Bendy and the Ink Machine, developed by Joey Drew Studios and published by Rooster Teeth, is a first person horror experience with a heavy focus on exploring an abandoned art studio that was once in its prime for creating a cartoon around the titular Bendy character. Initially released episodically with PC players receiving the fifth and final chapter as recently as October 2018, Bendy and the Ink Machine oozes its way to console as a more complete package, with episodes flowing from one to the other without any sharp throwbacks to the title screen. Though the game does offer chapter select if you want to backtrack.
Players explore the warm sepia toned, heavily illustrated Joey Drew Studios as Henry Stein, a former employee who worked on the titular Bendy character’s cartoon 30 years prior. Henry has received a letter from his former coworker, Joey Drew, luring him back to the dilapidated studio. Bendy and the Ink Machine’s first chapter is fairly innocuous about the horrors lurking in the ink, but it doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the dark side as you run across cardboard cutouts of an overly cheerful looking cartoon demon standing in the center of an inky pentagram.
Most of the gameplay from Bendy and the Ink Machine focuses on exploring the animation studio, with some intriguing puzzles sprinkled about that further encourage players to explore in search of switches or useful items. It would be easy enough for the game to shine simply as a horror themed walking simulator, what with its perfectly dramatic lighting and unnerving atmosphere mixing adorable cartoon imagery with terrifying and beastly monsters. There are some odd smatterings of combat play thrown into the mix in later chapters that serve as Bendy and the Ink Machine’s weak spots, however. Henry’s movement in the game, while plenty fluid enough for exploration, is notably too sluggish for combat and often times it can take several swipes with your weapon to actually connect with an enemy. This can be forgivable when facing the slow, sulky searchers that rise from the ink and chase Henry through the various rooms of the studio. Later chapters, though, have faster and more dangerous foes to tackle, and these sections where you’re forced to defend yourself against a wave of inky beasts can be excessively frustrating.
While Bendy and the Ink Machine is an unapologetic horror game, there’s little to no gore and ink serves as a bit of a substitute for blood. There are some instances where we see other characters from the franchise in various morbid and otherwise terrifying states which makes the fact that the game has garnered a bit of a following with younger players a little astonishing. This change up in the game’s intended fan base becomes evident partly through the experience, and did have an affect on the final outcome. Thankfully, Joey Drew Studios were careful to see that they did not change the course of the game so dramatically that more hardcore fans would be put off by it, as the ending of Bendy and the Ink Machine is remains sufficiently satisfying.
Bendy and the Ink Machine’s run time is a bit on the shorter side, unless you find yourself stuck in those more frustrating combat scenarios for an extended period of time. The game’s puzzles are fairly easy to solve and can be sleuthed out in a few moments. It’s Bendy’s hidden content that makes the game worth revisiting as there are countless easter eggs such as a musical puzzle where you are rewarded with an achievement if you can gather a stage full of Bendy cutouts. There’s also a heaping helping of collectibles in the form of cans of Bacon Soup which are scattered around every chapter. If you’re so obliged to try and collect them all or discover any missed easter eggs you’ll be relieved to know that there is a chapter select feature so you’re not forced to start all over at the beginning.