So often, it’s the flashy graphics and prime soundtrack that pull me into games, but at the end of the day, it takes more than that to really connect with any app, game or not. If it’s all flash and no substance, it won’t sit long on my home screen. There’s little flash in Ending, but what it’s missing in the looks department, it more than makes up for in solid gameplay. I’ll take a look at why Ending is such a great game and why you should give it a shot.
It’s Just the Beginning
Ending seems so simple at first blush, you may be wondering why it’s even worth a download. Everything is black, white, and gray–unless you turn on the hints that mark pitfalls in red–and Ending isn’t much for graphics to be honest. There are a few simple figures spread out on a basic checkerboard. It’s pretty easy to dismiss this one out of hand, but you’d be missing out on a pretty special game if you gave into that impulse.
The player is marked by an @ symbol, popular in Rogue-like games that rely almost entirely on ASCII text characters. I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of what I’ve always viewed as a streak of nihilism in Rogue-likes. There are no “lives” or do-overs; once your character dies, that’s it. Game over, and it’s back to the beginning with you. Fortunately, it’s not that serious in Ending, as I was overjoyed to learn. My little @ couldn’t take damage, and one hit was enough to do it in, that was true enough, but I was only knocked back to the beginning of each level when I failed. A true Rogue-like would have sent me to the beginning of the entire game and made me feel bad about myself as a person.
It’s for the best you get multiple shots at Ending, because it’s a tough nut to crack. The key is figuring what each new enemy is going to do to kill your @ and how all of the obstacles will prevent it from reaching the ultimate goal of exiting the tiny torture chamber in which it has found itself. There’s no sitting still and seeing how things will play out. The @ must constantly be on the move, and often the secondary objective, behind simple escape, is to prevent your avatar from being cornered and ever reaching freedom. There’s no shortage of enemies on the table, ready to splat your @ with a bone-jarring crunch.
Puzzles Within Puzzles
I’ve always been a fan of mazes, and Ending plays out in the same way; it’s just that you can see the exit the whole time. Like a maze, you must slowly pick out the best path, and a wrong turn can be fatal. If you pay close attention, you’ll always know what’s the wrong turn, even if the only action left to you is a wrong turn. The secret to Ending is always making sure you’ve got an out and are never without an evacuation plan.
So much of Ending is trial and error, but and there are more than a few levels that I had to play over and over again. It was never the game’s fault, though, and was always user error; it was always down to carelessness on my part. You’ll be given a limited number of moves, too, and can gain a few back with every enemy killed. While this does place more importance on each action, I only ran out of moves when I was on the run and doing a bad job of deciphering the room’s puzzle. I knew it was my failing and not Ending’s.
The goal of each level is escape, but there’s an endless mode to play as well. While you can move from room to room, you never actually extricate yourself. This was a shock to the system; after so long playing with a view to egress, I felt suddenly caged and very aware of the walls surrounding my @ avatar. There had always been a way out in the other levels, but this was an unpredicted claustrophobic feeling in an ironically endless mode. There was suddenly no ending to Ending, and I was delightedly surprised to find such depth is a game that seemed so bland at first glance.
Ending is practically perfect as it is. It’s addictive, which is great in any game and perhaps overused in reviews, but more than that, it’s engrossing. I don’t want to just move from level to level and finish Ending, but instead I become completely enamored with each level on its own as it is revealed. Don’t let the lo-fi graphics turn you off, because Ending’s depth extends beyond just its looks. It’s absolutely a must download game, and one you won’t be able to put down soon.