App Review: Ink Spotter, Vol 1 – Sherlock Holmes The Art of Detection
Before I get specific with this review, I’m going to cut to the chase. At this point, I’ve played/read several other interactive story apps, including Holmesian ones. To be gut-level honest, I’ve played enough of them and been underwhelmed enough that it was with no small amount of dread that I loaded up my test version of Ink Spotters’s first volume, an interactive Victorian comic book starring Sherlock Holmes. I expected an overly-simplistic story with repetitive interactive elements that would quickly feel unnecessary and distracting.
I’m delighted to say I was entirely wrong. Ink Spotters is, by far, the best interactive story app I have ever encountered, and the game feels like an essential part of the experience. It’s not a comic book with a gaming element as an afterthought; it’s a full-fledged mystery game with a story as its reward.
Specifically, the game offers the player a single frame from a comic, and the player is challenged to pick out an important word from that frame and input it, unlocking more of the story. This leads to an authentically nonlinear clue-gathering experience, because a relevant word is as likely to unlock a part of the story six frames away as it is to unlock the very next one. Players are encouraged to use both dialogue and visual clues to piece the story together and complete its fill-in-the-blank challenges to unlock new chapters.
Playing Ink Spotters is, in my opinion, right in the sweet spot of casual, app-based gaming. It’s tough enough that it challenged my brain, but it contains enough available hints and options that I was never bogged down and unable to keep going. Fully completing Volume 1 took me a couple of hours of focused playing, an amount of time that felt long enough but not tedious.
The story itself is a solid and amusing Victorian Holmes pastiche that has merit as a beautifully-illustrated graphic novel even without the interactive elements, but the feeling of sleuthing one’s way through created a pleasant feeling of tension and suspense that, for me, never outstayed its welcome. I hope the Ink Spotters team has many more equally well-crafted volumes up its sleeve.
All but the very youngest Sherlockians are likely to enjoy this app (some frames are a bit violent for young children), and there’s more than enough going on to keep adults from feeling like they’re playing something aimed below them.
Ink Spotters is launching soon! Stay tuned with us for launch details, and you can also keep up with news about the app and learn more here:
@ink_spotters on Twitter
(A copy of the above-reviewed app was provided for consideration by the developers. All opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.)
Amy Thomas is a book reviewer, freelance essayist, and author of The Detective and The Woman mystery novel series featuring Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, published by MX Publishing. She holds a degree in professional communication and is an avid knitter, geek, and grammar nerd. Amy blogs about Sherlock Holmes at Girlmeetssherlock.wordpress.