Developer: Petite Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Release Date: 11 May 2018
Price: $4.99 / £4.99
Reviewed by Pat Lunn
Petite Games’ Inksplosion is a top down shooting game where both the main character and enemies fire brightly coloured ink across the stage while firing at each other. With that description alone, you might think that it employs mechanics similar to Splatoon, and may even be a retro-inspired ancestor of everyone’s favourite squid-based shooter.
It’s here that you, like me, would be wrong. Inksplosion is more like a blend of asteroids and Max Payne, bringing bullet time and chaotic action to a floaty arcade shooter.
The game starts with only a single Classic Mode, opening up two more in the form of Hard Mode and Arena Mode once you reach a score of 100,000. Doing so is no easy task though. It’s an incredibly tough game.
The premise is simple. If you touch anything white you die, and you must defeat four enemies to reach the next level. Each of these levels has various traps as well as the enemies you'll face. Every foe has random attack patterns based on their shape (for example a square enemy fires from each of its corners).
Throw in the fact that the weapon you yourself use in each stage is randomised, and you’ll probably wonder how anyone could survive this mess while there’s ink gushing across the screen. This is where bullet time comes in, and with it, my main gripe with the game.
By pressing the left rear triggers you can activate a slow-motion mechanic, which allows you to reduce the pace of the action to neatly avoid obstacles and get killer shots on enemies. However, it comes with a catch. Every second you spend in bullet time reduces your health, leaving you with three unique strategies:
Don’t use bullet time at all, keeping your health intact and hoping that a full health and your own reflexes will get you through.
Use bullet time sparingly, keeping some health but only slowing time when you really need it to prevent health loss or get the killer shot.
Stay in constant bullet time and hope you can wipe out your enemies before killing yourself.
Out of these three tactics, I actually found that the most successful approach was the first. The reduction of your health bar happens too quickly to allow either of the other two tactics to work. Plus, as health carries over between levels with only a small amount recuperated by killing enemies, it’s just not possible to make proper use of the mechanic – and that’s bad game design.
It’s comparable to avoiding the mushrooms in Mario because you’re concerned the red capped plumber might bang his head. Unfortunately, this issue continues across both Hard and Arena Mode, as each does little to change the gameplay (Arena is just an endless horde and Hard is pretty much what it says on the tin).
All in all, Inksplosion is a bit of a let-down. Once you get past the bright visuals and chaotic gameplay there's very little real substance to enjoy. I’ll admit that there were points I had fun with it and when I broke the 100,000 point barrier I felt like I’d reached the summit of Everest. That being said, frame-rate drops and an unplayable core mechanic badly hobbled the experience.
Pros & Cons
+ Visually impressive
+ Occasional chaotic fun
- Broken core mechanic
- Little gameplay variety
- Common frame rate drops