Cartoons have evolved tremendously over the years, making their way from being simplistic, black and white amusements to complex and colorful creations that grace our screens today. While today’s animation has been streamlined by the advent of CGI, the cartoons of yesteryear were born out of weeks of painstaking artistry by hand. Even though things have gotten much better, it’s always nice to take a look back at the past. That’s just what you do in Bendy and the Ink Machine; you take a trip down memory lane, only to find out that things are not as you remember them.
Bendy and the Ink Machine follows Henry Stein as he returns to the studio where he once worked after receiving an invitation from his old employer Joey Drew. Joey claims that he wants Henry to see something, which prompts Henry to wander the empty studio in search of clues. After some exploration, you find the titular ink machine and notice that it’s not working. You collect some items and follow some steps in order to start it back up, but you soon realize that this might’ve been a mistake. From there, you learn that things are not as you expected; in fact, there’s a lot more darkness and corruption than you were prepared for. While this description is vague, I won’t go into more detail because experiencing everything for yourself makes the experience infinitely better.
The game is split up into five chapters, which were sold separately when it was originally released on Steam. Thankfully, this is a complete edition that contains the whole story. While playing, there are two ways the game saves: autosaving at certain points, and interacting with time card stations. The downside is that the saving is only meant as a checkpoint for if you die, so if you save in the middle of a chapter and exit the game, you must restart that chapter when you continue. If you die, you must walk through a vortex which transports you to the last giant Bendy statue that you passed. The checkpoint system feels fair, but not being able to stop in the middle of a chapter and return later is a huge bummer.
The gameplay revolves around exploring, collecting items, performing tasks, and defeating ink enemies in certain areas. If you’re looking for a ton of action, you may be disappointed, but if you love exploration and immersing yourself in a story, then you’ll get your money’s worth (the game retails at a cool $19.99 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One). Besides interactions with other characters, the story is told through recordings scattered throughout the chapters. Sometimes the recordings act as hints pertaining to the completion of gameplay tasks, while other times they lean more towards backstory. It’s done in a Bioshock sort of way, and as a fan of that series, I loved this. I immediately clicked on every recorder that I found so I could listen to what they had to say.
The world building and atmosphere of the game is my favorite part of Bendy and the Ink Machine. The gameplay is fun, don’t get me wrong, but seeing what Joey Drew Studios has become is what kept me going. The tone of the game is a corrupted and warped version of something once thought of as pure. What was once a studio that brought cartoons to life and created stories of wonder is now a desolate, rundown mess full of darkness and danger. The game has its share of scary and creepy moments, which fill you with dread and adrenaline, but also push you forward. Bendy and the Ink Machine can be beaten within a few hours depending on how you play, but those few hours are more than worth it. Having an adventure at Joey Drew Studios is worth the price of admission, so get ready to find out what Joey wanted you to see.
Bendy and the Ink Machine
Bendy and the Ink Machine takes players down a corrupted nostalgia trip, full of old school cartoon characters mixed with twisted horror. Exploration, puzzle solving, and the occasional fight are the name of the game, even if the save system could be better. If you don't enter Joey Drew Studios for the gameplay, you'll be enthralled by the story.