End Night [$2.99] puts you in control of one of two survivors of an undead apocalypse. Not zombies, quite, but something horrifying. It's a dark, claustrophobic game with a few roguelike elements. With limited ammo, health packs and sanity, you must head out into the abandoned town, breaking into houses, collecting samples of the infection and hoping to turn them into a serum that will let you rebuild the world of the living.

The view is top-down, with the camera pulled in just a little too close for comfort. The controls are slightly awkward - a left stick for walking, and buttons on the right for firing (not aiming—you can't miss), inventory and interaction. You can't interact while you're moving. The music is ambient, and can't be disabled, sounds are sparse. It's clunky, not ideal, except that it serves to create a sense of unease. You can't see or hear the creatures until they burst out of the dark toward you. You can't grab a health pack without stopping and fending off the horde.

You start out armed with your choice of a pistol, shotgun or axe. The axe doesn't rely on limited resources, but using it means standing toe to toe with the creatures. The shotgun is accurate and deadly, but its ammo is very hard to come by. The pistol has range and (sort of) plentiful ammo, but isn't accurate enough to kill most creatures until they're right up close. Still, I always take the pistol. You can't risk ending up unarmed, and you can always find the others around town.

Death is permanent. If you get yourself killed, your mission is over and you must start again from the beginning. You earn points for everything you find, every creature you kill, every step in your quest that you complete. You can use those points to improve your stats, making your next life just a little easier.

Resources are very limited, and some are placed randomly: there will not always be a health pack in this medicine cabinet, or food in that fridge. The randomness, you'll come to learn, is fairly limited - a disappointment, in my opinion. If you risk breaking into the police station, you'll always find ammo and armor. If you make it to the grocer, there will always be food. One neighbor is always deeply religious. Another, thankfully, is fond of coffee. Buildings, sample locations and certain resources are shown on the readily-available map.

You'll thank your deceased neighbors for hoarding, because every resource is precious. Ammo and health are obvious, but you also need to worry about your emotional state. Killing monsters that were once townspeople makes you remorseful (though try as I might, I never did die of remorse), something you can cure with bibles or booze. Those things make you tired, so you'll need to find coffee. And should you get too spattered with the gore of creatures you've killed, you'll need to wash. Every home has a bathtub, though you won't always like what you'll find in them.

End Night stands out for being truly chilling. As a shooter it's somewhat clunky, visually it's dark and repetitive. But there's a feeling of dread that accompanies the tight view, the sudden sounds. The things you find in some of the homes will haunt you. It's amazing how distant a house across the street feels when the undead are on your trail. While there's no real story to speak of, the creators channeled some of the creepier elements of I am Legend to great effect. You'll wonder whether you're in the right even as you mow down creature after creature. Play in the dark if you can—if nothing else, it will make it much easier to see what's going on.

Where End Night fails is in providing a reason to keep playing. The pretense toward randomness is promising, but once you've improved your stats and put together your final cure there's really not much call to replay the game. You do unlock a more difficult Nightmare mode when you finish, but there's nothing novel about the game by that point. Perhaps Game Center integration could improve this if it were added, but this is probably a one-and-done sort of game.

Still, for that one play through (and every failed attempt that leads up to it), the game is impressive. It does the wide genre of undead apocolypse games proud. And I'm all for compact experiences, especially emotionally evocative ones. Kicking through your neighbors' doors, scavenging while the forces of undeath run at you, this is tense fun for the one or two hours it lasts. If that's enough for you, then dive into the gore, ready to run. If you make it out alive, I'm sure our discussion thread would love to hear from you.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • http://www.vitaltitles.com/ Nick

    See, weird. I see the words and I'm flummoxed at this and Ghost Trick being 4 star games =

    This is a great review, Nissa, you know I love your reviews, but I just am a bit confused by the star rating. Is it due to the reason that it nails the genre so well? It seems like a clunky version of a lesser Resident Evil?

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      I hear you, Nick. Part of the problem is that we all bring our own standards in for rating games - we do all work from the same guidelines, but you'll rarely find all of us agreeing on the exact score a game should get. This is a 4 for me, for Cass (who reviewed Ghost Trick), it may well have been significantly lower.

      The other part of the problem is that I was terribly torn on star rating this time. I considered going lower because of the lack of replayability, but ultimately felt that the intensity and enjoyment from my first playthrough was worth a serious recommendation. The clunkiness didn't really become a problem for me until I'd already played for a couple hours, beaten the game, and messed about afterwards. I figure a solid couple hours is well worth a purchase, and with game scores being the way they are, a 3 or 3.5 is the same as saying something is terrible for some people. 

      Your mileage may vary, of course. If you feel like I tend to err on the side of too generous, go right ahead and mentally knock off a couple points from my review scores. I won't mind a bit.

  • Anonymous

    I'm getting mixed messages with this review. You say a million terrible things (deal breakers, if I had to guess), but go on to say it's a great game. I'm confused!

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      It's a mixed game. There are problems, but I enjoyed it greatly despite them and feel it was well worth the time and purchase. There are several small irritations and one largish issue, but no dealbreakers in my opinion. 

      • Anonymous

         Nice. Thanks for the follow up! I think I can spare three bucks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Hopper/1238691947 Paul Hopper

    Only thing its missing in my opinion is gamecenter + achievements. I like my achievements and when am facing 4+ new games on a wednesday release list I steer towards the achievement filled ones first.

  • http://www.vitaltitles.com/ Nick

    99 cents??? DEVS!!! Argh!

    You make people never want to buy games on release.

    I know your sales might not be great and sure, I'll probably buy it - but if I HAD purchased it? Ugh!!

  • Anonymous

    This is killing me. Can't buy it on sale because "This item is being modified". Aargh!

  • dirtyblue929

    What I want to know is if you can prevent the assistant's suicide, and if it has an effect on the cure progress or ending. Also, how is Nightmare different from normal, aside from the assistant being dead from the start?

End Night HD Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4