When I first heard about Bendy and the Ink MachineI assumed it would be a quirky platformer with some cool 1940’s style animations, a-la CupheadAs soon as I played through the first chapter, it was quickly realized how far from this the game actually was. Bendy is a horror title filled with puzzles and combat in the first-person perspective. Think Bioshock meets old-school Disney to get a feel for how this plays out. Joey Drew Studios has set out to create one of the most ambitious horror titles while also looking aesthetically appealing. It’s a great concept, however, its combat, objectives, and stealth sections hold it back enough to keep this from being a stellar title.

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review

Creepy Concept

Players are thrown into the shoes of Henry, a lead animator for Joey Drew Studios, as he explores the abandoned studio and is confronted by the demons of his past. In the opening moments, the feeling of dread and mystique overcomes the user as traversals are made in the level. It’s an interesting concept that gets creepier as the game continues through this first chapter. The scare-factor is definitely there in the beginning, but as things progress, it fades away and struggles to find its way back. Jump scares are sparse and aren’t enough to make someone jump out of their seats. There’s more of an eery ambiance that overcomes every location rather than in-your-face horror.

Levels take place in abandoned sections of Joey Drew Studios. Each area unravels the story and tells what happened to this once prosperous animation company. Despite the fact that levels appear empty, it’s easy to picture the locations for what they once were. While Henry is trying to piece together what Joey Drew wanted him to see, players can imagine the conditions of the studio during its prime which is a definite highlight. The narrative is incredibly intriguing and will have gamers wanting to find out how it ends. Every character has its role to play from both the past and present which helps create multiple layers in the story. Audio devices are scattered around levels to help portray the emotions of the voice actors behind the hellish characters and the employees of the studio. All of this helps the game feel to be a bit more grounded in our reality and can contribute to the title’s growing popularity.

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review

Lackluster Gameplay

There’s more to this than simply walking around and exploring Joey Drew Studios. Combat makes an appearance, although, it is a bit lackluster. Enemies begin to spawn in chapter 2, but attacking doesn’t feel as well done as it should. Hitboxes are small and require the player to get too close for comfort in order to defeat them. On top of that, there are only melee weapons that can be used. A ranged weapon, like a gun or slingshot, would help make lengthy combat sequences feel more fair and less of a risk. Sometimes, enemies would get stuck on other character models or items which made it harder to try and hit them to trigger the next wave.

Stealth sections were also present, but they never felt risky or dangerous. If the player is seen and has to run away, simply entering a hiding spot immediately turns the AI around as if they never saw them. However, if the player is caught then they spawn at the nearby checkpoint with everything in tow, nothing is lost from death. Going deep into an area to find an item can be quickly made into a suicide attempt to just spawn all the way back at the beginning. It’s easy to exploit the game’s unintelligent AI but there are some saving graces. Certain character models contribute to the frightening aesthetics that surround this title. The few boss battles that are there do feel intense and make up for lengthy areas of the game.

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review

Tedious Objectives

Joey Drew Studios’ recent release also features puzzles and objectives to traverse through the story. These prove to be one of the weakest points of the game because sometimes they simply just don’t make sense. The first puzzle encountered tasks players with finding six random objects to turn on the ink machine which powers the whole studio. Chapter 2 feels the most well thought out and contains the best sense of flow in the title. After this, it starts to unravel quite a bit, especially in the following chapter. Chapter 3 is the biggest hump to get over, in terms of its length and what to do. This is where players must perform a “grocery list” of tasks to progress, yet they feel tedious and provide that feeling of “why am I doing this?” Luckily, the story helps drive players to that final cutscene despite these hurdles.

Chapter length feels both too short and too drawn out, it doesn’t find a fair balance between the two of these. Henry’s adventure can easily be completed in under four hours, but individual chapters can range in how long they take. The initial and final chapters can be finished in just under a half-hour while chapters two, three, and four may take longer. Its episodic based structure is great to help tell the story and set up cliffhangers but also makes certain areas feel rushed. For its $30 price tag on the Switch, it’s tough to justify, but there is a lot of heart that can be found in this title.

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review

Nintendo Switch Version/Parent’s Guide

Bendy and the Ink Machine runs smoothly in both handheld and docked modes of the Nintendo Switch, little to no graphical stutters occurred. No other exclusive features are present in this version of the game, but upon completion, an Archives mode and New Game+ type of mode appears. Archives mode never did load for me, but it is supposed to contain the character models from every stage of development. New Game+ allows users to run through the game a second time with a new tool that helps uncover hidden secrets.

Parents looking to pick this title up for their children should know that there are references to religion and ritualistic practices. It is also a horror title, so jumpscares do make an appearance, but kids have been enjoying this type of style in other games. Combat isn’t bloody or filled with gore either. Once an enemy is hit they spew ink rather than blood, so it’s more along the lines of cartoon violence. Mild language is used but characters aren’t dropping F-bombs every chance they get. These are characters rooted in poor working conditions and a surreal environment, meaning they are reactionary but not too explicit. The developers have stated this wasn’t intended as a children’s game but it has received a large following among them since its release. Bendy is rated T for Teen, but its content is a bit mild making it easy for younger kiddos to enjoy.

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review

Bendy and the Ink Machine is such an interesting premise that was thoroughly enjoyed throughout the game’s duration. Uncovering Henry Stein’s nightmares and the ultimate fate of Joey Drew Studios is an absolute joy and will keep players invested all the way to its conclusion. It’s a title that can be well enjoyed despite its flaws and shortcomings. Playing it on the Nintendo Switch also feels a bit better thanks to its smooth framerate in handheld mode, as well as docked. The combat, stealth, and objectives are a bit lackluster but the narrative and world-building help make up for it. Bendy may end up becoming a cult classic in the years to come, and can hopefully garner other titles grounded in the game’s universe.

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review (Nintendo Switch)
Bendy and the Ink Machine has a solid foundation, but is held back by lacking gameplay and a short length. Despite its flaws, it is a fun title and has a lot of heart within it.
Overall Score7.5
Pros
  • Creepy Atmosphere
  • Interesting Concept
  • Deep World Building
Cons
  • Stale Combat
  • Low Stakes Stealth Sections
  • Short Length
7.5Good
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