InkSplosion review (Vita)

If you’re a Vita owner who keeps track of the latest releases for the platform, then you’ll probably have noticed that indie publisher Ratalaika has been very prolific in 2018. Since March, they’ve released Midnight Deluxe, League of Evil and Devious Dungeon, and now they’re coming out with InkSplosion. As before, they’re releasing it as a cross-buy title with the PS4 version included. Here’s our review, based mostly on the Vita version.

Looking at Ratalaika’s previous 2018 Vita games, InkSplosion stands out because it’s not a port of a game that was previously available on another system. It’s a relatively simple/bare bones arcade title that’s been inspired by twin stick shooters like geometry wars, with a visual style that’s like a blend of Atari 2600-era gameplay and Splatoon.

As with many titles from the era that inspired InkSplosion, the game just launches you right into the action. You view your little skull-shaped battle unit from above, and you can move with the left thumbstick while firing with a combination of the right stick and the right shoulder button. Doing so, you have to take out a group of four enemies that spawn before they overwhelm you – using a randomly selected weapon that’s valid only for that level.

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Within about 15 seconds, I had died and gotten my first two trophies – for dying and for killing my first enemy. I figured this was one of those games where the trophies come rolling in quickly, but I soon hit a bit of a difficulty spike. This was partly the game’s doing, and partly the trouble I had with the controls. What the game does well is alternate weapons, and some just aren’t as easy to work with as others, forcing you to rethink your strategies. Another thing the game does is have a (moving) barrier in the game that you can’t cross. Doing so costs you health – as does getting hit and using the slow motion mode (left trigger) to get you out of a tough spot.

I very quickly got into an “I can do better!” flow, but really struggled with the Vita controls in this title. Part of that was that aiming correctly, in a frantic level that’s always just the size of your screen and no bigger, just wasn’t as precise as I wanted it – mostly thanks to the Vita’s tiny thumbstick combined with the relatively small screen. The combination isn’t too forgiving, and the difference with the PS4 version (or Playstation TV, I’d imagine) is very noticeable.

What probably didn’t help was that InkSplosion’s control scheme requires you to hold down the right shoulder button while pressing the right thumbstick in the direction you want to shoot. Why a directional push wasn’t enough to fire is beyond me – I hope this can be included in an update, as it would make aiming on the Vita’s small screen far more comfortable and fun.

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In the end, pushing through does gain you access to the game’s two other modes on top of the ‘classic’ mode you start with. One is Arena and does away with the aforementioned barriers, while hard mode essentially revisits classic mode but makes it harder. Stick with it, and you’ll unlock the associates trophies within one or two hours – my brief session with the PS4 version suggests it’s quicker on that one, though I had been playing the Vita one for a while at that point.

Both versions feature an ink effect, perhaps not surprisingly so when looking at the title of the game. The colorful ink splashes that appear on screen when you and your enemies start shooting and killing do very little to affect gameplay, so they’re mostly a distracting visual gimmick that forces you to fight quickly or become lost in a sea of color. This is especially true on the Vita’s smaller screen, where the ink makes it harder to see things.

Once you get through all three game modes, there’s little reason to come back – there are no online leaderboards, and the action is too frantic to zone out to during a casual playing session. I had some fun with the game, but it needs a quick control update and a bit more content. Luckily, it’s a budget title so it won’t hurt your Playstation wallet too much.

Score: 5.0/10

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