Inkslinger is a typing game where you have to type to live A woman types An Ode to a Little Clown


(Image credit: Gateway)

You're an Inkslinger, with ink flowing through your veins instead of blood. This is a gift, because it means the people of Isle Shammer come to you when they need letters written—as well as poems, advertisements, speeches, formal introductions, death notices—and you can interpret their desires onto the page in a pleasing way. It's also a curse, because if they're not happy with the result your inkveins wither and dry.

The way it works is that a customer enters the shop, the bell ringing as a 19th century portrait slides in, then they outline their demands. Words appears beside a blank page, words like AGGRESSIVE, CASUAL, REPENTANT, and you type the one that fits their description. Each paragraph requires a new tone, a new word interpreting their sometimes unclear wants.

Complications arise. A guildking who needs the killing of a rival guildmember described in dispassionate detail is operating on a time limit before a fight breaks out, so you're given a time limit too. Or a woman asks for "a couple of thousand pages to properly explain all His transgressions" while the options you're given are BANANAS, APPLES, and PEARS.

As you play, more details about the unsettling setting of Inkslinger seep in at the edges. It's a vaguely steampunk place, reminiscent of Fallen London, undergoing an industrial revolution that's caused an outbreak of "smoglung". Characters have poetic names like Neverswoon and Humstrum, and the writing has a powerful sense of dark whimsy.

Each commission results in your inkveins thriving or withering, depending on how you perform, and leads you toward a different ending. It's a little like Papers, Please in that you've got a job to do, but one you'd often rather not. 

One weakness of Inkslinger is that replaying it to see other outcomes is a chore. It's a short game, barely an hour long depending on your reading speed, but with deliberately paced transitions and text. You can hold down enter to make the dialogue appear quicker, but it desperately needs a visual novel-style option to skip past what you've already seen to make replays enjoyable. 

A single playthrough remains worthwhile, however, for the sake of a unique experience—descending into an unusual world via the medium of a typing game, like Mavis Beacon Teaches Semantics Through Twisted Victoriana.

Inkslinger is available on Steam and itch.io.

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