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Bendy and the Ink Machine

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Rooster Teeth
Developer: TheMeatly Games
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2018


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PS4 Review - 'Bendy and the Ink Machine'

by Fran Soto on Dec. 21, 2018 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

Bendy & The Ink Machine is an episodic first-person puzzle action horror game that begins in the far days past of animation and ends in a very dark future.

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A loveable cartoon creation that has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world is fueled by a dark secret. No, this isn't a reference to Disney, but it does aptly describe survival-horror title Bendy and the Ink Machine. Developed by theMeatly and Joey Drew Studios Inc., this episodic horror adventure takes us through a dark story surrounding an abandoned animation studio that was once active during the Golden Age of animation. Originally released on the PC last year, the title been re-released with additional content for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Bendy takes an unorthodox turn and combines two very opposite genres, cartoons and horror, to make a terrifying experience. The title stays true to the survival-horror genre by prioritizing running and hiding with some mild combat. A compelling story and atmosphere drive forward Bendy and the Ink Machine to keep players invested in this chilling mystery. Some gameplay hiccups detract from the title's quality, but it serves as a solid addition to the horror genre.

We play as Henry Stein, a former animator at Joey Drew Studios who helped make the character Bendy a reality. Taking major inspiration from Disney's "Steamboat Willie" era, the graphics have a hand-drawn quality to them that add some personality to the game. Even Bendy and his crew feel familiar with their old-school animation. Joey, an old friend, has invited Henry to the studio to catch up, but Henry arrives to an abandoned studio, and after some exploration, he stumbles upon some horrifying sights. A giant ink machine sputtering black goop becomes a Frankenstein's monster within the studio. What's worse, Henry stumbles upon a horrifying experiment where it appears that Joey has been dissecting real-life cartoon characters from their Bendy series. A mix of mad scientist and occult worshipping set the stage for horror. We help Henry turn on the pumps for the ink machine, and all hell breaks loose. Ink monsters emerge to chase us down, and any attempt to leave the studio is met with the floors crumbling to swallow us whole. Thus ends Chapter One, and we awaken later within the bowels of the studio to explore the mystery further.

Immediately, Bendy and the Ink Machine does a great job of creating a chilling atmosphere to explore. There is good pacing to the title, as it utilizes minor scare tactics in the beginning to put the player on edge, like a Bendy cardboard cutout changing locations, or creepy noises coming from the surroundings. It's a title that definitely follows the "less is more" formula of horror to maximize scares. Once we get far enough into the story to see upgraded scares, we learn that Bendy is not the loveable cartoon character he once was. The cast of characters is distinct and horrifying. The ink machine has brought these characters to life, but they are far removed from their original forms. Bendy has become an ink devil that stalks the player when we attempt to pass through different areas. One can only hide when his booming footsteps and ragged breathing announce his arrival. It becomes a horrifying experience trying to solve the mystery. Being able to do so much with so little is a principle of survival-horror and shows that the title is more than child's play.

As we explore the abandoned studio, we can piece together the backstory by picking up tapes that give more details about lore. We can listen to various studio workers from the past as they record their thoughts in an audio diary. We learn that Joey Drew, the founder of the studio, had been acting strange for a while in his attempt to climb to the top of the charts. His strange behavior had been affecting everyone around him in a parasite-like way. These diary entries not only give extra backstory, but also provide some tips for bypassing areas. It benefits the player to go out of his/her way to listen to the tapes for trying to obtain useful information. Some audio tapes are hidden behind puzzles found throughout different levels. Puzzles help drive the story, and they're fun and intuitive but some headscratchers add to the challenge. Bendy also prides itself on being a collectible game. Collectibles can be found all over for eagle-eye players who wish to scavenge. It adds an extra layer of depth to the title and encourages exploration in each area.

While running and hiding are the central mechanics within the game, there are also some light combat mechanics that we can utilize. At some point, the player is able to pick up various weaponry, from an ax to a pipe. Picking up an ax allows for access to other areas that are blocked off by wooden boards. It's more than just combat, as it also helps with traversal. However, combat is very slow and clunky. The player can fend off smaller ink monsters, but the mechanics are far from perfect. Hit boxes for enemies are undefined, and I often swung and missed enemies right in front of me. One has to be literally right on top of the enemy in order to connect. In the meantime, this gives enemies ample opportunities to damage the player and even kill them. It is possible to hop to the side and avoid attacks, but this tactic barely works, and it's easier to take hits rather than try to "dodge." It becomes a frustrating mechanic that quickly loses its appeal. Gameplay quality would be greater if it were a mechanic that didn't exist at all. Most titles in the survival-horror genre forgo combat to focus on the "survival" aspect of the game. The title could have been stronger if it focused on perfecting the already solid "run and hide" mechanics. Bendy's combat is underdeveloped and becomes an unnecessary feature that is more frustrating than useful.

Despite the gameplay issues, Bendy and the Ink Machine is a fun and creative survival-horror title. Its excellent graphical design and tense atmosphere create a solid backdrop for horrifying shenanigans. An intriguing story motivates players to keep going and find out what's happening next. Bendy delivers fun, and it delivers scares with a tasteful "less is more" formula that builds up the horror as we go. Unique puzzles and collectibles encourage exploration and advance the story to keep players engaged. It's an unorthodox type of horror game, but Bendy and the Ink Machine utilizes two opposite genres that complement each other to create a solid title. The use of cartoon characters in a horror atmosphere blends the purity of animated characters with the terrifying ideals of a scientist gone mad. As we progress, we learn sad truths behind the animation team that led to the spiraling downfall of innocent people. Bendy and the Ink Machine may be a sleeper hit, but it's worth any survival-horror fan's time.

Score: 9.5/10

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