Certain genres I try and stay away from as they frustrate and annoy me to the point where I know for a fact that I won’t finish them and come to an honest conclusion for my reviews. However, every now and again I spot a game which I feel I have to play regardless of my preconceptions for the genre and gameplay mechanics. Bendy and the Ink Machine is the latest game which had me step out of my comfort zone and take on two of the things I really don’t like in video gaming, horror and hiding in closets!
So, what tempted me to play this game from beginning to end in one sitting with no breaks? Could it have been the beautifully hand-drawn environments and characters? Maybe it was the creepy and uneasy soundtrack along with its rather disturbing voices and sound effects? It could even be the addictiveness of solving the puzzles whilst being chased by a deformed Mickey Mouse-style character with only a Goofy look-a-like as a mute companion who cheers you on from the sidelines?
Whatever it was, Joey Drew Studios certainly had me interested from the moment I saw screenshots of the game, and then instantly hooked as soon as I first booted it up. So, Let’s take a closer look…
Bendy and the Ink Machine opens with our protagonist, Henry, being summoned to the old Joey Drew Studios. Henry is an ex-employee of this rather run-down and humble animation studio, the studio which birthed Bendy and friends for the entertainment of children all over the world. You’ve not stepped foot into this studio for over 30 years, yet you couldn’t ignore a request from your old friend, Joey Drew, who announces that there is “something special” for him to see hidden away within the building.
However, Joey didn’t want to show you mere pictures, items, or even a cake (as there is no cake, it was a lie), you soon discover that the ‘surprise’ was in fact that the titular Ink Machine can be used to give life to the animations they created! Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the introduction of characters such as Rodger Rabbit or Bugs Bunny here, the ‘things’ it gave life to are horrific abominations. As such, you must not only try and stay alive as you unwillingly venture deeper into the unknown floors below the studio, you must also fend off possessed ink-creatures and put an end to Bendy’s torment.
What is Bendy and the Ink Machine?
The first thing you’ll see when you look at Bendy and the Ink Machine is the gorgeous, yet twisted, visuals which are all presented with a sepia hue over the top of them to give the whole game a 1930’s vibe to it. It’s not only the hue which gives you this strong feeling of yesteryear, but the studio is also full of old fashion machinery, characters who look like they would fit in perfectly with Steamboat Willie, and an overall feeling like you’ve stepped back in time upon entering this accursed place.
As stated before, Bendy and the Ink Machine is a self-declared “first-person puzzle action horror game” which ticks off a few boxes of things I like, as well as a few I try and stay away from. As you move from floor to floor, you’ll uncover various simple puzzles which you must pass in order to either progress further or satisfy the requests of a demonic Angel. These vary but never really get too difficult or thought-provoking. You’ll find yourself pressing buttons to change the pressure on gauges, listening to recordings in order to get clues on what to do next, and scouting various objects to open up new passages.
It’s all rather simplistic in regards to the puzzles, the part that will get you slightly confused, especially at the beginning, is the…
Bendy and the Ink Machine is a very, very beautiful game. Sure, you may be looking at the images and thinking it could do with a splash of paint or that it looks rather basic over realistic – but that’s the point. It’s like you’ve walked into the inked line-drawings of a madman, which is kind of the truth!
One downside of the various floors for some people will be its lack of hand-holding and guidance as there is no map, no indicators of where to go or what to do, and no hint options within the game. Personally, I enjoy this as I love games that make you investigate and explore without being moved from point to point like a join-the-dots image. However, I do know some people prefer it when there is a little push here and there.
Although, I did actually get stuck in the second chapter for about half an hour and have to look up a walkthrough! I know, I’m contradicting myself, but at least I’m being honest! The issue I had was, the in-game prompt of what my goal was (one of the few ‘hints’ you get) was to find my way into a certain storage room. However, I didn’t realise I had to look for a set of keys by retracing the steps of the person who dropped them. Once I saw that, I went back and listened to the various voice messages and was able to find them with no issues. That’s when I started to pay more attention to what was being said rather than running around like I knew what I was doing!
Attack or hide?
As Bendy and the Ink Machine is touted as a ‘horror’ game, and you see various cupboards with eye-holes you can jump into, I expected that the whole game was going to involve a few puzzles and running into these seemingly invincible hidey-holes and nothing else. Boy, was I wrong! Before too long, you’ll pick up an axe – a tool which can be used to smash up various demonic cut-outs of Bendy as well as planks blocking certain paths. What I wasn’t expecting were the various onslaughts of ink-possed creatures which rose from the black goop in order to eat your soul! Clearly, the axe came in useful here as you slice them up and send them back to whatever inkwell they crawled out of!
