Summative Game Review: The End, A Channel 4 Educational Game.
The End is a serious game that aims to create and promote philosophical and moral debate around death, belief and science. Aimed at the thirteen to nineteen’s, it mixes puzzle, platform and quiz to create a simple and addictive experience with no need to read the rules before play.
On start up you are introduced to the character creator that is well designed, easy to navigate and has a vast range of choice for your character including some funny novelty items (moustaches are a favorite).
Good quality graphics continue through the game as you progress to platform play in one of three worlds of the body, mind or spirit.
The experience is only enhanced by the addition of a unique shadow gaming mechanism that enables you to make temporary walkways by pressing down the ‘e’ key.
However, what the game has in terms of shiny graphical exterior and original mechanisms is let down by imprecise collision detection and poor reaction time to key press, making movements jerky and timing jumps frustrating.
To the games credit, it has chosen to take on an educational area filled with sensitive subject manner and manages to create an enchanting product that maintains a light hearted tone, despite posing some difficult ethical and philosophical questions.
However, what the game achieves in asking these questions is all too quickly shot down by the choice of response that is offered, a simple yes or no answer. Although I’m sure this is meant to spark debate outside of the games parameters, there is no guarantee that it succeeds or checks in place to ensure the information has not been simply skipped past.
The mini games are an addictive puzzle against a guardian in order to win a death object. You must choose the tiles with the higher number and aim to flip the opponent’s pieces. Simple and engaging, it’s easy to get immersed in the challenge and play for longer than you thought. A successful game.
However, the connection between the platform gaming, puzzle rounds and educational content is at best tenuous. What relevance does the puzzle have to the platform gaming and what does it aim to teach the user?
In other places the tension between gaming and education seems stretched to contradiction. As when the character’s ‘end’ (by falling onto sharp crystals or down holes) is met by disintegration into smoke and miraculous resurrection. An outcome that seems to undermine the thoughtfulness encouraged by the quotations and questions interspersed in the game play.
This narrative inconsistency leaves you questioning whether The End has really succeeded in balancing its educational message with its gaming elements. Whether it really informs rather than trivialises its subject matter.
The End is a fun, great looking, free game interspersed with some controversial questions, but if it’s an education beyond learning how to play a platform game that your after, you might be better to look elsewhere.