Inked: A Tale of Love (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Michael McCann 22.12.2021

Review for Inked: A Tale of Love on Nintendo Switch

Love is a tale as old as time. It's been an endless source of inspiration for countless movies, books, sculptures, and CD singles; pretty good CD singles, like Genie in a Bottle. No doubt, it is a deep well, but in all of this has 'love' ever been used as an inspiration for interactive entertainment? Well, yes. It has, lots and lots of times, but here there are the exact words written down in the title. So that's something, eh? Inked: A Tale of Love is a puzzle-adventure at its soft and squidgy centre. Often, it's quite a slow and straightforward puzzle-adventure at that, notably, with origins established on mobile platforms. Nonetheless, it is a gratifyingly chill affair because of this. It is furthermore that of the love-based narrative for which it takes its namesake that carves a surprisingly dark and twisty story that ensures the proceeding three to five hours don't ever get a little too chill.

Whilst certainly not shying away from heavier themes, what makes Inked: A Tale of Love's narrative so compelling is that it is - sort of - told from two perspectives at the same time. That of the subject, directly controlled, and that of the artist which speaks. In between these perspectives it's often difficult to work out who the actual protagonist is, what their intentions might be, or even how they might relate to each other, if that is the case. If one were to surmise a deeper meaning, without giving too much away, there is a nice tension between the definition of romantic love and that of a love for creating art that ties everything together. This seems to be much of the point upon reflection at doors close, though some metaphor and subversion will keep one guessing. Honestly, Hideo Kojima should take notes.

Screenshot for Inked: A Tale of Love on Nintendo Switch

You can see the artist's hands affect levels as an occasional reminder that this is a world within a world with an unreliable narrator, but there can also be a sense of Inked: A Tale of Love maybe not being aware of its own concepts that are being alluded to, somewhat presenting like a story that may have been improvised on the fly. This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. The way that this finds itself isn't a bad thing though - instead possibly being a secret ingredient for an interesting flavour. The story is otherwise aided by an economically light touch, dropping crumbs of intrigue where needed to push forward and satisfy throughout the short runtime.

This is presented from an isometric point of view whereby stage layout takes inspirations from an M.C. Escher lithograph of impossible construction. It's a reference point that seems to crop up a fair amount in the puzzle genre - the excellent, and recently reviewed-by-yours-truly, Manifold Garden, as well as things like Echochrome, Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker, and, possibly the one that kicked off this recent trend, Monument Valley, could all arguably be placed in this same category. In following a predictable pattern of solving a puzzle, involving rotating objects and pushing switches that do things, and then the short journey in between that puzzle and getting to the next puzzle, Inked: A Tale of Love largely serves up an expected main course.

Screenshot for Inked: A Tale of Love on Nintendo Switch

This pattern is separated into chapters which are the ideal session length, really, as puzzle solutions, across the board, are not super challenging, so these bookends usually come at a good point to abet the pacing, allowing for some room between as well as create a logical cut off point to have a break and then return to. It shows a thoughtfulness with regards to this pacing, but particularly in credit to the level layout and map design, which does cheerfully surprise on more than a few occasions. The art style is a defining, if simple, characteristic that will be a reason for many to play Inked: A Tale of Love. That being said, it is disappointing to see that the tiling in the crosshatch texture, used in the shading of shadows, is quite noticeable at every point. And when this is seen, it is really hard to easily unsee again. Sorry about that. This, and a stuttering frame rate that occurs consistently when moving from puzzle to puzzle, damages an otherwise likeable style. However, lamentably, there are a few other smaller presentation errors sprinkled throughout, such as music volume cutting out harshly when a voice-over occurs. It would have been nice to see instances like this more ironed out.

Screenshot for Inked: A Tale of Love on Nintendo Switch

One element of Inked: A Tale of Love that does really damage the experience in a much more fundamental way are the controls. Button control especially just doesn't seem very well thought out. The B button on Nintendo Switch is used to cycle through inactive objects, of which are on-screen, can be interacted with and used for puzzle solutions, but the same button also has the function of replacing said objects back to where they originally resided, before any manipulation had occurred. This is extremely frustrating as it draws out puzzles laboriously, slowing progress down to a crawl even after a solution has already been figured out; the objects just need to stay where they are. This too can be said of control on the shoulder buttons, which rotate objects when active but also function to pick up objects when they're not. None of these actions are connected enough, logically speaking, for it to seem like mapping them to the same input is at all a good or even sane idea.

Simply moving the nameless hero around levels does this too. The left stick, though it offends to a much lesser extent, is used for character movement, as expected, but also the movement of objects, locking one operation in favour of the other. If there's a saving grace in all of the frustration, it is that good control isn't imperative to get something out of Inked: A Tale of Love, having no fail state, time or precision-type constraints. The egregious button control issues are fixed massively in handheld mode too on Switch, whereby the touchscreen is available to use as an extra input. Moving, rotating and placing objects is much, much simpler using the it, but it can be prone to some inconsistency, semi-regularly jumping objects out of place or sometimes not even registering an input entirely. This non-register problem occurred the very first time the touchscreen was attempted and created a sense of doubt in the early goings around whether there were any other, better, options for control. At odds with the games overall chill vibe is a profoundly and weirdly really heavy, prolonged vibration function that happens when doors are opened, or paths are formed. It is totally jarring.

Screenshot for Inked: A Tale of Love on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Dead, fountain pen shaped birds and big reveals are the main motivations to play Inked: A Tale of Love. There is a lot of good stuff here to like no question, particularly with some story beats, and the whole relaxed tone that embodies the experience, when it's not drawing out a vibration of two. It is hampered by some minor presentation issues, and, much worse, control issues that require the patience of a saint if playing in docked mode - but it really is unique to itself, except for perhaps maybe… Comix Zone? Like Gary Coleman, short and quite easy, but there is some replay value here too with collectible paintings that are scattered and hidden around each chapter. These paintings can be an added incentive to go back and enjoy the art; or perhaps it is the love, the sacrifice, muse, or obsession that one should pay heed to.

Also known as

Inked: A Tale of Love

Developer

Somnium Games

Publisher

Pixmain

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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