An intriguing premise and solid presentation make Ingress: The Animation an above-average video game adaptation.
Video games don’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to being adapted for film and television, but I suppose Ingress isn’t your typical video game. For one thing, it’s a mobile game; a particularly unique minefield of shady exploitation tactics and one-more-go design loops that hold consumers upside-down and shake them until change falls out of their pockets. For another, it’s an augmented-reality experience developed by Niantic, the same folks responsible for Pokémon GO. And Ingress: The Animation isn’t a typical adaptation, either. A far cry from the usual adaptation fare such as, weirdly, Uwe Boll’s perplexingly awful Far Cry, here’s a show first and an adaptation second; a surprisingly rare quality that Ingress: The Animation tends to benefit from.
Arriving on Netflix today, Ingress: The Animation is able to capture the tone of its source material and make frequent nods to its mechanics without derailing what stands on its own as a decent-enough conspiratorial thriller. In a world gunked up by a substance known as Exotic Matter — referred to casually as XM — dueling factions quibble over the usual bits of business, while vaguely superpowered individuals known as “Sensitives” find themselves embroiled in the conflict.
One of them, Makoto, is a jittery special investigator who can read the memories of objects he touches — not a particularly new idea, but always an intriguing one, and a good way to build dramatic tension or set up plot twists. He functions as the show’s protagonist, more or less, but the central relationship is between him and an amnesiac girl who can nonetheless recall oodles of exposition; on their tail are various Matrix-style blacked-out agents, giving early episodes a pacey cat-and-mouse vibe as the heroes try to figure things out while constantly on the run from a menacingly dangerous foe.
Ingress: The Animation does a good job of gradually complicating and raising the stakes as it goes, which is a typically gamey structure, and a reliably solid — if increasingly common — CG-tinged presentation style does a good job of rendering both drama and slick action beats. It’s a fun show with solid dramatic underpinnings that can stand entirely apart from the game it’s based on, though obviously fans of that title will get more out of it. But anyone in the market for a nostalgic and out-there series reminiscent of licensed Saturday morning cartoons could do a lot worse than Ingress: The Animation.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.