I recall how, when distracted during less enthralling elementary school lectures, I would sketch hypothetical planes upon my loose-leaf for hedgehogs and plumbers to traverse. I thought I was alone in this habit, but apparently Spelgrim had doodle-space in his composition books dedicated to this pursuit as well. The result is his new paper parkour platformer Running Ink.
You control an inky avatar thrust into a graph-paper world of ledges, cliffs, and walls. Controls are standard: the [left] and [right] arrow keys make you run, [down] makes you slide and roll, and [space] makes you jump across gaps and off of walls. The goal of each level is simply reaching the exit as quickly as possible. There are no enemies to impede your progress save gravity and momentum, but in completing each of the eighteen levels, you'll get to know both very well. Building up speed may make jumps longer and walls easier to climb, but collide with a surface too fast and you'll be reduced to a literal splatter. Good luck.
Analysis: We've seen similar aesthetics in games before (such as Ragdoll Cannon and Rock-n-LOL), but instead of pencil scribblings upon a faux-paper background, this platformer is uniquely inky, with drips and smears a-plenty. It makes for a visual style that is stark yet fluid, and for a lively protagonist that is a joy to control. He's a grunting, streaky, jazzy combination of Fancy Pants Man and Sonic the Hedgehog and the way he's animated drew me right in. Clearly a lot of effort went to his design and sound effects, and it pays off (though the trail of ink he leaves behind seemed poorly placed on occasion). Even failure didn't seem so bad when accompanied by such a delightful splat. Special note must be given to the music provide by Salkin: it's appropriately simple but brassy and drips with cool.
As the work draws inspiration from free-running, momentum control and quick reactions are vital to game-play, for better or worse. While it's certainly frustrating to go back and repeatedly attempt a jump you didn't quite perfectly time initially, once you're in a racing groove, the fun clicks on. It's true that certain elements of the control scheme didn't quite work (trying to fall into a roll often just sped me into a wall at high speed. Cue repeated splats.), but overall the engine is up to the task.
At first you'll have to spend a bit of time just running and jumping around to get used to the mechanics (and, again, to marvel at the animation), but there are eighteen levels to beat. The levels are more than a little repetitive and aimless, but go by so fast that you might not notice (though I was saddened to see a lack of a level editor). The only thing you race against is a time-trial clock, which takes away some of the urgency from the proceedings, and the non-linearity makes it hard to know where exactly you should be going. Level Twelve in particular featured a number of blind drops that required a bit of frustrating trial and error to get through. Still, the game has the solid sense of exploration that is the barest essence of platforming, and that is what really counts.
It doesn't have a huge amount of depth and it's a bit short, but Running Ink's visuals and gameplay make for a fun well to dip a pen in for a half-hour. Hopefully another release in the same style is on the horizon.