I've seen the end of the world, and it's filled... with duct tape?
I like to imagine that TheEndApp (Or The End, as I call it, because don’t ever put “app” in the name of your game) is a vision of what would happen to the world if the monkeys from Temple Run took over, and razed entire cities. At the very least, it helps me reconcile the fact that there are virtually no differences between the two games. Except maybe duct tape.
All teasing aside, developer Goroid continues the trend Imangi started with their megahit and gives players an over-the-shoulder endless runner powered by tilt and swipe controls for turning, jumping, sliding, and running side to side. Instead of a foolish treasure hunter, you play the role of a post-apocalyptic rebel, whose job it is to make it unscathed through the rubble.
Ultimately, this amounts to gameplay that is startlingly similar to Temple Run, which isn’t on its own a crime. After all, there’s a line between trading on a formula and cloning. With The End, however, the question becomes whether or not the experience is fun in its own right. And here, the answer is... mostly?
Many will be quick to point out the game’s visuals - and certainly, this is one pretty apocalypse - but perhaps the biggest differentiator here is the tempo of play in each game. Where Temple Run cornered the market on devilishly randomized obstacles thrown at your reflexes faster and faster, The End’s matches are likely to be more drawn out “mini-adventures.” This is because Goroid has abandoned the one-strike rule in favor of a full health bar, and given players more options in the process.
Instead of turning the corner to find a tree you must either slide through, or lose to, it’s not uncommon to see a blown open bus you can either sneak under or jump over. This sense of small, but noticeable flexibility permeates the courses, where uneven concrete comes complete with ramps to avoid jumping, and where big leaps are frequently met without consequence as you dive for duct tape arranged in the shape of a star. In a way, I like the system more; perfectionism is just as necessary, but you don’t have to lose as quickly to watch yourself get better; it all happens while you play. And all with a a great sense of style (who doesn’t like strafing in between burning cars?).
Unfortunately, other ways The End sets itself apart undo much of the good will it earns with its Tony Hawk approach to play. Foremost, A convoluted goal system. Perhaps in an effort to scream at the top of their lungs that they aren’t Temple Run cloners, Goroid abandons in-game missions in favour of dedicated challenges. The problem? Each one has about as much substance as the mini-goals you see in other endless runners.
Jump 20 times. Slide 10 times. Avoid duct tape for 30 seconds. All of them require you go to the challenge section, boot up a play session, and run till you achieve the goal, only to be cut short of playing for a distance record in the process. The design decision feels needlessly compartmentalized, and only serves to highlight how lacklustre it would be to play through these kind of mini mission systems on their own. Your reward is a nice change of scenery, I suppose, but there could have been just as much “story” if the goals were embedded in the rotating courses themselves.
Speaking of rewards, The End also shoots itself in the foot by tying challenges and duct tape rewards quite tightly to payment hoops or forced social broadcasting. Want to make it past challenge set one? You’ll need to post a high score to both Twitter and Facebook. Next up: a rating of the game on the App Store. And for the pleasure of “skipping” a challenge (which completed it automatically), you have to pay 5000 rolls of duct tape (okay seriously what is someone building with all of this!?). That means if you take issue with even a couple challenges, you’ll be forced to either shel out of pocket to move forward, or grind the game to play it the way you want to.
Nonetheless, fans of endless runners will still find a lot to love here with the free version of the game, and I can certainly see going to it now and again as a change of pace and style from some of the more uber-twitchy titles out there. Due to some shoddy design choices, though, I can’t see The End ever taking the place of any of the classics. After all...endless running? There’s already an app for that.
- Forgiving physics, robust health bar, and trick-laden levels make for a change of pace. Each session feels like a slightly different "mini-adventure." A game about the end of the world that's bursting with color.
- Fragmented challenge system feels diluted on its own. Challenge content tied to artificial milestones like "social spreading" and rating. At its core, this has been done before with much more finesse. Menus, achievements, and understanding items lacks all the polish of the game itself.