Painting by numbers.
Tattoos are cool. I am fairly certain that I am not the only person to think this. But do you know what is cooler than having a tattoo? Being a tattoo artist. These colourful characters invariably have cool nicknames and live the rock and roll lifestyle, at least if any of the “Ink” shows on TV are to be believed.
So what could be cooler than playing a game in which you are a cool tattoo artist? This is obviously a thought shared by developers Sabarasa who have released their Art of Ink game on DSiWare.
It is important to know that your DSi, or 3DS, does not need to be sterilised to play this game (although what you do with your hardware is entirely up to you). The main gameplay action in Art of Ink revolves around tracing pictures on the touchscreen with your stylus, whilst holding either of the shoulder buttons.. These pictures are the tattoos and each tattoo is divided into a number of sections, with the player having to completely cover the lines in each section to finish. Whilst a steady hand is no doubt a benefit, blanket covering the area also works well and will allow the player to finish in a shorter time, and also makes life easier when dealing with thick lines in the early game. Don’t worry about leaving it a mess, you can wipe off the excess ink by simply touching with the stylus whilst the shoulder buttons are released, leaving impressively smooth lines.
But it is not that easy. The aim of the game is to earn money and there are a number of variables in play. Each customer has a different threshold for pain and players must watch the comfort bar to ensure that the customer doesn’t suffer too much, or even bleed. Apply the needle for too long and their smiling face in the top screen will turn to a grimace and you could lose money. Taking a break will ease their comfort, as will wiping away the excess ink. There are also items that can be purchased, such as sweeties, that will ease even the most upset customer.
Before beginning the tattoo process, the player will need to interview the customer and, through a series of simple questions, receive clues as to which tattoo they desire. There are three chances to choose the right tattoo before the customer will offer up their choice and the player will lose the chance to earn a nice bonus.
Speed is of the essence if the player is aiming for maximum cash, finishing within a time limit will earn another bonus. However, time limits are of even more importance when it comes to the games’ occasional boss battles. These play out just like any other customer, but have a strict time limit to adhere to.
The player gets to choose their character at the beginning of the game, with separate profiles for each playable character extending the games longevity. As the game progresses, players will eventually get their own tattoo studio and be able to buy equipment which will have an effect on the characters stats.
Beyond the career mode, there is a tutorial mode which, whilst helpful, covers only that which is explained at the beginning of the career. There is also a much more helpful free mode which allows the player to practice the various tattoos that they have unlocked in a relatively stress free environment. The package is rounded out with a selection of achievements to be earned throughout the game, which again extends the games longevity.
Considering how satisfying the game is to play, and how much fun, the only real fault is the length of the game. Playing through a full campaign will only last a few hours and whilst the player can go back and try to get all of the achievements or play through again as a different character, the obvious initial appeal is lessened.
Visually, the game looks lovely. Although there are no animations in the game, all of the art work is very well done and adds character to the game. The same can be said for the audio track, which fits perfectly with the theme of the game.
Art of Ink is a brilliant, if short-lived, DSiWare game. It may be somewhat repetitive, but the games smooth gameplay and originality will ensure at least a few hours of entertainment to anyone who enjoys art or tattoos.