Splatoon 2 and, to an extent, De Blob, have a lot to answer for. It seems that so many developers are attempting to ape the style that comes from splashes of paint spilling from a protagonist or vehicle. There’s a lot to be said for the visual style; bright colours bursting from a screen are always eye-catching and it speaks to the inner child in us all because everyone enjoys making a mess. There’s something satisfying in watching as a splash of vibrant pigment dashes outwards, being overlapped by other hues.
InkSplosion gets to the root of that desire by leaving contrails of colour on an otherwise drab world. The arenas for this top-down shooter are stark, bold lines of black and white. You pilot a small craft that has no backstory and whose only job is to kill the enemies that appear. Each enemy type fires differing projectiles in an attempt to destroy you and halt your progress, while leaving behind a colour. It could be a bullet that homes in on you in a spiral leaving a blue trail, or perhaps a fast-moving shot that bleeds red onto the floor. There’s no doubting, this is a lovely looking game.
There is no plot-driven reason for the combat though, InkSplosion is an arcade shooter in the most traditional fashion – movement is on the left stick, aiming on the right. Although, there are a few modern aspects thrown in; firing comes from the right shoulder buttons, the left is dedicated to slowing down time. Here is where the game takes on an interesting slant. Across the top of the screen is a life bar, as is traditional, should it empty the game ends. However, should you want to slow down time to dodge bullets or avoid enemies, that same bar will slowly deplete.
This becomes a nice tactical element that asks you how they want to survive. In the normal starting mode, there are levels which present you with four enemies - clear them and the level ends. There's also a random weapon, such as a shotgun, normal bullets, a distance gun (which works like the normal but has more range) and a laser. This latter weapon is easily the strongest as it passes through enemies to hit others behind and has unlimited range, too. The random aspect of which weapon you use is nice, but with only a few options it doesn’t affect the gameplay that much.
Using the slow down here isn’t really needed – the bullets fly and the colours distract, but much of the carnage on-screen can be avoided. If you do take a hit, some of your health will be replenished some as the level ends. It is easy to die quickly, should you get overwhelmed, but jumping back in is as easy as pressing the 'A' button.
Aside from the enemies, there are also hazards to avoid. A moving line will blink on and off in a pattern – breaking the line will cause damage, though when it switches off it can be passed with no issue. Sometimes the line will border the screen, it could also appear as if clock hands rotating round or it may split the playing field in two, even four. These only appear in the normal mode and the later unlocked hard mode.
In the arena mode, those hazards are removed and now you have to defend against waves of enemies – though they still only appear in groups of four. The movement of the ship is sluggish but is something you get used to and the aiming is fine, though it varies from weapon to weapon. As an arcade shooter InkSplosion looks lovely and feels as it should, but it has no longevity. The developer has chosen to include an achievement system within the game and they range over scoring a certain amount of points in normal mode or killing a number of enemy ships in arena. It took 34 minutes to unlock every single achievement. Once this was done, the only impetus to continue playing was to beat high scores.
This would be fine if the game offered enough variation elsewhere, however, there are only a handful of enemy ships and they all look rather bland and with just these three modes to play, InkSplosion soon becomes tiring. No amount of pretty visuals which look like a calamity in a Dulux warehouse can cover a shallow experience. There are no customisation options, there’s nothing to unlock – you can’t even change the colour of the paint your bullets leave behind. It’s yellow, by the way.
InkSplosion could have been so much more, but it’s ultimately let down by a sheer lack of variety (and a frustrating lack of replay value once you've swiftly bagged all of its in-game achievements). As a top-down shooter it's certainly competent, but it’s unlikely you’ll hang around for long with so many other fuller packages on offer on the Switch eShop.