Bendy And The Money Printer: When Potential Gets Rushed And Squandered

I played Bendy and the Ink Machine and didn't like what I got. When I tried to find why, I found myself into something deeper than anyone would think.

By UletheVee4, Posted 25 May 2017

Bendy and the Ink Machine is a subject that is hard to tackle for the same reason I refused to review The Walking Dead Season 3 when the first 2 episodes came out. It's extremely hard to talk about a videogame (especially if it is episodic) if nobody knows what will come next. In the case of the first few chapters being bad, the game developers also could pick up on their slack and bring further effort in future episodes and the opposite could happen as well. But when I started to get to know Bendy, I found myself digging through a rabbit hole that, left me quite intrigued to say the least. When talking to other random steam users about this, a lot of us were intrigued, concerned and even baffled at how much information the game has behind the scenes.

Bendy and the Ink Machine exploded in terms of its fanbase at the same level I thought Night in the Woods was going to explode but didn't. A ton of people are playing this horror indie game about a 40's like cartoon creature spawning to life and being a horrid monstrosity that chases the player, and I guess I won't be the first to say that this is an awfully short, awfully modeled, awfully awful game that has a ton of potential that's missed for a huge number of reasons. Now, I could just plaster this mindset and call it a review with a, let's say 46/100 slapped into it, but the more I look at Bendy's flaws. The more i think about the potential it hasn't tackled and the issues with the core game that could get addressed in the future chapters that will most likely cost the same price as the second one. And, talking about the price quick, I honestly doubt I want to pay $6 Dollars for what could be 20 minutes of content, horror game or otherwise.

Bendy and the Ink Machine,Opinion Editorial,TheMeatly,Steam,Horror,Unity

Now, Bendy has a ton of positives going around it. Namely the level of tension that the game's atmosphere brings to the table and it’s also extremely proficient way of making you shiver in fear while you explore the hallways of this decaying cartoonist office. Some of the soft jumpscares you see early in the game will also catch you off guard and add to the tension as well. And that's pretty much everything that holds things between the beginning and the ending of the first and second chapter. As it takes a seemingly trending pattern, you start in a random environment, do a few things. The plot progresses further a little bit and then you are just met with the worst modeled creature I have ever seen in a videogame, so awful in fact that it was the first time I actually laughed at a monster that was supposed to be terrifying. And that's a big issue, especially in a horror game.

Not to mention, this is a cult story(?) with a cartoon devil(?) that according to the cartoonist that wants to put him in the real world doesn't have any emotion other than the smirk he always has(???) I mean, surely the plot will (Sloppily) advance forward in Chapter 3 onwards and present us with possible new twists and turns. Now, I have talked to random steam users based on their reviews of the game. Both people who looked at it from a positive light to people who looked at the game in a negative light. Both sides provided fairly good arguments about why they think the game is good or bad respectively. This also means that, while people on the negative side of the spectrum point out the glaring issues this game has, they have no ill-will towards the game or the creator. In the end, they all are giving it something so negative because they also see the positives as well. Of course, this also applies to the people who actually enjoyed the game (And I congratulate them for it) they see the pros which stick out more than the cons and of course, they enjoy the game for different reasons. They aren't overhyping the game and they also know about the flaws this game has. I'm going to show one example from both sides.

Let's start by one of the Steam users whose criticism made me want to make this article to begin with. Username Platinum 陽 BeepMa 陽 From United States. Who besides providing some fair arguments about why this game was a bad experience overall for her, she also provided an explanation as to why these issues exist to begin with.

The beginning of the game was promising enough, with the atmosphere building, the nice looking map design and the inkling of a story that involved some odd things going on in the protagonist's old workplace. Sadly, this all fell flat rather quickly. The game uses cheap jumpscares in place of anything that would illicit a deeper, more lasting effect on the player. Things like a board falling from the ceiling and a cardboard Bendy peeking around the corner at me were more amusing than scary in any way. The voice acting was mediocre at best, and all of the characters sound like carbon copies of each other. And let's not forget Bendy himself, whom looked so cheesy I couldn't even take him seriously. I'm honestly surprised no one has called it a walking simulator, because it's pretty darn close to being one. The brief scripted appearances of Bendy with little to no danger involved, the quickly resolved puzzles that involve little effort, and very little interactivity besides drinking cans of soup and flicking things on and off. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs had far more gameplay to it than Bendy, and was still accused of being a walking simulator.

Overall, the game feels horribly rushed. It's as if it was meant to be a demo, and the sudden creation of a fandom led to production being sped up as much as possible. (…) Because of how quickly the chapters are being produced now that the newly founded fandom has exploded into existence, I have to believe that TheMeatly decided to finish the game as fast as possible, so as to take advantage of the game's popularity while it lasts.

This isn’t the first time I actually had such commentary from a user who posted a negative review, many other steam users (Who wish to remain anonymous. I apologize in advance.) have similar or worse claims than the one Platinum proposed. Some complain about the game’s length, others talk about how badly animated the monster Bendy himself is and, well. It really leaves a very empty feeling at the end of the day.

So, how exactly have users defended the game’s? Well, besides the overflow of “dis is gud gem 10/10” I have seen people who provided fair arguments like Username Soro (Although, they seem to be more about masking issues as details). Soro is a person whose intention is to raise awareness of good Steam titles as well, more often than not his recommendations are very good as well.

The game is not exactly unique when it comes to Format. First person horror games are very common and in that respect, the game does not do anything special. I think the overall appeal for me are the small details that separate it from other games. For example, you will notice well-drawn pictures on the walls that expand Bendy, Boris, and Alice as a character which provides more context to the story.

