“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath
Inkslinger is a story-driven, ‘romancepunk’ tragedy with typing-game mechanics. Players take on the role of a professional inkslinger, employed in Brassknee’s Wordshop where the job is to formulate the letters, speeches and marketing spiels of the various customers. The different tasks and the memories they evoke will tell a sinister tale and reveal the protagonist’s past.
Released: 8th April 2021
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Available on: Steam
Diverse clientele, with eclectic names such as Humstrum, Thunderboil and Beefboy, frequent the wordshop in which the protagonists works. They need letters, speeches and other documents written for them and lay out their requirements in stages. Each time the player must choose to type a word from a prescribed list, ideally the one that pertains most to the customer’s intentions. The controls are simple, intuitive and require just a keyboard.
Only one task is timed and the gameplay is pretty causal overall, requiring logic and attention to detail rather than speed or accuracy. It is even possible to test each possibility before committing, allowing for experimentation and allowing players to see some of the more obscure and amusing options without ‘ruining’ the playthrough. That being said, completing jobs in different ways will result in varying customer responses and there is so much detail in the narrative that the game certainly has some replayability.
The wordshop is situated in the guild-structured Isle Stammer, but writing words for clients stirs memories, revealing the true past of the Inkslinger and her origins in the nearby and smog-ridden Queendom of Nomania. The back and forth of letters, details in other jobs and the memories that they illicit gradually reveal an unexpectedly sinister narrative in a really satisfying way. The game does come with a content warning however as it touches on some sensitive subject matter and includes descriptions of violence.
Inkslinger tells the stories of individuals and different lands, of industrialisation, murder and civil unrest, it also entertains with abstract memories and tangible recollections. Most cleverly of all, it intertwines all these aspects into the overarching and tragic narrative of the protagonist in a way that maintains intrigue throughout the playing experience.
The writing is superb, with convincing characterisation, vivid use of language and beautifully poetic prose during the memories. The narrative design is intricate, powerful and emotive and is without a doubt the stand out feature of this title.
Inkslinger samples 19th-century art in the public domain from The National Gallery of Denmark’s open database, SMK Open, primarily portraits by the Danish painter Christen Købke. It is presented in black and white and all artwork has been digitally edited to have a more pointillistic aesthetic. While this may have been a clever workaround for a lack of original art, it fits the game perfectly, giving it a unique old-world feel and tying into the narrative themes.
Noninvasive but ominous background music is ethereal and eerie, it works together with the realistic and evocative sound effects to make Inkslinger a truly immersive experience. The wonderful sound design connects the player to the narrative and helps unify the various aspects of the game.
Inkslinger is a short game and can be played within an hour or so, however, it packs a little punch within that time, delivering a fantastic narrative through interwoven stories and characters. Whilst dark and somewhat heavy in that regard, it is a refreshingly casual take on the typing game genre and a somewhat unique set of mechanics for a narrative-driven game. At its humble price of £3.99, it is easy to recommend, both to existing fans of the visual novel genre and those looking to try something new!
To celebrate the recent release of the game, and courtesy of the developers at Gateway, we have two Inkslinger Steam keys to giveaway!
For more details and your chance to win (or just to chat about indie games), simply join our friendly Discord server and check out the announcements!
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