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We have all at one time use a biro to doodle something when our mind wondered or work, school or just the phone call we are on happens to be a little on the dull side. Those doodles would only live on the page, but what if those doodles were to come to life and tell an emotional story as well as fun puzzle solving experience? Well then you would have the delightful and rather lovely game in ‘Inked: A Tale of Love’.
As I continue my journey into gaming on the Nintendo Switch, I have really started to rekindle my love of deceptively simple looking Indie titles, and this is certainly one I am adding to the “so pleased I have a Switch console’ list. Inked: A Tale of Love places you the player, as the ‘Nameless Hero’, a Samurai Ronin type character who has reached the end of their fighting days, so much that the opening scene is this hero putting down his sword for the last time now that all the battles he faced are over. We watch as he joins his wife Aiko, a woman who is dearly in touch with the wildlife of their world and very much the focus on the Nameless Hero’s devotion and love. They are suddenly faced with a sick bird, and Aiko so desperate to find out why the bird is so sick, encourages her husband to open a portal for them to travel through to discover what is happening to their world.
Two of the elements that have an immediate impact the moment you start this game are naturally the visual art style and the music. The art style is striking with a pure paper white background with every drawn in clearly blue biro pen style lines and shading that give this world a 3D aspect in its 2D setting. Combined with an astonishing beautiful musical score that brings it all to life just so effortlessly that it never made a difference playing this game in handheld or when docked to the bigger TV Screen which is something I truly welcomed with his game as it quickly became an experience I wanted to take on the move with me, and it helped with the couple of instance of having to wait a few hours for a hospital appointment that was delayed to the point I never noticed the two hours that vanished as I played the story.
Storytelling is very much the core strength to Inked and the heart of that lies in this being a very welcoming puzzle game which is introduced during the prologue as our Nameless Hero accompanies his wife Aiko on a simple walk which requires the player to move 3D objects to complete the pathways on which they must walk as Aiko is carrying her paintings of the wildlife she clearly adores back home. This section also replaces the sword the Ronin would usually carry but now put down, with the giant paint brush Aiko uses instead. This interaction with the world is key as Aiko is carried away all Mary Poppins umbrella style suddenly and we must guide the Nameless Hero as he tries to follow and rescue her.
Whilst the puzzles never become too difficult to solve, they do require thought as they cycle through the usual moving of objects to activating pressure plates and switches to continue to progress through the world. The clever design of each section prevents the rotation of these sections becoming too boring and there is a genuine satisfaction once you have solved a puzzle and you are able to move on. Due to the solutions being often rather obvious or the more mechanical based puzzles never being too demanding or difficult, it allows the pacing to be maintained so you the player always have the sense you are moving forward and even if you do become stuck on a puzzle, the solution will present itself rather quickly. If you are a casual puzzle fan or perhaps even someone who has been put off by puzzle sections in other games, Inked hits just the right balance to keep the enjoyment going.
The story also has very clever twists such as the moment after becoming so immersed in the world and storytelling that when a pair of human hands appeared on screen to draw an object, I needed to solve a puzzle, it took me completely by surprise. This added a whole other level to the storytelling with some very clever 4th wall breaking as we are so used to just being in the story that we do forget what it takes to create the world and story we are in, which in this case happens to be the artist who has created this world for us to be in now very much being a character in the story itself. Without providing any spoilers, the way in which the story of the Nameless Hero connects or more reveals the story of the person who drew the world in the first place is a very touching one, making Inked even more of a special game to play.
Inked: A Tale of Love strikes the right balance on so many factors that make this such an incredible game to experience. It has a puzzle system designed to be challenging at times for some but never in a way that hinders progress for players which in turn prevents that level of frustration that can be very off putting when hitting that puzzle stumbling block. The visual style is comforting in its simplicity but establishes a world so full of wonder and life and having the interaction of the “artist” who drew that world popping in on screen never feels out of place once you understand why this pair of hands suddenly appears in the world. The music is elegant and exquisitely binds all the aspects together making this really a must have story experience for Nintendo Switch as the switch from playing in TV mode to taking this game on the move with you is just so seamless.
This has been one of the stand out game experiences I have had yet on the Nintendo Switch and just reaffirms how brilliant indie games can be, a game for those who love a good story but also for those who enjoy a satisfying puzzle game without it requiring a Mastermind to find the solution.