by Tancrid Muller, Fiction Engine
Remember those light-hearted platformer games that we all used to play back in the day (or still do); like “Sonic” and “Mario”? The toughest decision you needed to make in those games was deciding whether to jump on the evil mushroom or just let it go about its business. The End however, goes MUCH deeper.
The End plays like most games in the platformer genre. You run, you jump, you collect shiny things, but that’s where the similarities end. Right at the start of the game, The End asks “who are you?” and you answer by creating a unique avatar to best represent yourself in the game world. No matter how hard you try, your little creation will probably turn out looking (even just slightly) creepy. The character creation is basic, but the possibilities are endless, and it would be tough to find anyone having the exact same avatar. You’ve lovingly created your character and crafted a memorable name for them. Now what? Well… your character dies, that’s what. You are then sent to a strange Other World where your journey really begins. The game uses a quirky and dark art style, which I found simply beautiful. Each of the three “worlds” that you explore have their own unique look to them. The “body” world uses a rocky, apocalyptic setting. The “mind” world takes you to an enclosed, dark, jungle-ish world full of things waiting to try and end your journey. The final “world”, which I found most beautiful and challenging to complete, is the “spirit” world. Even though this “world” is the darkest of the three, it has an amazingly captivating backdrop, and its levels are filled with all sorts of crystals and gems that add to the aesthetic.
The controls are simple enough to anyone who’s familiar with the WASD setup (directional keys). One thing that makes the platforming aspect of this game unique is the “light” power. This power allows you to make certain shadows turn solid. It’s essential to making progress in each level. You can create platforms to traverse huge gaps and change the paths of certain objects by using this clever power.
At the end of each level (six levels per world) you are asked a “philosophical” question, like… “Do other people’s memories mean that we live on after death?” or “Might our death be a journey to another kind of place?” Most of the questions are really tough to answer when you sit and truly think about them. The game uses your answers throughout to figure out what thought space you’re in; are you a mystic, truth-teller, awakener, or a crusader? It also tells you which famous thinker you most relate to. Whether it’ll be, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud or even Amelia Earhart all depends on your answers.
True to the genre, there are also boss battles at the end of each level. These “battles” are fought as a game of “death cards”. “Death cards” is similar to chess only in the way you need to think a few steps ahead to synch the win.
It’s a fun and addictive little puzzle game, filled with power ups to keep it interesting. It also acts as a good distraction, resting your mind from the tough question you’ve just answered.
The bosses (guardians) you face in The End look intimidating but can be quite hilarious characters. They always have something entertaining to say just before you have to “battle” them. But make no mistake; as soon as it’s time to battle, they turn into horrifying beasts (even scarier than normal), with no other intention than to kick your butt!
Like most platformers, The End has many things for you to collect, such as “stars”, “trophies” and “death objects”. So, for those with that slight compulsion to collect everything, rest assured there are more than enough to keep you busy.
Arguably my favourite thing about The End is the “learn more” option. This option appears after you have defeated a guardian and obtained his “death object”. When clicked, it takes you to a screen that has information about the question you were asked before beating the guardian. The explanation either makes you re-think your previous answer or enhances your confidence in your original answer. You also get a sidebar showing “related issues”, “related thinkers”, and even some further reading links that relate to the question. It’s a great way to learn more about a few of life’s greatest questions, and even some of the greatest thinkers of all time.
The End is one of the best platformer games I have ever played. It gets you thinking about life and some the questions we often ask ourselves, and then gives you information to help you understand these questions better. It’s also one of the most fun and addictive browser-games out there today.
The game is free to play by following this link. The End was commissioned by “Channel 4 Education” and produced by award-winning games studio “Preloaded”.