Art of Ink (DSiWare)

Game Review

Art of Ink Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

Awesome ink

All right, let’s be serious for just a minute. Who here hasn’t dreamed about the glitzy and glamorous lifestyle that comes with being a tattoo artist? Well, now you can finally fulfill your fantasy with the release of Art of Ink from Sabarasa for DSiWare. Though it’s obviously not a completely accurate representation of life in a tattoo parlour, Art of Ink does show its players the finer points of being an artist and dealing with finicky customers.

When first starting a new game you will be prompted to create a new profile, after which you'll be taken immediately to the menu screen where you will be faced with a bevy of options including Career Mode, Free Mode, Achievements, Tutorial, Options and Help. Career Mode is where the bulk of the game lies, but it is definitely in the interests of new players to explore the other available options before jumping right in.

In Free Mode you can choose to tattoo different designs without it interrupting your Career, good practice if you don't feel quite comfortable enough with your skills to take them to Career Mode. At first the number of designs that you can tattoo in Free Mode is limited, but your collection will grow as you progress further in your career. Like Free Mode, Tutorial is available to help you out before you take on Career Mode, and while this is helpful, you still get a sort of tutorial when you first begin Career Mode, so this might be an option to skip.

When you first begin a new career you will be given the choice of three characters to play as: Aaron, Amber and Trent. Each character has a set of statistics including charisma, care, ability and acceptance, and all of their statistics start off differently. Choosing your character depends on what stats you would like to start off with, or if you don’t care then it’s all about the aesthetic appeal of the character him/herself. Once your character has been selected, then it’s time to start your career as a tattoo artist’s apprentice. This is about where the game takes a step back from reality in that rather than cleaning up after the artist himself or doing other grunt work, you are immediately given the task of dealing with customers and then doing the actual tattooing yourself.

When a customer enters the shop it is your job to interview them and figure out what tattoo design is best for them. After asking them a series of questions and discovering clues to help you make a more educated guess on what design they will like, then you must present them with a design. You have three guesses to choose the right design before the customer decides for themselves — choose the right design and you’ll get a better tip when the job is finished.

The actual tattooing process involves you tracing the tattoo on the touch screen while holding down L or R in order to make the tattoo gun work. If you touch the screen while not holding down either button you'll wipe excess ink off the customer with a towel. Each customer has a discomfort bar at the top of the screen and a different tolerance to pain: paying attention to the discomfort bar is crucial if you want to finish the job without harming your customer. Rubbing the excess ink off a customer will reduce their discomfort, but simply waiting for it to go down works as well. How well you are paid at the end of a job is determined by how much pain you may have caused your customer, how much time it took you to complete the tattoo and whether or not you suggested a tattoo that they enjoy. The better you do, the more money you will receive, of course.

Between every few customers you will have to face off against a boss. While the gameplay does not change during these face-offs (you still have to tattoo someone) the point of these challenges is to complete a tattoo that the boss requests under a certain amount of time. Completing these jobs will, as with other jobs, get you more money to use in your shop.

As the game progresses, you will begin to get customers who request larger and more complicated tattoos. You will unlock different sized needle tips for colouring in thicker lines, and even a colour palette for filling in certain tattoos. You will also unlock an inventory of healing items to help reduce your customer’s discomfort while administering the tattoo. All in all, the game ends up playing like a different take on Trauma Center in which you give tattoos rather than perform medical procedures, but this isn’t a bad thing at all. With the implementation of the interviewing system and the actual act of tattooing, the game ends up being a pretty fun and unique experience.

Eventually you will be able to open up your own tattoo shop for which you can buy different pieces of furniture to decorate the store. While you never actually see the things that you buy, your stats will increase or decrease depending on which pieces you have purchased.

Each campaign should take you around three hours to complete, but the game is set up in such a way that you can play through each campaign in each of your different save files. To play as a different character you do not need to create a second profile, but simply have to switch characters and start from the beginning of their campaign. The game keeps track of your percentage of the game that you have completed, and to achieve 100% you must complete each character’s campaign under the same save file.

Not only does Art of Ink play well, but it also looks and sounds great. While there are no actual animations, the stills of the characters are vibrant and detailed and really show off the art that the DSi is capable of displaying. The soundtrack is a mixture of heavy guitar riffs and plucky tunes that fit the mood of the game perfectly. Though the soundtrack is very limited, it is such a perfect fit for the game that it does not seem to take away from it at all.

With the inclusion of free mode in which you can test your skills and constantly improve, the replay value of Art of Ink immediately goes up. Also included is an achievement system in which you are awarded for doing certain tasks such as presenting 10 correct tattoos to your customers or defeating all of the bosses. While you don’t actually receive anything in game for acquiring achievements, the sense of accomplishment will help some gamers to replay the game.