There are a few various ‘weapons’ you can pick up throughout the game ranging from a sink plunger to a Tommy Gun! So, whenever you pick one up, it’s probably symbolising an upcoming fight which you’re certainly going to be a part of. On the other hand, the segments I dislike (hiding ones) make an appearance but they aren’t that bad. When you sense that Bendy is approaching you, quickly run and hide in a nearby cupboard until our inky intruder passes you by. I think one of the reasons I really enjoyed Bendy and the Ink Machine is because it’s a horror game for beginners – if the enemies see you jump into a cupboard, they still walk away – it’s very forgiving and not too spooky. A bit like Hello Neighbour, as I was fine with the hiding and jump scares in that game too. Speaking of which…
How horrifying is Bendy and the Ink Machine?
I feel that everyone should be able to enjoy Bendy and the Ink Machine with no issues, especially seeing as I got through it without too many problems. There is quite a lot of jump scares but due to the nature of what’s giving you the scare, it’s all rather comical and done with an effective yet humous response. Also, as above, when you are being chased by either the horrific Bendy or the disturbing Butcher Gang, if you jump into a cupboard then they’ll just go away. To be honest, there is a section of the game, in chapter four I think it was, where the Butcher Gang were pissing me off as it’s a full-on stealth segment. So, once I knew where I had to go, I was just running right past them, into a cupboard, and then running to the next one. It’s not the best way to play, but it worked!
With regards to the imagery. There’s no blood, only ink, and the horrifyingly disfigured creatures are all hand-drawn and kind of resemble what you would get if you let a five-year-old draw their favourite Disney characters, 3D print them, then put them in the oven for a minute so their faces melt. As such, as long as you have a decent amount of patience and you enjoy creepy atmospheres combined with a few jump scares and some action combat segments – you’ll love Bendy and the Ink Machine.
As I’ve declared a few times within the review, I love the aesthetic that Bendy and the Ink Machine has gone for. From the hand-drawn borderland-esque assets overlayed with a sepia hue, to the detailed yet simplistic nature of the floors as you descend into the unknown – it all looks great and works well to make you feel uneasy. The visuals aren’t the only stars of the show here either as the voice acting, the soundtrack, and the ambient noises all help to leave you with a sense of dread and suspense at what may be around the next corner. Personally, I went into the game thinking it would be a visually unique take on your standard horror-genre cat and mouse game, I came away from it thoroughly impressed at everything it had to offer. Well, everything bar a few combat segments.
One thing I really enjoyed, even though some people won’t, is the fact that us console gamers have received the final, full product. Bendy and the Ink Machine has technically been out for over a year on PC where it received regular updates as the game released in chapters over the course of around 18 months. Upon the final episode being posted in October, console gamers were given the chance to play this amazing game a month later on all the current gen systems. As I’ve never heard of the game until last week, I found being able to experience it all in one go was much better than waiting. However, if you’ve known about it for a while, you may have seen or read about what’s happened in each of the chapters, thus have spoilers imprinted in your mind about it!
Also, as a side note, the latest patch on the PS4 says the visuals have been ‘improved’, so I’m not sure what’s changed but I didn’t have any issues, bugs, glitches, or visual problems when I played it on my PS4 Pro.
As the saying goes, I came for the imagery, I stayed for the engaging story and interesting gameplay. Bendy and the Ink Machine is on my list of ‘hidden gems’ of 2018 for sure as it’s a game which may have flown under a few peoples radars, yet it deserves a much bigger push into the limelight. Sure, the puzzles are basic, the hiding from the creatures is overly forgiving, and the combat is rather simplistic as well as a bit too unforgiving in certain areas. However, the other core aspects balance these out and end up overshadowing them.
The Borderlands-like graphics help to make what would be a rather horrific state of affairs into a more casual and less disturbing set of events, all whilst retaining the uneasiness and suspenseful emotions it wishes to portray.
Also, I’ve just seen that you can actually buy Bendy and the Ink Machine plushies, action figures, and construction sets! I saw them on Argos HERE but you can probably get them elsewhere too. I know what I want for Christmas…
Bendy and the Ink Machine£19.99
- - Beautiful artistic design with its hand-drawn imagery
- - The voice acting, music and sound effects are all great
- - Plenty of jump scares as well as suspenseful moments where anything could happen!
- - Relies heavily on you listening to the audio logs and looking at your environments in the first few chapters
- - At around six hours, it's a nice length for an indie game
- - Some people may not like the lack of hand-holding (I didn't mind)
- - There is a combat segment which is quite difficult with the weapon you have, if you haven't unlocked the hidden axe
- - The later half of the game feels very different to the first half (I prefered the first half)