Feel like getting lost? DeadEnd: Cerebral Vortex may well satisfy that craving
If video games could laugh, DeadEnd: Cerebral Vortex‘s laugh would be an evil, under-its-breath laugh; the kind that you might associate with psychopaths and/or the insane. This laugh is directed at you, the player, as you feebly try to better the game’s many twisted labyrinths, and your brain becomes more and more battered and bruised.
Maze games have been around for decades now, and have generally lost their appeal as more exciting concepts have come along. DeadEnd does a decent job of resurrecting the genre, with walls that come in and out of focus, and settings that will chill you to the bone. There’s still no denying, however, that you’re still simply walking around a maze, and not having a great deal of fun all the while.
You’ve been trapped in your subconscious, where reality and illusion go hand-in-hand, and the only way to escape is to collect all the shattered pieces of your soul in a series of labyrinths. There are no enemies, no time limits, no hints and no actions – you’re simply left to wander the creepy halls of each area, grabbing Soul Cubes and finding the exit.
The twist is that some of the walls aren’t as they seem. Approach a wall, and it may well disappear, leaving a pathway in its wake. Conversely, walk towards open space, and you may well find a wall blocking your path. The idea is to hug the walls, find the secret entrances, and slowly but surely make your way through the madness.
Along the way items help you on your quest. For example, you can grab pots of paint, which draw footsteps on the floor behind you and help you keep track of where you’ve walked. There are also items that help expand your field of view, spying openings in the maze long before you get up close to them.
To make matters a little more complicated, it’s also possible to invert reality at certain intervals. This essentially makes all real walls into fake walls, and all the fakes into reality. As you can probably guess, this makes the going far tougher, as you need to keep switching reality and illusion to forge a path to where you need to be.
All this amounts to a resounding feeling throughout that the game is laughing at you, as you approach seemingly open pathways to have them quickly swiped away from your grasp. It’s very eerie and creates this strange feeling of despair and anguish, while also urging you to continue onwards and beat the beast.
When you break it down, however, DeadEnd reveals itself to be just another maze game, and as you play through the game, dullness begins to set in. The fact is that walking around a maze, no matter how you spruce it up, it not very exciting. Even the various different themes and environment weren’t enough to keep us entertained very long.
DeadEnd also come with very odd controls indeed. You look around with the mouse, but then rather than walking around with the keyboard as you’d expect of a first-person game, you click to move a single space in one of four directions. What’s even more strange is that you have to click every time, and can’t simply hold down the mouse button to move forward multiple spaces.
It feels very strange, and quite retro – but not really in a good way. There’s really no need for this odd approach, and having to click over and over again in quick succession becomes quite a turn-off.
DeadEnd: Cerebral Vortex is a good labyrinth game, but at the end of the day, it’s still a labyrinth game, and there’s only so far the fun can be stretched before you realise that you’re simply walking around a grid filled with walls. As entertaining as it can possibly be, then.