Originally released back in 2018 Inked: A Tale of Love was a puzzle game which flew past my radar when it was first released. The game had a really interesting concept and would have been something I would have been interested in checking out if I had noticed it. As a fan of puzzle games I was intrigued by the game along with its hand drawn art style. While I missed the game when it first came out, the developers of the game got a new publisher which lead to it getting an improved re-release as well as a launch on new platforms. This gave me the perfect opportunity to check out the game. Inked: A Tale of Love is a short but sweet, clever little puzzle game in a gorgeous hand drawn environment.
In Inked: A Tale of Love you play as the Nameless Hero. His adventures seem to be over until a strange affliction is affecting the local wildlife upsetting his wife Aiko. Aiko convinces the Nameless Hero to help her figure out what is happening to the wildlife leading them on an adventure. Throughout their journey we find out more about their creator “The Artist” who provides narration for the story. Can the Nameless Hero heal his world and in the process help his creator?
Inked: A Tale of Love is a puzzle game to its very core. The objective of each world is to progress to the portal which will take you to the next world. Standing in your way are a number of puzzles that you need to solve in order to create a path forward for yourself. A lot of these puzzles involve activating various switches and levers. The puzzles mostly come from manipulating the environment to allow yourself to reach/activate the switches and levers.
A lot of the puzzles are designed around the fact that you have the ability to manipulate parts of the world with your ability to draw and move certain objects. Within each puzzle there are a number of objects that you can interact with. With the press of a button you can erase one of these objects from the world and draw it in a new location of your choosing. You can also rotate it as well as manipulate it in other ways. This becomes a huge element in solving the puzzles as you use this ability to create paths for your character as well as activate various switches.
Having played a lot of indie puzzle games in recent years I am always a little curious heading into a new game wondering whether it will do something unique or will end up being just another typical puzzle game. In some ways Inked: A Tale of Love is similar to a lot of puzzle games. The puzzles mostly consist of activating switches and pulling levers which is a staple of the genre. What makes the game stand out though is your ability to manipulate the environment itself in order to create a path forward. In a way this is just a more direct method of moving objects instead of pushing them with your character, but it works really well for the game. In addition to fitting the theme really well, I thought it was a fun little twist that helps differentiate the game from many other similar puzzle games. Ultimately the gameplay of Inked: A Tale of Love is quite fun for fans of puzzle games.
Like pretty much every puzzle game, the ultimate success of the game was going to depend on the overall puzzle design. I think the game does a good job in this area. I wish the puzzles were a little more difficult (more on this later), but I generally thought the puzzle/level design was quite good. The main gameplay doesn’t drastically change throughout the game as it relies pretty heavily on using the drawing mechanic to move objects around the world. Each world adds it own little additions though which work alongside mechanics used in previous worlds. This keeps the gameplay fresh throughout the game. The puzzle design works because they are well designed and force you to think of unorthodox ways to solve them. The puzzle design is clever for the most part which gives you a sense of accomplishment when you solve them.
In addition to the fun puzzle gameplay, I also thought Inked: A Tale of Love’s atmosphere and story were quite compelling. While a good art style is not enough on its own to get me to try out a new game, I have to admit that the hand drawn ballpoint pen style of Inked: A Tale of Love really caught my attention when I first saw it. This type of art style is not something that you see a lot in video games, but it works really well for the game. The art style looks really nice and even has a surprising amount of detail to it. The graphical style also fits the game’s more laid back feel as well. While playing the game is it hard not to just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.
This continues into the game’s story as well. I am not going to go much into details to avoid spoilers, but I generally really enjoyed the story. The story is that of the Nameless Hero and his wife Aiko trying to help the wildlife, but also involves The Artist/narrator as their story shares things in common with the Nameless Hero. The story is quite touching.
While I really enjoyed my time playing Inked: A Tale of Love, it does have two issues that prevented it from being as good as it could have been.
First I found the game to be pretty easy for the most part. I do play a lot of puzzle games so this could have played a part in how easy I found the game to be. It also could have just been that the puzzles were designed in a way that were easy for me to figure out. Ultimately I figured out most of the puzzles within just a couple of minutes. There were only a couple that took me a little time to figure out. If you play a lot of puzzle games you likely will find the game to be pretty easy like I did. This doesn’t ruin the game as it works well with the game’s more relaxed atmosphere. It also opens up the game to more players that don’t play a lot of puzzle games. Those looking for a challenging puzzle game are probably going to be a little disappointed though as there really isn’t anything in the game that will force you to really ponder how to solve it.
The game’s simpler puzzles leads to the other issue that I had with the game. While I really enjoyed playing the game, I wish it was longer. The game does consist of ten different worlds to explore, but you can finish most of them pretty quickly. Each puzzle will take a couple minutes at max to complete once you can figure out what you are supposed to do. Thus a big factor in how long it will take to complete the game will depend on how fast you solve the puzzles. I would guess that most players could probably beat the game within around 3-4 hours with some taking a little more or less time. The length is not terrible as I mostly just wish it was longer as I was really enjoying it, and I think the game could have further explored some of the mechanics. The game does have a number of hidden paintings scattered around each level which will add some time if you want to check them out. A lot of times these paintings are harder to spot than solving the puzzles. If you want to find all of the paintings it may add an hour or two to the game. While I could see playing through the game a second time as I enjoyed it, I don’t see doing so for a while as the puzzles are linear where your second playthrough won’t differ from your first playthrough.
I had pretty high expectations heading into playing Inked: A Tale of Love and it lived up to them for the most part. The first thing probably everyone will notice about the game is the hand drawn ballpoint pen style as it is hard not to. The game’s visuals are quite stunning and really help tell the game’s touching story in a compelling way. On top of this is the solid puzzle gameplay. In a way the puzzle aspect of the game is similar to other indie puzzle games, and yet it feels different as well. Outside of interacting with various switches and levers, the gameplay is built around the ability to move and rotate certain objects in the environment. The game does a good job using this mechanic along with its puzzle design to create some clever puzzles that are fun to solve. I do wish the puzzles were a little more challenging though as I didn’t find Inked: A Tale of Love to be a particularly challenging game. This leads to the game being on the short side as most should be able to beat it within just a couple hours.
My recommendation for Inked: A Tale of Love comes down to your thoughts on the game’s premise and puzzle games in general. If the game doesn’t sound all that interesting to you or you generally don’t care for puzzle games, I don’t see it being for you. Those who enjoy a good puzzle game though and are intrigued by the premise will likely really enjoy the game and should consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Somnium Games d.o.o. and Pixmain for the review copy of Inked: A Tale of Love used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.