One of the best advancements in video games has been the ability for small or even single-person developers to create games and distribute them to the masses. Every so often, one of these small indie titles takes off in the algorithms, influencers, and message boards and becomes a financial success. Bendy and The Ink Machine was one of those games. I’ll say up front that I never played the first one, but I was very aware of it and knew that it had a passionate following. Last year the sequel was released on PC, and now it’s finally coming to consoles. For most franchise fans, you would have played this by now.
Given that this game has been out for months on PC, it’s likely that any serious fan has played it, but if you’re new to the series, as I was, don’t worry. We will be focusing on how the game runs on console, but I have my opinions on the quality of the product as a whole too. Let’s get into it.
The atmosphere is the first thing you’ll notice about Bendy and the Dark Revival. Naturally, the development team would decide to capitalize on their best feature, and they absolutely did. This time around, you’re playing as Audrey, a new animator with an orphan past working at the animation studio. The game wears its influences loud and proud and does it well. This BioShock by way of Cuphead with a dash of Alice in Wonderland is a great idea, and the game has a strong start. But as time went on, I found myself collecting questions without many answers, and a large portion of the promised potential fell flat.
The world of Bendy is strange, and after the 8 to 9-hour campaign, I didn’t find it any less mysterious. Having not played the first one, I often felt like I was walking in on a play after intermission. About halfway through I put my controller down and spent a half hour reading up on the first game’s story. I still didn’t understand the what all was happening or why exactly but it at least allowed me to engage with the game on more than a purely mechanical gameplay level.
From what I gathered, a Walt Disney-like figure named Joey Drew created the titular character Bendy the Demon and the cartoon world he inhabits. Like Disney, Drew is described as an incredible visionary and workaholic who expected too much of his staff. At some point, he and his team created a printing machine to create living ink versions of their characters to mingle with fans and tourists visiting the animation studio/museum. Somehow this machine made an alternate dimension where these characters exist in a dystopian cartoon version of the studio that resembles a mid-century iron factory. Bendy himself was improperly printed, turning into a wretched actual demon who torments and eats the droopy ink people of this alternate dimension.
As a side note, these droopy ink people called “The Lost,” not the actual cast of cartoon characters, make up the vast proportion of the enemies you’re fighting and hiding from. Bendy and his castmates all make appearances, but they’re brief. I’m not sure why this is, but I was immensely disappointed that the promise of creepy old cartoons chasing you is underutilized. Instead, you have easily killable sepia-toned versions of Swamp Thing or discount phantom big daddies to run from.
For some reason I could never figure out, this world is also a time loop. But this detail never factors into the gameplay. You are just repeatedly reminded that if you fail, you’ll be trapped in the loop and the demon will keep eating ink people who are forced to be revived and eaten again. The cosmology of how this universe works or even how it exists in the fiction is never well explained in this game. As I said, I had to read through the first game’s story info online to understand almost anything. I can only assume that the assumption is that if you’re playing this, you have played the first game. So if you are new to the series, I recommend trying that first one before diving into this one.
Console ports of PC games used to be an uneven affair, but that isn’t usually the case anymore. Bendy and the Dark Revival, however, is definitely an uneven affair. I experienced stuttering frame rates in different sections throughout my time with the game. I also found the camera particularly unruly, with absolutely no aim-assist to help with targeting the pickups you’ll find throughout the world. Some of these problems are likely due to the game that was developed for PC releasing on console and hopefully will be patched. Thankfully, as frustrating as the first-person camera can be, you can adjust the sensitivity, which helped immensely.
The gameplay is generally rather basic melee-focused horror stealth but totally acceptable considering the independent development team. There were moments of genuine tension, and effective jump scares that made an impression on me.
The music is a particular bright spot, and when the music and atmosphere were firing on all cylinders, it was really something. I wasn’t as much a fan of the action music when an enemy detects you, but it was never off-putting or annoying.
The moody darkness, the fear, the hopelessness, that vintage depression-era cartoon creepiness, is there. It’s all there. If it was a solid nonstop train of that stuff, Bendy and the Dark Revival could be one for the ages. Unfortunately though, I think it’s going to remain an interesting series with a cult fan base for now.
At the end of the day, I liked Bendy and the Dark Revival. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t something I’d ever play through again. But I’m glad that I had the chance to try it. I know that I mainly sounded negative in this review, but I want to emphasize that my negativity stems from disappointment. As I played through it, I frequently felt frustrated by the unevenness. I imagine that it will affect different people differently. At the end of the day, it’s a game I’m glad exists, but I’m pretty much done with. I hope that this team can keep moving forward and doing what they love, and I expect they’ll have a rabid fan base backing them up. I just…I wish that I was one of them.
- Incredible Atmosphere
- Fantastic and Underutilized Cartoon Character Designs
- Solid Application of its Influences
- Good Music
- Confusing and Obfuscated Story
- Unruly and Difficult Camera Control
- Clunky Mechanics
- Severe Lack of Enemy Variety
The publisher provided Bendy and The Dark Revival review code. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.