I have always liked classic shooters (“shmups,” as they are known by hardcore fans.) Unfortunately, I have also never been very good at them, but Ratalaika Games’ InkSplosion had a certain vibrant flair that drew my attention.
Without much (if any) kind of tutorial, I quickly picked up the familiar “twin-stick” movement controls and the familiar top-down game design. Anyone that has played Geometry Wars would feel right at home…that is, if the obscenely bright neon color scheme doesn’t blind you first.
Each “stage” in the initial Arcade mode puts you up against a handful of random foes; completing each stage is as simple as surviving their projectiles as well as the occasional barriers and hazards. You can take a few hits, but many of the invading mobs are less of a threat and more of an obstacle to avoid in the cramped spaces.
I know the entire gimmick of InkSplosion involves its bright graffiti color trails as you play along, but this can actually be a huge issue. The biggest distraction is actually all the splotches of paint that fill the screen as you shoot and destroy the baddies. Seriously, Lisa Frank would consider it a bit excessive.
One of the other head-scratching elements of InkSplosion is that you begin each new stage with a random weapon, so there is no kind of “upgrades” or powerups. Some of these work just fine (Regular Gun, Shotgun, and Distance Gun) but others (Rocket and Laser Gun) ended up causing me some risky moments and frustrating deaths. There aren’t a lot of different enemies, and most of their patterns are pretty easy to figure out after a few quick attempts, but everything gets a little crazy when you’re trying to focus on a screen that looks like a kindergartner’s finger painting. When the going gets rough, you can simply hold down the L1 button – but you have to use this trick sparingly, as it also eats up your health bar pretty quickly. Not to beat a very colorful dead horse, but I used the “slow down” ability far more often to find myself on the screen than dodging oncoming bullets.
I always like to critique bite-sized indie titles such as InkSplosion without panning them for a lack of content, but I’d be wrong not to mention that completing arcade mode (which is done relatively easily, by scoring 100k points) took less than fifteen minutes. Upon noticing that I had unlocked the “Arena” and “Hard Mode,” I was excited for a bit more replay value.
Unfortunately, Arena mode was more or less an endless survival mode with no environmental hazards – basically, it was too easy. Hard Mode was nuts, and didn’t occupy my attention beyond a few laughable attempts. On the plus side, if you enjoy the random distraction from time to time, InkSplosion supports cross-play functionality with the Vita.
In the current time of writing my review, Leaderboards were not available for InkSplosion, which really takes any kind of cherry off the top of this brightly-colored sundae. Aside from hunting down potentially the easiest Platinum trophy I’ve ever unlocked, InkSplosion hardly kept my attention for long. You can even double up and get another easy Platinum on the Vita version!
In conclusion, I actually think InkSplosion could do some pretty nifty stuff if it introduced new game modes, more depth, and a bit less “noise” with its visual style. Unfortunately, it’s just a pretty run of the mill version of a classic genre with little to offer, besides perhaps a visual overload for any old-timers. It isn’t the worst way to spend $4.99, but you could still do better on the digital store on the PS4/Vita.
InkSplosion is available now on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Steam, PS Vita, and Nintendo Switch. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided by the publisher for that purpose.
- Not bad for a low price
- Cross-play, also works on Vita
- Great game for PlayStation Trophy hunters
- The bright neon-based color splotches are an eyesore and very distracting
- The random weapon rotation can be pretty irritating
- Why aren't there multiplayer functions?