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Bendy and the Ink Machine is an episodic survival horror game originally released for PC last year. Developed and published by indie studio theMeatly Games, Bendy and the Ink Machine quickly gained a cult following and was subsequently released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. The game places you into a once thriving animation studio that has had to deal with some strange occurrences since the arrival of a new ink machine.
The story of Bendy and the Ink Machine is told over five chapters and puts players into the shoes of Henry Stein, an animator who upon reviving a mysterious letter from his former boss Joey Drew, returns to the animation studio he worked at 30 years ago. Joey Drew Animation Studios was once a thriving studio producing hit shows centering on their flagship character, Bendy. When he arrives back at the studio, instead of finding an animation studio at the top of its game, Henry finds a long-time abandoned building flooded with ink. Through further investigation of the studio, Henry soon discovers that he is not alone and must fight for survival against the nightmarish cartoon characters that have seemingly been brought to life by the titular ink machine.
Bendy and the Ink Machine has a very unique and almost innocent-looking art style, which no doubt is what initially draws many players in. The game is set in the early 1960s but the visual aesthetics are reminiscent of what you would see in cartoons from the ‘20s and ‘30s, creepy yet nothing dangerous about it. A nice touch considering Joey Drew Studios was, after all, a top contender during the golden age of cartoons.
While the visuals of the game look like an old Disney cartoon, that connection goes no further. Everything from the blind corners in the levels, the flickering lights to the tense silence are all there to put you on edge and give you a sense of dread. While there is a combat element to the game, much of the gameplay involves exploring the many floors and areas of the studio which works very well in the game’s favour as the blind corners are perfect for hiding what is lurking in the corridors.
The puzzle element of the game is nicely tied into the exploration. The tasks you are given usually involve finding and collecting items in certain areas as well as looking for clues and hints to other puzzles such as sequences and times challenges.
One of the first things you will notice about the game is the inspiration it takes from other games. The way in which the story is told, through both character interactions as well as voice recordings is very similar to the systems used in BioShock (2007), and like BioShock, Bendy and the Ink Machine also uses these voice recordings to provide details about the world in which it is set. In the later chapters when you begin to uncover the nightmarish creatures that you must face, inspiration from the likes of Slender: The Eight Pages (2012) sets in. After you have had a face to face encounter with the Bendy, the ink demon himself, you are made aware of the fact that he is still in the building and is coming for you. Unfortunately, in these instances there is no way to attack Bendy, so if you spot him the only way to avoid death is to outrun him or hide.
The game does a near perfect job of creating an eerie environment that alone puts you on edge, but most of the game’s scare-factor relies on jumpscares, and there’s plenty of them. This however, never seems to get old or too predictable. Of course, there are the typical jumpscare res that you know are coming, but you also get little scares involving a cardboard cutouts of Bendy that will leaving you smiling and feeling ridiculous for even jumping.
Bendy and the Ink Machine is a great little horror game and perfect for those who don’t necessarily play horror games. You are constantly on edge throughout the game and even though you will be surprised and how scary it is, you never feel too scared to stop playing.