In my youth, I played a lot of video games. To be fair, I still do, but nowhere near the volume that I did in high school and college. With the added responsibilities of being an adult with having to work, pay bills, put in effort into basic hygiene and health, try to maintain some semblance of a social life, and everything else, there just is not a lot of hours in the day to be able to do everything I want to. And, frankly, with more limited time, I tend to gravitate toward film, television, books, and other media with less necessary investment to complete or engage with. I don’t have to put in thirty plus hours into a novel or movie before it starts getting good or to be “into” the media. Not knocking the interests or medium, simply stating why I do not play video games as much as I used to.
This is also why I have played shorter, indie, or at least not massive AAA, titles more recently. Now, I still enjoy playing some big franchises: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, etc. However, I’ll usually play those across several weeks, if not months, of time whenever the mood hits. More often than not, I’ll play a quick, shorter game that I’ve seen or heard good things about. Again, not a lot of time on my hands with everything I do, so I have a few reviewers/podcasters/YTers/etc. that I follow and actually listen to when it comes to media recommendations (also plan to have a post in the future about the discourse and just utter stupidity around reviewing).
One game that I recently played, and actually finished, is Bendy and the Ink Machine. It is an episodic game that fully released in 2018 for all major consoles and was published by RoosterTeeth Games which was how the game came into my orbit to begin with. I have been, and continue to be, a longtime fan and supporter of RoosterTeeth Productions. Even though I am a fan of their podcasts and narrative work, I had some trepidation concerning the game because it is a very different medium and translating and working successfully in one does not necessarily mean success in another. Thankfully, turned out I did not have to worry.
The game, and story, is broken into five chapters focusing on the story of retired animator Henry Stein returning to his former animation studio at the request of his former friend and employer, Joey Drew. Upon arriving, Stein finds the studio abandoned and some sort of “ink machine” installed in the facility that appears to be broken. The first objective, that basically acts as a tutorial and introduction into this odd world, is to get the machine up and running. While attempting to do so, Stein comes across notes and audio recordings that suggest Joey Drew had been engaging in bizarre occult practices and had seemed to deify the studio mascot and star, Bendy. Once he gets the ink machine up and running, Stein is attacked by a demonic looking ink creature that resembles Bendy. Stein tries to flee and escape to no avail and wakes up in the lower floors of the studio after seeing various visions and hallucinations. From there, we see the mystery of what transpired at Joey Drew Studios and why Stein was brought back through audio recordings, meetings and dialogue with intriguing characters, and ultimately a showdown with the initial “Ink Demon” that attacked us at the beginning of the game.
The narrative of the game was well executed and a pretty good treatise on the nature of creative work and creating a larger than life, and yourself, entity that became part of a corporate structure that must constantly be fed and produced to continue. Was it a huge analogy for the experiences of RoosterTeeth creatives? Maybe…but that is more conjecture than anything else. Really, the appeal of the game, at least to me, is that there was a full, fulfilling narrative video game experience in under six hours depending on how much exploring you want to do and how good you were at figuring out some pretty basic puzzles. Add to that some very interesting aesthetic and design with stellar voice acting and this game was well worth the investment even more so with the low current cost of the game.
So, while Halloween has passed, a short, fun survival horror game is just the thing to get back into video games if you have been away for awhile or simply want a quick experience with a decent amount of replayability.