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“Games as art.” We’ve all heard the phrase before. But what if we were to take it literally? That’s exactly what indie developer Zack Bell had in mind when he made his colourful platformer named INK.

INK has an interesting premise: it’s a simple 2D platformer where the world itself initially appears completely blank, but it soon becomes apparent that what you’re looking at is a scene wherein the foreground objects are the same colour as that of the background, essentially rendering them invisible. By moving around and double-jumping, you’re able to release small splotches of ink which coat your immediate surroundings in all the colours of the spectrum. The ability to generate ink is limitless, meaning that you’re free to explore and gradually reveal your surroundings. You’ve got endless lives, so dying isn’t especially punishing.

Broad strokes

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Other objects in the game world are able to deposit ink with similarly reckless abandon. Enemies in the form of wandering rectangles leave traces of ink wherever they move, while the death of any sprite will result in a colourful explosion. Through the interactions of your avatar and the game’s other mechanics, it’s not long before the playing field resembles an accident in a paint shop. The ink marks remain even after you and your enemies have respawned, making the world even more colourful and ensuring that you don’t need to stumble in the dark all over again should you accidentally perish.

Laying it on thick

It’s a cute and original idea, but don’t be fooled: INK is in reality a brutally difficult platformer which was obviously inspired by the ever-popular Super Meat Boy (a reference to this even appears as an Easter Egg in one of the levels). The first 30 or so levels are easy enough, but before long players are expected to draw upon their slickest platforming skills to surmount the increasingly challenging obstacles. This is especially true once turrets are introduced; these simple circular abominations fire homing missiles at the player that are considerably difficult to dodge. This, combined with the necessity of performing precision jumps, means that you’ll certainly have more than a few moments of frustration. It’s demanding, but doesn’t adopt the same hard-as-nails approach as, say, I Wanna Be The Guy.

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In contrast to the vein-popping difficulty, the musical score incorporates calm, relaxing piano melodies with some subtle effects mixed in. The sound effects are of the “bleep-‘n’-bloop” variety, no doubt as a tribute to the killer 8-bit games that serve as one of this title’s many inspirations.

INK has been greenlit on Steam and will be available for purchase soon, complete with achievements, trading cards, more levels, more modes and just the proverbial “more”. In the meantime, you can download the game for a minimum of $1 on itch.io. It’s only available for Windows but other platforms may be supported in the future. Check out the trailer below and prepare to paint the town red. And green. And blue. And yellow. And and and…

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