Originally an episodic game series, Bendy and the Ink Machine is a first-person horror game. Developed and published by Kindly Beast under the name of the game’s in-universe animation studio Joey Drew Studios Inc.
After being released in five chapter segments, the game got its full release in October 2018. With console releases coming a month later and mobile ports one further month later.
The story sees the player take on the role of Henry Stein. He is a retired animator who used to work for Joey Drew Studios. He gets an invitation from his old boss, Joey to come to the studio. To see something but when he arrives he finds it transformed into a nightmarish place.
Seemingly abandoned, covered in ink and with monsters stalking the halls. All of this seems to be caused by the huge ink machine installed by Joey. That’s not all though as characters from the cartoons have been brought to life and something truly evil is in control. A demonic figure simply known as Bendy or the Ink Demon.
Utilising a visual style that resembles ‘rubber hose animation’, the very first thing that deserves praise about Bendy and the Ink Machine is the vintage visuals. It looks amazing, really capturing the art style of old cartoons perfectly. Even if a lot of the time it’s just corridors, offices and more. The real ‘wow’ moments come from living and breathing world. While you don’t meet many other characters, there is a constant feeling of being inside the belly of a beast. It feels oppressive, it feels suffocating and it feels dangerous. Even before you have your first run in with Bendy or other monsters that roam the studio.
Gameplay comes in a number of forms that include exploring, puzzle solving, combat and stealth. The former two often just result in you needing to find certain items but there are the odd clever ones. Like playing musical instruments in a certain order to open a secret door. The latter two are where Bendy & The Ink Machine falls a little short.
Combat isn’t the games main focus and because of that you will go through big sections of the game without a weapon. When you do have an axe, pipe or plunger any enemies you do have to fight can be taken down with only a few hits and there is no real skill involved. It’s unsatisfying and has no bearing when it comes to dealing with major villains of the game.
That’s where the stealth mechanic comes into play. Doted around are booths that the player can hide in. A necessity if Bendy is nearby or one of the other insta-death villains are stalking the hallways. The former really heightens the terror factor as his arrival is announced by ink spreading across the walls. Find a place and hunker down until he is gone.
That’s all perfectly fine but at times, the stealth mechanic just doesn’t work that well and results in frustration. For example, later in the game you will have to get past twisted creatures that you would normally take out with a weapon but you’re without one. It’s tiresome and frustration will begin to set in meaning you make more and more mistakes.
These niggly irritating moments crop up a few too many times too. You’ll be loving the story which really is excellent, loving the characters, the tone and horrifying visuals but the gameplay flaws stop you being completely invested.
It also seems to run out of ideas by time it reaches the final chapter pitting you in a fight against waves and waves of enemies in a small arena. This section goes on for so long that you’ll start to wonder if you’re doing something wrong and maybe need to hit a switch or something.
The final boss is really lacklustre too, a lot of setup for a battle that doesn’t impress.
However, regardless of its problems, Bendy and The Ink Machine is a great game thanks to its compelling and down-right scary story. It nails many of its scares, in particular the early chapters where we really don’t know what is going on.
The ending is satisfying, clearing up many of the mysteries while also leaving room for expansion and more story to be told. It’s not a huge game, somewhere between 6-10 hours of content but you’ll feel like you got your monies worth.
Bendy and the Ink Machine