Bendy and the Ink Machine,Opinion Editorial,TheMeatly,Steam,Horror,Unity

Another big factor is obviously the tone and overall cartoony design. Where most horror games use generic Hunted-House settings, Bendy takes place inside animation studio that brings unique concepts to the table. Having a cartoon as a monster opens up different possibilities for jump scares that most have not experienced before. Just having a Bendy poster next to a wall makes the player feel unsettling because you do not know if one of them will grab you. Overall I feel that developers have a very clear goal for the game and so far I think their precise vision translates to a very consistent tone of the game with the immersive atmosphere.

However, something shady started to spring up when I started mentioning parts about the developer TheMeatly, one of the biggest things is how the game seemed to have a goal aimed for it in the first chapter but when the second came around and the fan base was already established, the entirety of the chapter and setting felt extremely rushed. Returning to Platinum’s comment:

I had some hope that the second chapter would be better, but those hopes were dashed when it turned out to be even worse than the first. The storyline went in a terribly clichéd direction, seemingly wanting to emulate Lovecraftian horror [guy becomes a minion to a monster, worships aforementioned monster, basically acts like a cult leader], but failing to do so. The ink beings looked like nothing more than lazily reskinned Unity assets, and failed to be scary in any way. Boris was possibly the thing about it that I disliked the most, as he looks so much like a Goofy rip-off that I just couldn't get past it. Yes, the character is inspired by old Disney cartoons, but did he really have to look that much like Goofy?

There’s also a question that heavily bothered me when I started getting answers from all of the steam users I interviewed over the week. When asked if they were aware that the game (And its creator) were supported on Patreon, all of them responded to me with a bothersome “No”. Some of the people who had a positive criticism about it praised it for having an actual budget, one that is suspiciously hidden from the public eye (And maybe Patrons). But it’s at 72% of its goal... Which is also unknown.

I'd say, though, that the Patreon, along with how rushed the game is, and the amount the game will cost to buy in total once it's finished, leaves me thinking that this project is little more than a cash grab. And the fact that the goal is hidden is a bit suspect to me. Typically, I have only come across developers that have public goals, and while the decision to keep it hidden may be to encourage people to donate, it seems a bit odd.

It was then that the realization hit me, and I proposed a theory that was accepted by those who wrote negatively about the game. Studying the circumstances and the actual demographic that’s buying the product (Namely kids from fandoms like Undertale and Five Nights at Freddy’s) I begun to make a connection that might as well be a misunderstanding, so it bears repeating that this is based on assumption.

Bendy and the Ink Machine is a project that had heart and soul poured into them, but as soon as the fandom and community exploded, the project now was being hastily rushed to provide the formulaic approach I mentioned before in order to produce as much money from the fanbase as possible while it lasted. Considering that the project is funded by Patreon, the $6 price for each chapter and the third episode that’s going to come by the end of next month. It’s very easy for me to make a connection.

Once again, this theory is just that. Because I don’t have any substantial evidence to make such claims about such a videogame, maybe these are all honest mistakes by TheMeatly because this is his first time actually developing a videogame. Maybe he does want to genuinely please his fandom and provide them with excellent material (In the end, he also produces comics). It’s actually one of the reasons why I want to interview him exclusively for NoobFeed.

Now, while the negativists have just agreed to such claims, we’re all also reasonable people and more often than not they have provided advice on how to improve the Bendy experience overall. Platinum for example said:

The biggest and foremost improvement that could be made to Bendy would be for the developer to label the previous chapters as a demo, go back and start over from the beginning to build onto the chapters and give them more depth. Fleshing the storyline out more thoroughly and taking it slower would help to build tension and heighten the atmosphere. There's so much that could be added onto it to make it more interesting, and to make it leave a more lasting impression.

The cheap jumpscares would be best replaced with scares that lean more towards the uncanny valley, with a little shock value sprinkled in occasionally to create a deeper sense of psychological horror that would be more satisfying than the simplistic spooks can give. And, of course, the developer should take time to do these things properly, because rushing isn't doing the game any favors. Episodic games take time to produce, and even more time to perfect. Ape Law's Albino Lullaby is an excellent example of an episodic game done right - they built a weird and fascinating world that keeps you on your toes, and expecting more, by weaving a mysterious story that is deep and twisted. And it's taken them far longer than a month to produce content for it.

Bendy and the Ink Machine,Opinion Editorial,TheMeatly,Steam,Horror,Unity

And yes, I agree with all of it and I also believe that TheMeatly holds no bad regard towards the gaming community, especially those who appreciate a great horror game. I for one would really hate to see a premise like Bendy’s go into the dust or get bad press because this is an original idea that could use some great work in it. The cult story can go away in my opinion, there can be other ways to explaining Bendy’s existence without a mindless dope that falls for evil just because, and certainly this could be a Free To Play game with a Patreon button on the Title screen so that everyone wins. We can only hope that the creator takes these words at heart and start once again from scratch, evolving into new ideas and destroying everyone’s expectations with a project that takes a lot of time to make. Then the game will have exploded with its fanbase not because it’s something a YouTuber did for a Let’s Play, but because it will be compared to the masterful writing of games like Silent Hill. In other words, don’t think of the immediate benefit. But rather, the long-term benefit.

Bendy is far from being polished, and taking more time on it would be a great asset to the developer, as there is so much that could be added in or fixed to make the game a memorable piece of work. Games are art, and art takes time to get right. - Platinum.

Javier Ulises, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): TheMeatly Games
Developer(s): TheMeatly Games
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Survival Horror, Action
Release Date: 2017-02-10

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