2 April, 2024 - 11:27 am by
About 12 mins to read
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X|S

When I think of Monty Python, the first thing that pops into my head isn’t one of Eric Idol’s ditties or John Cleese’s sarcastic punchlines, but Terry Gilliam’s amazing artwork. While I got a kick out of skits like the fish slapping, coconut clacking and “Jesus, Sir”, it was the offbeat artwork that made me a fan. It’s no surprise then, that when Inkulinati crossed my path, with its art style that looks straight out of the mind of Gilliam, I just had to give it a go. It’s not often I play a game based solely on how it looks, instead I rely on a bit of research, like the previous works of the developer, or what genre the title sits in. After all, I don’t want to be stuck playing a turn-based strategy game, do I? 

You might be surprised to note that Inkulinati is indeed a two-dimensional turn-based strategy game that is set in the pages of a medieval book. But, before you start, I will say that like many things in life, there are exceptions to this rule, and after seeing the first trailer for Inkulinati many moons ago, the latest game from Yaza Games is certainly an exception I’m glad I took the plunge with.

As the player, you take on the role as a member of the titular Inkulinati, a secret society of Ink Masters who fight using quills, across the pages of medieval manuscripts. After your master, a green frog who resembles a certain green Jedi Master is ‘accidentally’ killed, you set off on a quest to revive him. As with most video games based on French medieval manuscripts, you battle through the pages against various Inkulinati and gain the support of different armies who help you on this straightforward quest.

At A Glance



+ Excellent visuals
+ Rewarding battles
+ Fart attacks


– Overly long tutorial
– Slow pacing
– Some dodgy controls



Played On

Xbox Series X|S

Also Available On

Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One

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Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll start at the tutorial. When pressing ‘A’ to begin Inkulinati  I was quickly introduced to the story with a quirky live-action introduction featuring a knight and a noblewoman. The set design was actually spot on but bore no resemblance to what was coming. After this odd start, I collected my five-animal army and headed into battle. It’s here I was shown how to move around, attack the opposing side and defend my mini Inkulinati. This chap or chappette sits on the screen as a representation of whoever is drawing the pictures in the book. The goal with Inkulinati is simple: send your units to attack the opposing Inkulinati while defending your own. If one of your squad is downed, you can use ink, which is collected during each round, to draw more squaddies to help with the crusade. As you progress, you get to unlock more moves, like a push that allows you to shove an opponent out of the pages and into the void of nothingness. I also got access to the brilliant fart attack, which stuns enemies in several different ways, including the cartoonish green gas cloud, or a silent-but-violent, which is shown by a mischievous smile from the perpetrator. 

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but the summary paragraph is a pretty good overview of what Inkulinati is as a game. The tutorial covers all of this information, along with a few other bits and pieces, but it just so happens that the tutorial makes up around 50% of the gameplay. I was deep into learning the ins and outs of Inkulinati before I realised I still hadn’t completed any of the game’s story. This wasn’t optional either, the game railroads you into finishing the vast majority of the how-to guide before letting you run free on the game. I felt a bit downhearted with this, as I’d have preferred a quick rundown of the vital bits before being let loose on the game proper. 

Still, while the tutorial is as long as the entirety of Monty Python and the Holy Grail before the police shut the production down, Inkulinati is a lovely game to look at. To paraphrase the ultimate northerner and all-around role model Sean Bean, one does not simply describe what Inkulinati looks like. From a quick cursory glance, Inkulinati is a hand-drawn manuscript that even Bilbo Baggins would be proud of, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s something altogether more strange going on. Inkulinati is a cartoon battler that takes inspiration from the 12th-century French work Bréviaire de Renaud de Bar which pits dogs against rabbits as they try to take over castles, and folds it into a modern video game. At the beginning of each battle, a real-life hand that’s wearing a knight’s gauntlet, complete with chainmail, brings to life an assortment of creatures – primarily of the bunny and canine variety. Each one of these creations has its own set of skills, ranging from a rabbit that can shoot bows, to a stabby dog that’s better in close combat with a spear, there’s even a Holy priest cat who can bless the rest of your team to boost their stats. As you progress through the game, you unlock more wild characters that provide varied attacks. A personal favourite of mine is the murder snail, a tiny creature that has a limited range but can one-shot pretty much any enemy it comes into contact with. Unlocking this little hell demon is the Inkulinati version of Final Fantasy’s Tonberry and can massively help progress the story. 

Unfortunately, Yaza Games won’t let you just unlock the Gastropod of Death and let you waltz straight to the final battle – this is a strategy game after all. Before you begin each battle, you have to select your army of five warrior types to take on a vaguely described scenario. The more you rely on a set team the more their effectiveness becomes diminished. A little sad face appears over the animals telling you that they need a break or they’ll be useless. What this means depends on the character, but expect them to do less damage and be on the receiving end of more critical hits. It’s a well-thought-out mechanic from the developers and a mechanic that’s far too under-utilised in strategy games. To begin with, having to plan your battles around how tired your units are was tough but it does get easier once you begin to expand your platoons. I liked that you had to think about every fight as if it was your first and it kept me engaged throughout my time with Inkilinati.

As enjoyable as planning my army according to what lay ahead was, the battles themselves were a little frustrating. This was primarily down to each side having six characters to look after, but also the speed at which moves would be carried out. While I had all the time in the world to make my moves, Inkulinati is structured in a way that the computer also takes time to plan their moves. Granted it only takes a few seconds for your opponent to move, but this feels like it takes an eternity for your turn to come around. Perhaps in my advancing years, I’m becoming a little impatient with a computer trying to act cute, but I’d have preferred the CPU to action the moves around 20% faster so that I could get back to living my life… or at least completing the tutorial.

I will say to Yaza Games’ credit, there is a running commentary of the battle being told in ye-olde English writing in the pages of the manuscript. The longer the fight went on, and the more frustrated with the pacing I became, the silly summary of the combat appearing around the arena made me smile. Even if the battle is mundane, each sentence would still be crafted like a Shakespearean play full of embellishments and witty jibes. It’s written exactly how I imagine The Bard would commentate on a football match between Macclesfield F.C. and Worksop Town. 

While the action is carried by the humour of the characters, and narration that’s written as if the author has had one too many meads, the controls are a bit fiddly, especially with a controller. While Inkulinati was in Early Access, selecting a move required a complicated input of holding a trigger and pushing on the left stick and/or the D-pad – a concept that varied depending on the day of the week. Thankfully, with the 1.0 release, this has been streamlined significantly but still doesn’t feel entirely natural. There were occasions where I’d unintentionally select the wrong attack or push a rabbit to its death because the controls weren’t intuitive. Thankfully, keyboard and mouse support is an option on the Xbox version and this helped massively, as you could select what you wanted to do, along with who you wanted to do it with just a click of the mouse. 

Inkulinati takes its sweet time to get going and for some unfathomable reason, the mostly unskippable tutorial is almost as long as the main campaign. Once you’ve gotten through that, the story is rather enjoyable in its own quirky way. The turn-based affair isn’t for everyone as it moves at a snail’s pace, for the most part, it gives weight to each battle but during a long play session, tedium can set in. That being said, if you’re aware of the plodding nature, this off-beat battler is a rare gem that is both funny and meaningful. The standout of the piece is the medieval styling, which looks as if Terry Gilliam was responsible for putting together the Magna Carta. While I was thoroughly sold on the visuals and humour, there was no better feeling than obtaining the win by using a fart-push combo to dispatch that last opponent. Inkulinati might not be for everyone, but for those who like the strategy genre, then you’re in for a fun time.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.

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