Freaking Inkies is a difficult game to explain, but let’s give it the old college try. Basically, it’s a shooting gallery game with objectives that change each level, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. How about this: if Freaking Inkies were a person, it’d be a really smart kid with ADHD, who accidentally ingested a bunch of psychedelic drugs.
In this game you shoot globs of paint at inkies, which are single-colored creatures that skitter randomly around the screen. To eliminate them, you must shoot them with paint that matches the color of their body. Sounds easy enough, but shooting is a little complicated. Red, yellow, and blue buttons line both sides of the screen. To shoot red paint, you tap both red buttons simultaneously. To shoot green paint, you tap a yellow and a blue button together. To shoot orange, you hit red and yellow together– you get the idea. If you hold the buttons down, you’ll charge up a larger glob of paint that’s unleashed when you let go.
Like fish in a barrel.
Aiming is done using tilt, and here we had a few issues. At the start of gameplay you’re asked to hold the device comfortably and tap the screen to calibrate the accelerometer. This works most of the time, but occasionally we’d end up not being able to move the crosshair in a certain direction. You can recalibrate at any time in the options menu, but that usually causes you to lose several seconds of gameplay, and that’s not something you want to do.
The challenge mode is the meat of the game, and in it you progress through 17 books (or worlds), each of which is made up of several chapters (levels). To complete a chapter, you have to achieve the stated objective, and here’s where the game gets creative. In some levels all you have to do is take down a certain number of yellow inkies. In others, each inky has a number above its head, and math problems appear on the screen. To win, you have to shoot the inkies whose numbers correspond to the correct answers. Other levels mimic the games Space Invaders or Simon Says, and that’s only scratching the surface. The sheer variety of objectives is impressive.
Unfortunately, each level is also timed. We realize that this is necessary to make the game challenging, but the difficulty ramps far too high far too quickly. The result is that at a certain point fairly early in the game, the timer becomes a source of maddening frustration that made us want to break our beloved iDevices in half.
We’re all for a challenging game as long as it feels fair when we lose. But more often than not in Freaking Inkies, we felt cheated. The inkies scatter randomly, shooting the correct color of paint can be tricky, the objectives get more and more complex, and the timers get shorter. Compounding the problem is that you only get three lives to beat each book. If you run out, you have to go back to the beginning, which quickly became something we dreaded doing.
Aside from the tear-your-hair-out difficulty, the game has a lot going for it. Plus+ integration provides leaderboards and a boatload of achievements. A free play mode allows you to compare your skills with the rest of the world. And the high production values and creativity that went into this game are obvious.
So it’s unfortunate that we found the game more aggravating than fun. We’ll take a challenging game any day over one that gives you no resistance, but Freaking Inkies feels more like a test of patience than a form of entertainment. Until and unless the developer smooths out the difficulty, we suggest you hold off on pulling the trigger on this one.