From absolute simplicity flows complexity in Ending, the new puzzle game from Aaron Steed. Taking charge of nothing more than a humble ASCII character in a monochrome world, you slowly tease this lifeless creature around the screen towards an exit point. The tricky part? This is a turn-based game - once you've moved your character, the AI moves its own deadly characters into position.
Given how intrinsically lifeless these characters are, how this all plays out requires a fairly abstract explanation, although we'll try our best to sum things up simply: pointy ends of enemies are bad, flat ends are generally safe. So, if you move your character into a tile that's adjacent to the business end of an enemy, you can expect to get squished immediately after your turn. Lure that same enemy into your tile next door though, and you can be the one who does the squishing.
How this all evolves over the game's many levels is considerably more complicated than this, however. New enemies and traps come into play, the sheer quantity of enemies on screen at any one time rises dramatically, and play areas become larger and larger, forcing you to undertake some migraine-inducing pre-planning, followed by pristine execution.
There's plenty of imagination in the level design, but it's the journey of exploration you take with Ending that makes it such a fantastic little game. You gradually learn how those different enemy types behave, most likely by failing miserably at your first attempt. But once you've understood a particular behavior, you feed that new knowledge into your existing strategy, and your mastery of the game slowly evolves with each successive level. Even when the game is infuriating, it's hopelessly fascinating at the same time.
Ending's simplistic visuals and punishing puzzle strategy will almost certainly condemn it to App Store chart mediocrity - a real pity, because we don't think any puzzle fun will want to miss out on the maddening, yet fascinating challenge to be found here. Buck the trend this week and leave all those brasher, more colorful, yet all so often generic puzzlers to have a different day in the sun.
What's Hot:A fantastically imaginative and challenging title for the hardened puzzle gamer.
What's Not:You will almost certainly want to play this with the sound off, as the audio is grating. A little explanation of the game's modes and menus wouldn't have detracted from the minimalist style.