“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.” – Neil Gaiman
Inked: A Tale of Love is an award-winning story-driven puzzle game in which players take on the role of the Nameless Hero who must set out on an adventure across a beautifully hand-drawn world. As each puzzle is solved, the emotional narrative is slowly unravelled and the protagonist becomes one step closer to their lost love.
Developer: Somnium Games
Released: 26th April 2018 (original), 27th August 2021 (remake)
Price: £3.49 – £8.39
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
The player takes on the role of The Nameless Hero and progresses through a series of puzzles in order to reach their beloved. They are mostly environmental puzzles that utilise different objects such as blocks, switches and buttons to create a path onwards. The controls are mouse only and the game plays much like a point-and-click title.
The puzzles are arranged into chapters and as progress is made the world’s artist narrates the couple’s story. Additionally, memories of the artist himself are revealed creating a multi-faceted narrative experience that ties directly into the gameplay. There is also a collection of nine identical painted canvases to collect in each chapter. These will reveal pictures in a gallery that is accessible from the menu.
As the story and game advance and The Nameless Hero traverses further across different terrains, a variety of puzzle mechanics and block types such as fan block and freezers are gradually added. The difficulty also increases but this happens quite slowly in a way that is manageable but still satisfying.
Inked: A Tale of Love sees The Nameless Hero reunited with their love Aiko after finishing their training and whilst the story starts off sweetly, it is deceptive and a fourth wall break sees the world’s bitter artist take Aiko prisoner. The Nameless Hero must continue solving puzzles in order to rescue her but a series of increasingly dark turns sees him making a number of tough choices.
The artist’s story is told both alongside and through the tale of the couple, their narratives entwined with that of their creator, one could even question who the real protagonist is. The layered narrative is beautifully written and expertly delivered in a way that evokes a range of emotions in the player and is the unquestionable highlight of the game.
One of Inked: A Tale of Love’s key features is its unique aesthetic, drawn with a ballpoint pen and mostly monochromatic the game has a distinctly original look. Within the isometric view, splashes of vibrant colours are also used to highlight important items and add an extra layer of interest to the visuals.
The overall styling of the paper and ink world and characters seems heavily influenced by Japanese culture, this can be seen in things such as the clothing and architecture and heard in the use of pentatonic scales for a lot of the music. The soundtrack, which heavily features the piano, ranges from serene and relaxing to much more emotive tracks and really accentuates the narrative well.
Overall, Inked: A Tale of Love is a beautifully emotional and somewhat meta story set in a stunning hand-drawn world that provides the perfect backdrop. It will take around 3-4 hours to complete, has a little replayability in the collectables. It has a lot to offer in terms of both the satisfying puzzle based gameplay and the narrative design and I wholeheartedly recommend this game to fans of multiple genres!
For more hand-drawn games why not check out some of the following:
Letters: A Written Adventure – A New Word Puzzle about Friendship! – A Winding Path: A Beautifully Hand-Drawn New Adventure Game! – Sprout – A Free Puzzle Adventure about becoming a Big Tree!