Bendy and the Dark Revival Review
Sometimes, patience pays off. Fans of the first-person horror game Bendy and the Ink Machine have been waiting since 2017 for a sequel, and now they have it. Does Bendy and the Dark Revival tie up the first game’s loose ends in a satisfying way or leave questions unanswered?
Many of us have workplace horror stories, where the 9 to 5 grind felt like a nightmare. Or maybe there was an evil supervisor reeking of stale lunch and churning with hostility over failed dreams. For Wendy, a humble, hard-working animator for Joey Drew Studios, the office nightmare becomes real when she opens a portal to a hellish version of her workplace. Her task is to escape the nightmare, avoid a painful death at the hands of the Ink Demon, and of course, figure out how she fits into the bad dream.
Players of the original BioShock will feel right and home and probably more than a twinge of nostalgia. The nightmare version of Joey Drew Studios is a labyrinth of art deco offices, corridors, basements, and, just for variety, sewers, and dimly lit movie-set city streets. Everything is coated with dripping ink, including Audrey herself, transformed from an animator into a haunting creation with wild eyes. Like BioShock, Dark Revival’s world is populated by disturbing NPCs with stories to tell and audio logs that help fill in the story. If you’ve ever felt that clowns were evil or that Disneyland held dark secrets after the park closed, Bendy is your game.
By a mile, Bendy and the Dark Revival’s strongest elements are its design and scary atmosphere. In case you hadn’t guessed, Joey Drew and his studio is a malevolent twin version of Walt Disney. Bendy, the Ink Demon, is sort of an evil counterpart to a famous animated mouse. While Dark Revival’s world lacks BioShock’s variety and triple-A detail, it’s still plenty creepy. As with any effective horror film, the game’s excellent music perfectly underlines the tense narrative.
BioShock was a masterpiece of narrative and art design. It also had incredibly engaging combat. While Bendy and the Dark Revival excels at world-building and storytelling, its action and mechanics are a little less successful.
Dark Revival has a basic gameplay loop. You explore, solve puzzles by finding key items, and move forward. There’s a lot of backtracking to find objects, and when you die you respawn at ink stations. Now and then you have to fight one of the types of ink-corrupted monsters. While at the start of the game you need to hide and avoid enemies, eventually you get a weapon. The Gent Pipe — the melee weapon returning from the first game — is a bludgeon made from two pieces of plumbing.
The old adage of “if your only tool is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail” applies here. The Gent Pipe is Audrey’s only weapon, and applying blunt force trauma is her singular strategy, aside from hiding. While there is some variety in the game’s enemies, there are no tactical decisions to make. The good news is that Audrey upgrades the Gent Pipe throughout the game. The bad news is, after a certain point, the weapon is pretty overpowered and combat becomes even less interesting. Occasionally, Audrey will find herself overwhelmed by monsters in large numbers, but players won’t really notice combat evolving or becoming more nuanced as the game progresses.
Players of the first game can breathe a sigh of relief. First, that Covid-delays be damned, the long-awaited sequel is here. Maybe even better, Dark Revival ties up most of the narrative loose ends. However, anyone who missed Bendy and the Ink Machine won’t have any issues diving into the sequel.
Joey Drew Studios has created a memorable nightmare world of maniacal ‘toons and the dark side of creativity. While its combat and mechanics don’t reach the same level as its setting and narrative, Bendy and the Dark Revival is a must-play for fans of the first game, and an effective introduction to a singular franchise for everyone else.
***PC code provided by the publisher for review***
- Creepy and interesting world building
- Effective music
- Imaginative narrative and characters
- Fair price
- Repetitive mechanics
- Combat isn’t very interesting
- Budget-level graphics