Inops Review - Nintendo Switch's Next Indie Darling?

VOICE OVER: Dave Thibault
Inops is a recent indie game for the Nintendo Switch. It borrows quite a bit from popular indie games of the past, but can it put all the pieces together into a game worth your time and money?
MojoPlays Review: Inops

Ladies And Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the work of ZRZ Studios, a company who at time of writing have 4 mobile games on the Google Play Store, and this game Inops … is their first console release. Well, how does their first console title go? Is it destined to be the next indie darling? Or do the developer still have a long way to go? Welcome to MojoPlays and this is our review of Inops. (Better start a drinking game for every time a say that name.)

Inops is a 2D Puzzle Platformer where you guide a small herd of ink splodges called ‘Inops’ (2 drinks), that have to find and rally together other Inops (drink) who have been driven from their homes. And gather them together on a whole platter filled with even more Inops (this drinking game may be a bad idea). For those of you who owned a PSP I know what your thinking: The game does share similarities with LocoRoco, where you guide a large blob across the stage, who can also split into smaller blobs. But that’s about where the similarities end. For one; this game is far more moodier than that aforementioned title, as the games art design depicts a very dark world bathed in bioluminescence or neon lights depending on the stage.

In fact I would say the game’s atmosphere is its strongest selling point. As on top of the subdued terrain, you also get a very somber soundtrack that compliments the world to the point of immersion. Now there is a catch to this dark art style, as sometimes smaller stage hazards like thorns are are hard to make out, which can result in some very annoying deaths.

The game’s major draw, as mentioned before is the ability to separate into smaller Inops (take a drink), or form together into one big blob. You’ll spend most of your time as the large blob, only seperating when passing through tight spaces, clear some switch puzzles, or when you’re underwater. For the most part though, seperating is mostly situational as some Inops move faster than others which can be tricky to have keep together. And Inops (Take a drink) can die if they go too far off screen, which can be annoying as some of the smaller ones can get stuck in a few of the game’s many wind tunnels.

The game also allows the player to interact with the world by using the Switch’s Touch screen to solve its puzzles. The game recommends playing in handheld mode so that you can tap and drag specific mechanisms; like Bomb dispensers, switches or gears, but honestly I’ve found it more convenient just to play with a controller, as trying to hold the switch in one hand and tap on the screen with the other proved to be rather uncomfortable to hold. Especially considering that there are some puzzles that require the use of complex maneuvers where you need both hands while operating the dangerous machinery.

The game is pretty difficult too. If you take damage; you won’t get any invincibility frames, so if you’re careless you can lose your entire herd of Inops in one go. (Take a drink) Things go into BS territory quickly too, as you’ll constantly encounter traps that in most cases; you’d have no way of knowing were there without memorizing the stage sequence. Further compounding the difficulty is the fact that Inops when separated can be difficult to control, (Drink) they can slide a lot or have their momentum thrown off by small bumps in the road.

I’m not one to hate on a game for being difficult, after all this time last year I gave “Celeste” a overwhelming glowing review. But unfortunately the game has a major hurdle that hindered my entire experience. Each world consists of 5 stages, and said stages each hold 10 Inops. (Drink) Said worlds also has a 6th unlockable stage which lead to a boss fight. And to access those stages: You need to collect at least 45 Inops from the previous 5 stages. That means you need to collect 9 out of 10 Inops in every stage to get to the boss fight.

This high quota puts a heavy damper on the game’s pacing, as you need to clear the boss stages in order to unlock the game’s 4th and final world. This wouldn’t be so bad if those goddamn Inops weren’t so goddamn fragile. (Take a goddamn chug) Hitting even smaller hazards can easily lose you at least 2-3 Inops, and when you’re casualty allowance is essentially just one, your only option is to restart the stage if you plan on progressing. The game does gives the player; optional extra lives in the form of collectable crystals if they lose all their Inops, but these only spawns one new Inop. So it makes the whole feature; Completely Pointless.

There’s also a speed run mode; where you race a single Inop against the clock, but it’s purely for bragging rights and doesn’t unlock anything within the main game.

Inops is a game that had potential, but it’s let down by some annoying design choices. Its visual and audio display is incredibly serene, but the limited number of stages that ask for ridiculously high clear requirements, while being susceptible to losing Inops to cheap deaths, makes it hard to recommend. I wouldn’t have minded the short length if it meant for an enjoyable experience, but forcing multiple replays to achieve near perfection per stage, feels more like padding in the end.