Horror takes shape in many forms. Some people are scared of serial killers, some are afraid of ghosts, while others may fear the darkness. Imagine being terrified of an animated character akin to old-school Disney mascots? That’s what theMeatly Games set out to do with Bendy & the Ink Machine, and boy, did they succeed.
Bendy and the Ink Machine puts players in the role of Henry Stein, a man who returns to Joey Drew Studios, after his former employer, invites Henry back to show him something. That particular something is the titular ink machine. After finding the items to make the device functional, all hell breaks loose, and he’s subjected to horrifying visions as well as physical forms of characters from the Bendy cartoons. The studio is known for animated shorts starring Bendy, a cute devil mascot that had mischievous adventures with his friends and love interest. The entirety of the game takes place in the sepia-tinted Joey Drew studios. It’s grimy, unsettling, and the halls are full of terror throughout the five chapter storyline.
Bendy & the Ink Machine feels like two separate games. There’s an adventure full of puzzles, and then there’s the horror game. The opening chapters feel like the former while the latter is a mixture of both. What I love about the game is the constant sense of unease. Every step felt unpredictable. You never knew what was lurking around the next corner. There are plenty of jump-scares, and monsters that try to kill Henry.
Fear the demon. Avoid the demon
It isn’t until Henry is told about the Ink Demon that Bendy & the Ink Machine becomes a genuinely terrifying experience. It’s a hulking creature that makes the game feel like Outlast. Once the Ink Demon sees Henry, he must run to a Little Miracle Station to hide. The demon is fast, which means there is little room for error. His attacks instantly kill Henry as well, which means every action is crucial.
I let out plenty of screams while roaming the corridors of Joey Drew Studios. When the Ink Demon wasn’t chasing me, there were other monsters that I needed to kill to ensure my survival. Through defending myself was vital, making noise attracted the hulking foe. There’s technically a risk-reward system that asks the player an important question. What will you do to survive? Attacking enemies is cool, but is it worth summoning the demon?
A story that sticks the landing!
Many games fail when it comes to the narrative. The stories start strong but fizzle out towards the end. Bendy & the Ink Machine kept me hooked from the moment Henry Stein entered the studio until the credits rolled. There are a few cutscenes throughout the five chapters, but audiotapes provide more context into what’s actually going on. Though you’ll get the point A to point B narrative through natural progression, these tapes (similar to the ones in Bioshock) bring light to something more intriguing and thought-provoking.
Without spoiling why, an instance late in the game made me start playing over again. There are threads to the narrative that begin to piece itself together. While I don’t think we’re meant to know everything about Bendy & the Ink Machine, the story is worth talking about to others who have completed it. There haven’t been many games in 2018 with a story that stuck with me, and that shows just how much writers Thomas Field and Steven Andrews have crafted a fascinating world with a gripping mystery.
It’s not all fun and games
Bendy & the Ink Machine suffers from a combat system that just doesn’t work. The game is a first-person horror experience with melee combat. Unfortunately, the action feels lackluster. The hit detection is off at times, often missing enemies despite being directly in front of them. During battle heavy sections, my attacks would go through enemies and not deal damage. Because of this, sections that forced fighting were more tedious than fun. Another section that bothered me required Henry to fetch items. In fact, most of the chapter was a fetch quest. The constant backtracking ruined a lot of the immersion, despite it moving the plot forward.
There was one bug that I encountered during my time with the game. One area had a character glitch and I was unable to move. I stood there for minutes and nothing happened. The fix required me to relaunch the game and finish a particularly tricky section again. Other than that, the game runs wonderfully, without a hitch.
Conclusion: An unforgettable horror game marred by a few bumps along the way.
Bendy & the Ink Machine is a game that hooked me in from the opening moments, and never let me go until it was over. theMeatly Games won me over with a story about a man caught in the horror of revisiting his old workplace. As someone who was raised on Steamboat Willie and those classic Disney shorts, Bendy & the Ink Machine made me feel nostalgic, while scared of this new mascot at the same time.
Bendy & the Ink Machine, while rated T, features very dark tones that would make more mature games blush. It’s scary without being explicit, and that’s something commendable. Nowadays, horror developers think that gruesome means scary. That’s not the case. I love that Bendy & the Ink Machine, while full of jumpscares, relies on an entertaining and gripping story over violence as a way to give players a horrific experience.
The game has its faults. The backtracking is annoying, and the combat is overwhelming, but the positives outweigh the bad. The visual aesthetic is fantastic, the narrative is engaging, the world is unsettling, and the characters are fascinating. I enjoyed my time learning about Bendy, Boris, Alice Angel, Joey Drew, and Henry. The first outing for theMeatly Games left me wanting more. Whether that’s more adventures in the Bendy universe or something else, I can’t wait for the studio’s next outing. Horror fans need to invite Bendy into their lives. It’s an experience you won’t forget.
Release Date: November 20th, 2018
No. Of Players: 1
Developer: theMeatly Games
Publisher: Rooster Teeth Games
A review code was provided by the publisher.