry Stein, an animator who left his job working at the Joey Drew Studios but has found himself invited back to the studio by none other than head honcho Joey Drew himself. With the promise of something interesting to be seen, Henry’s trip ends up taking a sour turn when he activates the ‘ink machine’ and finds that the studio’s creations have come to life with a new-found malicious intent.
It’s a very quirky and unusual setup for a game, but there’s no doubting that the tale is a unique and entertaining one. I don’t want to detail it too much here though – Bendy and the Ink Machine is full of dark surprises to discover and to get the best out of the game you’ll want to uncover them yourself. Just know that there’s a genuinely intriguing story that’s told through the characters you meet and the sound recordings you find during your adventure in the studio, and seeing it unravel will certainly keep you hooked in until the very end.
Bendy and the Ink Machine’s gameplay mainly revolves around exploring the studio and solving the simple puzzles that are required to progress. A lot of these consist of finding items or activating switches, so it’s a little bit simple on that front – there is the occasional enigma that’ll cause you to scratch your head a little, but they’re few and far between.
The exploration itself is satisfying though, especially with all of the neat sights you’ll find throughout the studio. Despite it seeming a pleasant place on face value alone, there’s this sinister undertone to the place that starts to feel more severe the further you progress through the game. You’ll definitely be caught off guard by some of the things you’ll see, but they just help build this uncertain atmosphere where you’ll constantly feel yourself tipping closer to the edge of your seat.
Whilst I enjoyed exploring the studio though, it can be a little difficult to keep track of where you are. Bendy and the Ink Machine has a great visual style (more on that later), but it doesn’t change up all that much throughout the game with the same few colours on show throughout. It can make it easy to get a little lost at times, which is especially frustrating during the game’s opening where you don’t actually have the ability to run and are forced to get around at a fairly slow pace.
It might not seem it at first, but Bendy and the Ink Machine actually feels more like a horror title than anything else. I mean, what’s not to be scared by with cartoon characters coming to life and turning evil, right? As mentioned, there’s a sinister undertone to the game and you’ll see more and more eerie sights as you progress – as soon as the ink monsters show their faces though it’s made perfectly clear that this isn’t your typical trip through an animation studio.
That being said, I never found myself feeling particularly scared when playing through the game, though I don’t know if that’s due to the cartoon-like aesthetic style or just the gameplay itself. It’s easy enough to avoid the monsters (they aren’t the brightest bunch) whilst you’re also armed with a weapon to take them on. That second option might not be the best though – not because the ink monsters are tough, but rather because the game’s combat mechanics are a bit naff.
So the combat mechanics are simple in design, with just one attacking option in place. You can’t defend yourself from attacks nor are there any other abilities available – you just swing out at the ink monsters and hope for the best. The problem is, landing attacks can be quite hit and miss (literally), with a lot of enemies seemingly avoiding taking damage even when your hits land right on them. It makes for a frustrating experience and one where you’ll feel a little hard done by at times, especially when you find yourself backed into a corner and your attacks just don’t function properly. It’s the most disappointing aspect of the game by far though, and the one that the developer might want to take a look at in future patches.
Whilst the gameplay has its share of issues, one thing that Bendy and the Ink Machine absolutely nails is its visual style. It looks just like a cartoon that’s come out of the 1930s, with a hard-ink outline joined by a sepia colour scheme that simply looks wonderful in-game. It’s so unique in design and unlike anything I’ve seen in a video game before, and I was wowed from start to end with the game world just being all the more intriguing to explore thanks to it. Sure, it might be a little lacking in variety and the colour palette isn’t particularly vibrant, but it’s hard not to be impressed.
I had a lot of fun exploring the beautifully designed world of Bendy and the Ink Machine and uncovering the eerie secrets behind the fall of the Joey Drew Animation Studios certainly kept me hooked in until the end – it’s just a shame that the puzzles weren’t a bit more creative and that the combat was… well… crap.
Bendy and the Ink Machine doesn’t offer particularly exciting gameplay and the combat mechanics are more frustrating than anything else, but fortunately the impressive game world and sinister narrative do more than enough to make it worth checking out.
Developer: theMeatly Games
Publisher: Rooster Teeth Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux