In the current era of impressive development tools and talented studios of all sizes, there can be download-only games that are just as eye-catching as big-budget contemporaries while having a focus on a small, carefully constructed experience. Inked: A Tale of Love is a good example of what can be achieved by small but talented creative teams, making a leap from Apple Arcade and providing a reminder of the lovely diversity to be found in the Switch eShop library.
Inked: A Tale of Love utilises a hand-drawn style not just for visual panache, but as a fundamental part of the story. You play a hero that at first tries to solve a mystery of suffering animals, and then embarks on a quest to save his true love. It's smartly told with a narrator that's more than they seem, along with some fourth wall-breaking for added effect. It's a simple but carefully told story, with impressive beats that'll make you think twice about some actions.
The gameplay itself is relatively simple, perhaps highlighting the game's origins on smart devices. You work through multiple environments and chapters from an isometric perspective, keeping an eye out for hidden paintings and solving a broad range of puzzles. These are excellent for the most part, with a steady progression of new mechanics and ideas to keep things interesting. There are one or two puzzles that felt a little glitched in execution, but the vast majority are clever and a pleasure to solve.
This is a relatively short experience at a few hours long, but it feels like time rather well spent. There's fantastic audio design with a great soundtrack and well-voiced narration. It's visually arresting too, not so much mimicking hand-drawn ink art than genuinely looking the part. Somewhat rarely for a Switch game, there are also visual quality settings, with three variations from low to high. There are occasional moments of slowdown and stutter in the highest setting but we opted for 'high' in any case; it's a nice touch to be given the choice, though.
By the time the credits roll you'll likely still have some hidden paintings to find, and even if you leave them behind, this is a thoroughly pleasant and satisfying experience on Nintendo's system. With smart puzzles, beautiful presentation and a story full of emotive moments, Inked: A Tale of Love is well worth your time.