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Bob Hoose

Game Review

What would you do in medieval world where dogs carry spears and bunnies wield bows? That’s essentially the question behind the new strategy game Inkulinati, a title that’s already getting a lot of attention for potentially being the Indie game of the year.

Inkulinati gives gamers the role of a monk-like illustrator who sets up battles with other members of a secret society of scribes from the Middle Ages. They use their “living ink” to create little anthropomorphic animals, creatures and devils who fight in the margins of medieval books.

That may sound quite bizarre, but it’s actually a very interesting turn-based game that’s far more challenging than its odd setting might suggest.

The Inkulinati illustrator you choose—ranging from a green Yoda-like character, a fully armored knight or a nun with the power of prayer—gains the right to gather his or her own special abilities that help them in the midst of battle. These collectable talents include blessings that might heal their little battlers; the ability to bash a nearby inky foe with a gloved finger; bonuses of extra ink per turn, and other things.

And that precious ink is always the focus here. The potential size of an Inkulinati’s army is based on the amount of ink they’ve saved or generated each turn. Units can collect more ink through blotches on the pages, which fills the Inkulinati’s ink pot and allows him to keep drawing new beasts until he reaches the maximum units allowed.

As implied above, the forces you draw can include bunnies, dogs and foxes, along with more exotic critters such as skeletons, devils and squat bloated beasts. These creatures have various attack patterns depending on the weapons they wield. In some cases, they can set a section of the field afire, squirt poison at a foe or literally explode like a small gassy bomb. The enemy army is not only trying to extinguish your inky forces, but zap away your Inkulinati’s own life force, too, thereby ending the conflict.

The whole game plays out in a series of relatively short-lived quests and conflicts. But the variety of fields—ranging from flat areas littered with obstacles to multileveled set-ups that resemble something from a Donkey Kong game—and the fact that each battle requires chess-like movements and strategy, keeps the repeat play fresh. 


Strategy is key here. Getting to the point where you think three moves ahead is often a must as the enemy Inkulinati fills the field of play with inked-out obstacles, enemies and traps that often demand new lines of thought. Of course, you can also use the special elements in your control to do the same to him or her.

The visuals of the game are colorfully appealing and the medieval style underscore adds a whimsical charm.


Though played with an obvious and mostly goofy wink, Inkulinati sports a darkish medieval spiritual vibe. The general quest on hand, for instance, focuses on the effort to save your Inkulinati Master, who met his end while at a party with Death. You must battle your way to eventually take on Death at his own inky game and bring your master back to the world of the living. Players also enter into battle with Dante, who talks of drawing them down into Hell.

Along the way you encounter strange characters such as an anthropomorphized donkey who blows a trumpet with his backside to stun opponents. (Such is this game’s, uh, stab at humor.) Devil-like creatures (with faces on their backsides) blow out gassy flames or poison on the field. Enlivened skeletons are part of the mix as well. Tiny Bishop characters heal others.

Much of the cartoony battling takes place with conventional weapons such as spears, swords and bows. And when a character is bested he or she generally bursts in a gush of the ink they’re drawn from. That said, some weapons such as a saw or a hook can cause opponents to bleed. And that red dripping reduces a foe’s life force at every turn. Some characters can also fan flames in a given area and cause a character to be burned up.

The game also creates apocalyptic fires or plagues that bring on a quicker end to any conflict that stretches on too long, changing the strategy dramatically.


Inkulinati is a strange but strategically fun game if you don’t mind its winking, sometimes crass, medieval monk vibe.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.