Bendy and the Ink Machine
Bendy and the Ink Machine
Game Reviewed: Bendy and the Ink Machine
Publisher: Kindly Beast
Developer: Kindly Beast, Rooster Teeth Games
Reviewer: Naomi Norbez
Platform(s): PC, Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch
Category: Survival horror
ESRB Rating: T
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There’ve been two games of recent memory that look back at old cartoons—by coincidence, both are indie projects that made it big. One of them, Cuphead explored them with a side-scrolling shooter, using its gameplay to broadcast beautiful animation in a 1930s style. The other one, Bendy and the Ink Machine, is the other game we’ll be exploring today—instead of showing beautiful animation, it shows a decrepit animation studio overrun by monsters.
In this game, a man named Henry returns to Joey Drew Animation studio at the request of his former employer and finds the place has changed in strange ways. The employees are either dead or mad, and the main character of the studio, Bendy, has been brought to life by a mysterious ink machine.
Bendy was released in five individual chapters, and eventually became a big hit, loved by people of all ages. But is it good for your kids? Let’s journey to Joey Drew Animation Studios and find out.
What Parents Need to Know
The player sometimes has to fight ink creatures and cartoon characters. The violence is not graphic during gameplay, and is cartoonish in nature; when killed, enemies turn into ink puddles. Some of the cutscenes get a little more gruesome though, including a scene where a character rips another’s head off, but it’s not detailed and is more cartoonish in nature.
Some mild language here and there.
The character of Bendy is a demon, with his opposite being Alice Angel; these characters are key throughout the series, and Bendy is the main antagonist. The game is centered on Bendy the “Ink Demon” taking over the studio, and the various employees responding to his presence.
I was pleased with the amount of options in this game, including subtitles. My main problem with the game is that it’s very dark—in the literal sense, though it’s also dark in its content—but the brightness can be adjusted. Though I would have liked more options for the controls, especially since Bendy doesn’t take up too many buttons on a console controller.
Also, there are a lot of flashing lights in this game, which doesn’t bode well for epileptic players.
The Switch version is also a bit wonky; it apparently has/had game-breaking bugs, but I didn’t experience those during my play-through. However, I did have visual glitches come up at various times.
In addition, the game has been very scaled down to be playable on the Switch, which rendered a lot of text blurry and, all too often, unreadable. It’s bizarre to play Skyrim just fine on the console and return to Bendy barely able to read mission messages.
The atmosphere in this game is fantastic, one of the best I’ve experienced in a horror game so far. The art, music, and sound design all come together to create a haunted animation studio. The game design holds it back from being perfect, but I’ll discuss that more at the end
A Child’s Perspective:
Young children will probably be frightened by this game due to its spooky atmosphere. Older kids who like horror and/or animation will likely be sucked into the world of Bendy.
I went into Bendy with good expectations. It’s an indie game that made it big, and people were hooked by its spooky premise and atmosphere. The game has a huge fanbase, and plenty of people love it. Unfortunately, I won’t be one of them.
Like I said, the atmosphere here is fantastic. I love the sepia tone throughout the whole game, and the audial design is the best part of this experience, with groaning factory gears and beautifully spooky voice acting. But the worst part of this game is—well, the gameplay, which drags the whole thing down.
The combat plays like a dull mobile game—you just wack enemies with your weapon you hold until they plop to the ground. Every single time, with no change. The only weapon that feels slightly better to use is the axe, but it’s only a minor improvement from the rest. The other weapons all feel pretty bad, and I struggled to get the rhythm for swinging them, even hours in.
The game design starts out pretty bad but gets better as the series goes on. In Chapter 1 and 2, the maps are grueling labyrinths where every door looks the same, and I circled back on old areas repeatedly. The later chapters are better, and though I did get lost, I got lost much less, which is good. However, a terrible trend from the first two chapters continues in the later ones: unclear player goals.
If you play the game with “Hints” on, you will get a brief note whenever a character gives you a new objective, and the specific location of where to go. If you don’t have Hints on, good luck, because the game barely ever tells you where to go, and sometimes exact goals were unclear to me. For a video game with so many tools at its disposal—characters, gameplay, etc.—this is, frankly, unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to read hints to know what to do next.
The main character of Henry is a blank slate, which, especially for a horror game, is a huge flaw. He barely talks at all, and just walks about doing missions for various characters, never commenting on the strange environment he’s in or the creatures he’s encountering. Why he goes along with the quests he’s given, or doesn’t try to escape the animation studio, is never explained in a satisfying way. Because of this, the game is brought down substantially—if the main character doesn’t seem to care about anything here, why should I? While there are some things near the end that slightly explain his actions, it shouldn’t take five chapters to motivate a player—that should start from chapter one.
All in all, I’m honestly baffled the game is so big when it’s, to me, a terrible game. But the best parts of it—the story, the atmosphere, the sound design—really do help cover up the bad design. There are so many environmental details to appreciate, and a lot of stories to see and ponder. People love it because of its lore, not because of how it plays, and that I understand. And even though I’m not a fan, I do feel glad for the game’s independent creators for making it big with Bendy.
Give it a try and see for yourself. But beware the Ink Demon. . .
Naomi Norbez has been making, playing, and critiquing games since she was a kid. In her free time she makes text adventures, draws comics, and watches birds. She hopes you find her reviews helpful and values any thoughts on them you'd like to share.