Review – Inops

Inops is a new 2D platformer from ZRZStudio. Aside from its charming look and borderline Ori feel, it offers its own unique twist to the genre. I love when a video game can bring some sort of new dynamic I haven’t seen before. New gimmicks don’t always work out, but I still appreciate developers trying to get creative with their craft. In some cases, changing the standard formula can revolutionize the way we play games. For example, Resident Evil essentially created the survival horror genre, while Metal Gear Solid did the same for stealth-based gameplay. The question is, did it pay off, or is it another quirky indie game destined to fall into obscurity?

You play as the titular, Inop; a small black blob with eyes. Throughout each level you’ll come across ten other Inops, which will automatically follow you once you wake them. You can press a button to either have them meld into you, creating one large Inop, or have them all stay separate in a small group. Most of the time you’ll have them converge into one giant creature, but there are certain areas where the only way forward is through a small opening or tunnel. During those occasions you’ll need to divide back into your original smaller forms.

Inops

He’s full of hot air.

The goal for each level is to make it to the end with all of your Inops intact. There are also three stars hidden within each level and these are usually a little trickier to obtain. The only way to advance to later levels is to have collected a certain number of Inops and stars. The earlier levels don’t pose too much of a challenge, but later sections are incredibly difficult. In fact, the only way you’ll be able to make it to the boss stage at the end of every main section is to complete nearly every level with a perfect score. I like a good challenge, but having to repeat each level numerous times in order to get everyone out alive is maddening.

Inops

This is the first boss you’ll encounter.

The concept is pretty original and I like the added strategic element of having to change forms to get past certain obstacles. My biggest issue comes from the controls. Jumping is very unreliable in this game. Sometimes it will barely register you pushing the button and you’ll make a pitiful little hop. Other times you will launch pretty far. The jumping is also fairly floaty and it takes some getting use to, especially since it doesn’t always work they way you would like.

Another problematic gameplay mechanic is controlling your Inops when they’re all separated. You don’t control each individual, you control one and just sort of guide the group in the general direction you’d like them to go. The Inop you control briefly gains a white glow above its head, but this quickly vanishes. Then it becomes very difficult to tell which one it is, especially when you’re trying to quickly navigate certain obstacles.  When you first split and you’re all still clustered close together, getting them to go where you’d like is somewhat doable. However, once they start to get some distance between them, some will wander off on their own and others will fall far behind the rest. This is when they’re most like to meet their demise and ruin your chances of getting all them safely to the end of the level.

Inops

Keep your hands and arms inside the boat… wait. You don’t have any.

Inops features another gameplay aspect that makes it different from countless other platformers. In it you can interact with certain object like gears, levers, and bomb machines. I love the idea, but I found switching back and forth between selectable objects while platforming to be rather clunky.

Now, I played Inops on the Xbox One, but it is also available for Nintendo Switch, where you are encouraged to use the touch screen to control the objects. I’m pretty sure this game was designed with utilizing a touchscreen in mind, and perhaps it simply didn’t translate as well to a regular controller. I could see this being far more enjoyable playing it that way.

Inops

You spin me right round, baby.

Visually, Inops is quite beautiful. The art style is fairly simplistic and cartoony, but the backgrounds and color palettes are striking. This is where it most reminds me of Ori, but on a more basic scale. The sound design is decent. There’s no voice acting, but the sound effects are done well. The music is pretty good, but you will start to grow tired of hearing the same songs over and over again, since you’ll have to replay each level so may times. None of the soundtracks are particularly memorable, but they do fit the themes of the levels well.

Inops is a game that has a lot of really great ideas, but doesn’t manage to pull them off as well as they would have liked. The main concept is wonderful, but the controls hinder it from turning into a new classic. I’d like to see ZRZStudio possibly make a sequel, but with more polished gameplay mechanics. Doing so will make saving the cute little Inops more of treat rather than a headache.

 

Graphics: 8.0

The art design is fairly simplistic, but there are some rich color palettes present throughout each level.

Gameplay: 5.0

Jumping doesn’t always register, which is detrimental to a platformer. The concept is cool, but often times when the Inops are separated they’ll wander off and perish.

Sound: 7.0

Each area has its own soundtrack and they fit well with their individual themes. However, since you’ll have to repeat the same few levels in each area over and over, you’ll grow tired of hearing the same music after a while.

Fun Factor: 6.5

The idea of finding your brethren and either adding them to your might or guiding them as a group is really interesting. However, the execution falls short and makes completing levels feel like a chore.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Inops is available now on Xbox One and Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Inops was provided by the publisher.

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