STAFF REVIEW of Bendy and the Dark Revival (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 26, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Bendy and the Dark Revival Box art Bendy and the Ink Machine released back in 2017 in staggered episodic releases. While I didn’t pay much attention to it at release, it certainly found its audience, as my young daughter certainly knew about it and watched a lot of videos of people playing. It’s been a long time coming since its initial success, but the sequel is now here, Bendy and the Dark Revival, and thankfully is a full release at once, not episodic in design like its predecessor.

Because I’m new to the series, I was wondering how much I was missing by not playing the original game. Thankfully Bendy and the Dark Revival is its own story where you don’t need to have played the original to know what’s going on, but series fans will certainly get more out of it being able to recognize certain characters return. I was quite surprised with how much of a Bioshock influence Bendy and the Dark Revival had, and it’s clear to see that’s where a lot of its inspiration comes from with its gameplay and themes.

You play as Audrey, an animator working late at Archgate Pictures who is working some overtime, simply getting up for a quick break to get some coffee. You come across Wilson, the janitor, and after a brief conversation and quick errand, you find yourself somehow now stuck in a new and mysterious world. Audrey is now in her studio, but in the ink world, and if you’ve played the original Bendy, you probably have an idea how this is going to play out.

Wilson appears to be the main antagonist, and Audrey will need to do what she can to simply survive if she ever wants to escape this cycle that he now apparently is ruling over. Surviving won’t be easy though, as not only will enemies be searching for you, but the dreaded Ink Demon is a sure and swift death if it finds you. What does Bendy have to do with all of this? Who is this other person trying to guide you? Many answers are to be found, unfortunately much of the story and background lore is hidden away in audio logs that you’ll find when exploring the environment and can easily be missed.

Played in first person, you’ll be exploring this creepy world with some survival and horror elements thrown in, complete with plenty of jump scares. The world appears like a vintage cartoon and you’ll need to solve puzzles, explore for hidden passageways, fight against inked enemies and use plenty of stealth to survive. Once you reach a point about halfway through the adventure, you’ll need to deal with the Ink Demon that relentlessly pursues you, forcing you to hide for a few moments until the coast is clear.

While there are some light puzzle elements, the majority of them are simply finding a particular item and then backtracking to unlock a door to finally be able to progress. A portion of the opening chapter will have heavy stealth elements, as you won’t initially have a weapon to defend yourself with, having to find hiding spots in lockers, in barrels and under crates. It’s not always clear how close you can get to these ink enemy before they notice or where exactly their cone of vision extends to, so it’s a bit of trial and error in the beginning. This is where the survival portion comes into play. You have a stamina meter you’ll need to manage for running, though it’s usually plenty enough to reach the next hiding spot if required.

Exploring the rooms and corridors, don’t be surprised if you become lost as there’s no map, so you’ll need to take good mental notes of where you’ve previously been and should be heading to. Sometimes you get a marker of where to go next, though this seemed to only be sporadic. Later on there’s a fast travel system that unlocks, but it’s not as useful as I’d hoped. Strewn all about each room and in desk drawers, lockers are barrels are items you can pick up and collect. This will be used to craft items later on, refilling your health or collecting money.

I was hoping that the crafting system would make for some interesting additions to the gameplay, but it’s quite basic. You can use your found materials to craft keys (Gent Cards) to open specific boxes or save them up to upgrade your Gent Wrench, your main and only weapon, though even with a few upgrades I didn’t feel much more powerful. Making cards seemed really not worth it, as there’s usually just more basic materials inside, but if you’ve been diligent at exploring and picking up things along the way, materials shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Oddly enough, all the food you find can’t be stored to be used later, simply eaten as you pick it up, so if you’re low on health you’ll need to play a little more cautiously until you can find some random sandwiches and other things tucked away. Sure, you could use your money to buy food, but health generally wasn’t an issue other than a few times where I had to fight multiple enemies at once, on the Easy setting at least.

Before you get your Gent Pipe you have no means to defend yourself, so you’ll have to do a bunch of stealth and sneaking portions to get past enemies. Once you do acquire your sole weapon you’re finally able to defend yourself, though you’ll quickly realize how clunky combat is in general. Having a simple pipe, you can swing at any of the ink enemies, though most take a few hits to defeat. It’s difficult to judge the distance you need and when to press the trigger to have it connect at the right time. Versus single enemies is usually no big deal, but there are many times you’ll need to face multiple at once, which is where it becomes more challenging since most areas are tight and confined hallways. This generally results in having to circle strafe and just swing away until everything is dead.

You do earn a few more abilities as you progress, the first being basically a one-hit kill backstab called “Banish”. If you crouch and sneak up behind an enemy that doesn’t notice you, you can instantly kill them with a special power that is imbued into your ink covered arm. The pipe as your weapon simply feels boring, even with the upgrades you can get later on. There are a couple bosses to fight along the way, breaking up the monotony, with the final boss the most interesting.

As mentioned above, even though you can fight off ink enemies once you get your Gent Pipe, the Ink Demon is a different story. You’re told that he is near, the screen dims and shakes, and that’s your cue to find a hiding spot right away, regardless of what you’re doing. Fail to do so and you’ll instantly die and have to try again. Even though it didn’t happen too often, it made me slow down and take notice of any hiding spots I passed by, knowing that’s where I’ll need to run to if this is the moment the Ink Demon decides to roam nearby. It’s weird simply getting a prompt to go hide rather than having to keep a lookout and listen on my own for it when exploring, reducing it to a simple ‘hide or die’.

Audrey will gain a few other abilities as her journey progresses, starting with the Banish explained above. While there’s a few, the one you’ll rely on most is "Flow", essentially a quick dash/teleport forward for a short distance. This can help you escape quickly, cross gaps or catch up to an enemy to sneak and Banish them.

While it might seem bland given the brown and tan sepia tone, it’s deliberate, as you’re stuck in this old style cartoon world of Bendy. The flowing ink and dark outlines make for a good contrast and animation overall is done quite well. Sure there’s a few weird glitches like enemies getting stuck in doorways, walking in place or being a bit stiff when turning, but overall I quite enjoyed the visual aesthetic of Bendy's world. As for the audio, the voice acting is done quite well actually across the board from all those that have lines, not just Audrey and Wilson. You’ll hear noises in the distance, unsure if it’s an enemy around the corner or not. The Ink Demon sounds terrifying and the intensely really ramps up in those few moments you need to find a hiding spot because of the audio alone.

I did enjoy the setting and the overall narrative, it’s just a shame a lot of the story is hidden away in collectable notes and audio logs, some of which will certainly be missed if you’re not exploring every corner of the world. Having never played Bendy and the Ink Machine and only knowing what my daughter told me about it, I was unsure how cohesive Bendy and the Dark Revival would be for a newcomer like myself. Thankfully knowledge or previous play experience is not required here. My main complaint is that the controls are simply too sensitive, even when turned down, as if it was clearly designed for a mouse and keyboard instead. So many times, even hours in, I found myself struggling to pick up an item because I couldn’t get the cursor in the exact spot needed.

While original Bendy fans will certainly get the most out of it, it was difficult to feel invested as a newcomer with the clunky combat and forced stealth sections. That said, the world is created quite well and has a great atmosphere, I just didn’t feel all that invested and become frustrated at times with the backtracking.

**Bendy and the Dark Revival was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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