What initially drew me to The End of the World was a song by The Cure with the same title and general theme: a break up so painful and all-consuming that it feels like life is over. The video for the song features Robert Smith singing in a decaying house, walls and furniture crumbling all around him. It gets me every time. I’m a romantic, what can I say. It’s a popular theme, and my heart goes out to the creator for whatever inspired a self-described “break up game.” Unfortunately I’m not quite convinced that an Android action game is the most appropriate medium to express this particular anguish.
The story begins with our protagonist waking up and getting dressed before shuffling outside to an abandoned, decaying Newcastle, England. Gameplay consists of moving the character left or right by holding down on either side of the screen. Some objects like cigarettes or chairs can be picked up or used. Other objects move the story forward by, weirdly enough, flashing backward to life before the end of the world.
This flashback feature is an interesting mechanic with a ton of unused potential. Pressing and holding a clock changes the entire screen to a view of the same location in the past. The color palette switches from dull gray to warm red and pink, and the city is fresh and whole again. In these flashbacks, the protagonist and his much-obsessed-over main squeeze are doing happy couple activities like painting in the park, seeing a movie, or snuggling together in bed. But their only function is to show a small memory cut scene, then transport the character back to bed to start the day over.
Though the character’s apartment becomes increasingly disheveled, each day starts the same way and the action gets tedious very quickly. Wake up, get dressed (or don’t), drink some coffee (or don’t), smoke a cigarette (or don’t). Take the elevator down to the street, and wander around until you find an interact-able object. Then, repeat. I was able to mix things up somewhat by drinking all of the alcohol I found in a bar, but the only change was that instead of waking up in bed, the protagonist woke up in the street with no clothes on.
While this is by no means a bad game, I found myself constantly expecting more. The story, even the flashbacks, don’t really go anywhere. We see a generic cheery past that is literally rose-tinted, and a bleak, dark present, but no clear picture of what exactly went wrong. And although I played it through multiple times to try the different “endings,” nothing was ever resolved. The protagonist is obviously unhappy, pining for the days before the end of the world. But it is never made clear what our hero actually wants. An aimless man with no goals doesn’t make for compelling gameplay.
This feels more like a slightly interactive comic than a game. I don’t mean that as a slight against it, either. This functions very well as a piece of abstract art. The watercolor visuals and striking before and after images are gorgeous. But it’s clear that the main emphasis here is on the visuals and not on the gameplay or the plot. As a game, this idea feels a little half baked. Especially since the whole thing can be completed in fifteen minutes. That’s more than enough time to tell a heartbreaking story if done correctly, but this doesn’t quite get there.
I would love to see this premise taken further and executed more boldly. But as it stands, I’m not really convinced the world has ended.
Is it Hardcore?
The artwork is brilliant, but as an action game, it lacks direction.