AMITIAE - Saturday 7 May 2016

Colourful Pinball-style Game for iOS Devices: INKS

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


When I was a teenager, long before the days of personal computers and smartphones, I used to waste my time playing pinball machines: frustrating and rewarding in equal measure.

I revisited this period a couple of years back when I examined a couple of pinball apps for the iPad. I was reminded of this on Friday evening when I saw a new pinball-based app listed as Editor's Choice on the iTunes App Store in Thailand. I decided to download this app, simply named INKS, not solely because it was highlighted in the App Store, but because of the bright and unusual graphics that were a feature of the app. It costs $1.99 and there are a couple of in-app purchases. I tried it out first on the iPhone 6s Plus.

After an initial screen, the user is offered a list of 5 paint options but in its initial state only one (Dawn) was available. I was not able to access the other 5 which were greyed out (I had expected to access online purchasing). These did appear later and are not part of the extra purchases.


When I selected Dawn, 24 tables were shown in, but only one was live at the start. Once I had played this table - a sort of basic scenario- the others were live. They can be played in any order and each could be replayed.

As the ball is in play, the usual flippers are used to guide the ball round the table. The purpose is to make the ball hit colour at the edge of the table. As each area is hit, a splash of colour spreads over the table, creating an artistic effect.

Once all the colors were activated by the ball, the game was over. Some tables had a sink-like hole in the playing area and if the ball went in here it was lost, adding to the score. If a ball was lost before the colors were complete, the number of balls used was higher: a less than perfect performance. Low scores were best. If I was less than happy with a particular result, I was able to replay the table and (hopefully) improve.


The game looks so big on iPad Pro 12.9" but the sounds were certainly better. What did I expect? It was not any easier to play on the large device than it had been on the iPhone, but each has its own attractions. I could play on the iPhone standing up in a commuter train. The iPad Pro needed me to sit down.

I also played INKS on the iPad Air 2 which suggests a sort of Goldilocks Effect: the iPad Pro was large, the iPhone may have been too small, but this one was just right. It of course depends on the user's own preferences, but this was a sort of Goldilocks Effect: the iPhone was too small, the iPad Pro was too bug, but the iPad Air 2 was just right. It of course depends on the user's own preferences.

Sometimes if I was really good and completed the colors quickly, there was a gold star. A couple of tables were so easily completed that they seemed pointless. Others were frustrating and needed several balls played before the colors were completed. Each time the ball tracked over the table, a line was drawn, changing color depending on the last color activated. I am not sure how these lines improved aesthetics, or maybe the point was not to have so many random lines.

When I had completed all 24 tables, the other color options were made available for me. These each had a different style of playing table, so the learning and frustrations would continue.

INKS was updated to version 1.0.1 overnight adding iCloud progress syncing and updating performance for older devices. I find this an interesting diversion with a unique display method - the color splashes - that may well suit some users. I will certainly be playing INKS again on and off.


Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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