If you’re looking for a true-to-life tattooing experience, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed with Art of Ink. If, however, you’re looking for a fun and frantic simulation game that lets you live the life of a tattoo artist, then you may want to check this one out. It’s innovative and interesting enough to hold your attention, and despite the somewhat repetitive gameplay, it never feels like a chore.

From the web

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User Comments (31)



Noire said:

There's a distinct lack of tube-scrubbing going on here. DX

I am kind of intrigued though, might have to get this come May 3DS update...



Pod said:

Sounds very thoroughly produced for being such a simple concept, I love that sort of thing. Thanks for the review!

Also, I lol'd at Markus having a Phoenix tattood.



moosa said:

I hope we don't have too many kiddos getting their hands on this.



SyFyTy said:

No tube scrubbing because most (not all) tat studios today use desposable tubes.



theblackdragon said:

@moosa: it's more like Guitar Hero for tattooing than anything else, and about as true to life. This is no more not-for-kids than watching Miami/LA Ink or any of the other myriad of tattooing shows available on TV right now, and even so, why does it matter? Tattooing is as valid a profession as anything else, and if this lights some kid's fire, then more power to 'em if they start refining their drawing skills and taking art-based electives to help them in their future career. My only potential problem with this game is (like the aforementioned TV shows) that it does nothing to emphasize the importance of working clean and avoiding cross-contamination. it doesn't show proper licensing, shop/booth setup requirements by law, the little tattoo machines (yes, they're 'machines', not 'guns') they use for pointers and 'next' buttons aren't bagged, and Amber's already got her own shop open and I haven't seen a health inspector yet. It's cashing in on the 'tattoo artist = rock star' mentality, and that's not what it's about IRL at all.

Anyway, I can appreciate the simplification they had to do to make this a game people would want to play. Being an apprentice is exhausting work, and cutting out basics like sweeping/mopping, being the shop gofer, and having to scrub tubes were probably quite necessary, though it's kinda disappointing to not even see these things referenced (at least not in Amber's profile, but i haven't yet started the other two, so who knows). Also, the translation is a bit off in places, idk if they rushed it or what.

This game is also vastly different from tattooing IRL. Some things are the same, like having to hold something down in order to activate the machine (L/R = footswitch) and wiping down the skin being tattooed every so often to remove excess ink, but you can seriously go through and just scribble over the lines/colored areas to fill them in. Precision is not required at all. To put it bluntly, this is no more going to show anything viable for tattooing than Guitar Hero/Rock Band will show you anything about how to play an instrument or DDR/ITG/PIU will show you anything about how to dance. On one hand, it's probably for the best, but on the other, the lack of anything true to life is just disappointing.

Also, what's up with these unlockable things to improve a client's comfort? Candy is one thing, sure, but aspirin? Are you serious? Not only are you at risk of being accused of prescribing medication without a license, aspirin's a blood thinner for crying out loud! D:

I would say perhaps the only somewhat realistic part about this game is the customers. They usually come in whining about this, that, or the other, and most of them do come in woefully unprepared regarding what kind of design they want. I say 'somewhat', however, because the overwhelming majority of the people in this game getting tattooed are caucasian or light-skinned in general, or at least that's how their skin will present to you while it's being tattooed (funny how a purple-skinned dude apparently has skin of a creamy peach color for you to tattoo, lol). And again, I know they had to make the game fun, but even when tattooing the apparently very light mocha skin of the one African-American girl i've come across so far, the chosen design (where light yellows and a pale blue play a majority of the color) would not work on her skin IRL at all. There's also designs with giant fields of bright white, and white doesn't hold up like that. in these cases we would have had to suggest different colors... just another nudge toward the 'lol this would not fly at all' side.

overall, i think i might've enjoyed this game quite a bit had i not had any training of my own, but as it stands personally, it's cute, but nothing compelling. Sabarasa certainly presented it well for what it is, and they did a decent job making a game out of tattooing, but idk, some things you just don't make games about, y'know? it's one thing if you screw up and play the wrong riff on a guitar or do the wrong dance move, but it's another when you screw up on a tattoo or worse, subject your clients to disease with improper cross-contamination prevention. Can't just wipe that away.



Raylax said:

Lol, I saw the review and thought "suprised tbd didn't review this." Then got to the comments and discovered you did anyway



SilverBaretta said:

Holy trash cans, tbd, I think you just set the record for longest comment on the site.

Anyway, nice review, it actually sounds genuinely original.



bboy2970 said:

Great review! I will definitely be getting this game when the eShop launches. I've sworn off of any DSiWare purchases until that time!



theblackdragon said:

@Raylax: my thoughts on the game are biased toward the reality of tattooing. you can't really make any judgment regarding how much fun you'd have playing it based on what i've said, i don't think, so my comment isn't really all that valid in review terms.

