The past two entries in the Indie Jones series have been games that set my twitter stream on fire thanks to their weird surreality and meta commentary on certain areas of gaming. Ending, on the other hand, has only come up a couple of times, but the mentions of it were enough to pique my interest.
At first glance Ending appears to be something of a proper, old-school Roguelike – when graphics meant ASCII and audio was whatever noises you could convince that little speaker attached to the motherboard to make. Ending is a little more complicated than that however – it’s part Roguelike, part puzzler, and part chess homage.
Each puzzle is a checkered dungeon level, filled with enemies and hazards. As with old-school Roguelikes – and chess for that matter – the game plays out in a turn-based fashion. You move, then the enemies move, and when you meet, combat happens.
This is where things get interesting.
One hit will kill either you or your enemy, so Ending becomes a game of positioning yourself so you can strike the enemy before they can strike you. That sounds an awful lot like chess, but the lack of an intelligent opponent and the carefully constructed levels in the “LEFT” mode place it squarely in the puzzle sphere. On the more difficult stages one wrong move can put you in an untenable position – but the game avoids becoming frustrating thanks to the small levels and near-instant respawns.
If LEFT is the deliberately authored puzzle game, then MIDDLE (I’m sure they have real names somewhere, but I’m making my own up) is the sprawling, procedurally generated Roguelike. It manages to stay intimate by splitting itself up into rooms that must be reached before they’re revealed, but it’s just as interesting and compelling as LEFT. The rules are all the same – the different enemies with varied movement patterns and weaknesses, the generators, the destructible environments – but the random nature of it means that sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.
RIGHT appears to be a level editor, but I haven’t even had a chance to look at that yet. Needless to say, there is a lot of game in this little package.