@SB: pff, i've seen longer :3



jdarrell said:

@tbd: In the later levels, personally for non-bosses I would've liked to see them zoom out a bit (instead of doing larger tattoos). This would've put more focus on precision inking instead of the other stuff. (I haven't played enough to fully comment though). And you could buy one of those cheap 100-packs of multi-coloured styluses if you want cross-contamination realism



theblackdragon said:

@jdarrell: there's a lot more to cross-contamination prevention than that — how are you preparing their skin before the tattoo? where are your sharps going? are you properly bagging/covering your wire(s)/machine(s)/table(s)/etc.? what kind of surface(s) will you be laying everything out onto? What kinds of bottles are you using, are they autoclavable in case of an accident? are you using an ultrasonic, and if so, how are you choosing to use it — with disposable containers for rinsing or are you using it to put your tubes into after every tattoo and cleaning it out at the end of the night along with them? and for that matter, are you using disposable tubes or steel? How are you bandaging your client afterward? what will you use to disinfect your station while breaking it down?

and there's more — i'm not even going into blood-borne pathogens training, local laws and regulations for tattoo artists, and clean-room setup. trust me, there's a lot to be considered that doesn't get shown on TV (and now in this game, lol)...



brandonbwii said:

At first I thought this game might be of poor quality, but then I saw it was from Sabarasa. Now that the review is positive, it may be the one of the first games I get when the 3DS update rolls around.



Mowzle2 said:

And here was me thinking when I saw the title "Art of Ink" and all the pretty flowers up top in the header that I might like to have this as maybe a Third Trimester addition to Art Academy and learn the fine art of botanical drawing



nicknintendo68 said:

i love those types of games on addicting games i got to pick it up when the 3ds has its update on its shop since i dont use dsi much .



Arkaein said:

@theblackdragon: you seem like you're taking the game a bit too seriously. While there is a place for hardcore simulation style games in any genre, the thing most people like about games is that they take all the tedious parts out of an activity and let the player focus on the fun elements.

Many game genres depict activities that require serious training and have serious consequences in real life. But do you really want every shooter to cover proper firearms storage, loading, and cleaning? Every sports sim to devote a large amount of time to practice, warm ups, and contract negotiations? There's an audience for these elements to be sure, but most gamers prefer to focus on the more immediate parts, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I can understand some of your criticisms, particularly the cases where aspects of the game sound like they are incorrect and not merely incomplete. However complaining about not including proper health and safety procedures seems a bit silly. It's a tattooing GAME, not a tattooing training simulation.



theblackdragon said:

@Arkaein: I did mention several times in my original comment (#7) that I understood they had to take liberties in order to make a playable game that people would think is fun. I've also explained at least twice (#7 and #11 both) so far that the fact that I've got experience in the field has likely tainted my views on the game, and my thoughts on it (which is what all I've said should be taken as, really) should not be taken as any kind of guide regarding how much fun the game would be for someone else with no real-world experience. they're just thoughts, and this was the best place for me to let it all out, really.

however, it sounds like you're responding solely to #13, where i (a) didn't mention any of that, and (b) was merely trying to point out to jdarrell that there would be much more to worry about with regards to a real tattoo than just changing the needle(s) in between customers as he had jokingly suggested, lol.



Arkaein said:

@theblackdragon: actually most of my comment concerned the end of your response in #7, where you seemed to take issue with the game even being made ("some things you just don't make games about, y'know?"), and the compared the seriousness of playing guitar badly with doing a tattoo badly. You could make the same argument about any game that simplifies an activity with serious real life consequences.



theblackdragon said:

@Arkaein: ah, i see now, my bad. either way, it's just how i feel about it personally, and again, this is the place to discuss it. allow me to reiterate (for the fourth time, now, lol): my personal feelings as a tattooer should not be read as any kind of statement regarding whether or not to purchase this game, because i'm too biased to give any kind of recommendation or not.



darlenevile said:

i'm so glad they're putting effort into the character development. granted, I'm not a fan of the whole cardboard cut-out on wheels character that rolls on and off-screen as needed (like in trauma center or mystery case files for example), as opposed to sprites that move and emote (phoenix wright). but this looks like a pretty good quality game. as always, thanks for the in-depth reviews, guys.



WolfRamHeart said:

This game looks and sounds really cool but I don't see myself paying 800 points for it. 500 points would have been perfect.




dude this game is awesome but I have a problem, I seemingly just finnished this whole damn tattoo, it's only the 2nd customer, and it's apparently not finnished because nothing is happening?? I don't get what I missed or what I'm doing wrong, can anyone help me please? thanks.





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