Bet you thought that was the end, didn't you? “Where's my favourite ever internet column that I never feel compelled to comment on?” you would almost certainly have been thinking (We did actually get one or two concerned emails about this! - Ed.). Well, it was just on a little hiatus. People in the games industry are allowed to take breaks too, you know.
But yes, we're back in the free gaming house, full of vim, vigour, verve and maybe even some vinegar. And this week, we've got something that was obviously inspired by the disappearance of this column, namely The End.
The end is just the beginning, the site says. It also says there's an epic quest of personal discovery awaiting anyone who dares to start. Someone with less integrity might pretend to review the game by just looking at the handy summary text and images found on the main site and extrapolating from there.
“Explore exotic worlds!” it reads. “Battle guardians!” it also reads. “Find your inner self!” it thirdly reads. “...And loads more stuff!” it concludes. Single and multiplayer modes, create an avatar, 19 intriguing objects, leaderboards, and so on.
That's what you'll get from the website, but what do you expect from me? Luckily, I'm in an analytical mood, so what's to be made of the game, going past the bumph? First thing you come across is the character creator, and for a browser game, there's a lot of customisation possible, although you can't seem to select a female avatar, being stuck with pseudo-hipster with drainpipe jeans and a ridiculous haircut/hat of your choice.
(Although it does seem you can 'nearly' create a female, by selecting woman-y hair and making certain facial feature choices.)
Made with the help of Channel 4, the TV organisation continuing to sponsor ambitious indie gaming projects, a fireball flies into the Earth leaving you in the darkness of the post-disaster world. After making sure to connect yourself up with Facebook, you'll come up against large creatures who will challenge you to use your new-found powers, including the ability to solidify shadows in order to cross gaps and such.
There are a number of worlds to explore, themed around the body, the mind and so on. Each one has an object you'll want to collect, plus stars that are related to bonus challenges. Once at the end of a level, there's a choice to be made and a big boss to defeat. To defeat them, you need to play a mini-game with triominoes, the goal being to have more on the board at the end than your opponent.
As you progress through the game and win more battles, you get bonuses that will help you out in future bouts.
Anyway, once you've got the level's object, you can equip it. Like most Channel 4 games, there's an education angle to the experience, so like Privates had its focus on sex education, The End is all about philosophy, with objects being related to different schools of thought. The first one your correspondent acquired was the Daredevil's Helmet, which came with a few thoughts on a specific philosophical question – this one was about whether living for the moment could bring true fulfilment – and highlights certain thinkers who had discussed the topic in the past.
It's immediately obvious as soon as you start playing that there's a lot of content here and, during the course of this article, the decision was made to focus exclusively on it, because to do otherwise would be to leave a lot of the features out of the discussion, and that just won't do. And it's also good enough to warrant such a long piece as well.
Having said that, it can be easy to accidentally fall and die, sending you back to a previous checkpoint. The music can get on your nerves too, especially when you're trying to watch the football at the same time (ahem).
But other than those little gripes, it's great. You'll learn about philosophy, which is nice, but you'll also be able to get involved with a challenging puzzle-platformer that has loads of levels, a great mini-game and lots of personality.
The best thing is you can, when you've linked your progress to Facebook, save your game and come back to it later, which lifts it above the majority of browser games that will get partially played and then never returned to.
So for that reason, this gets a big thumbs up, one foam hand's-worth of a thumb pointed towards the sky to symbolise greatness. Looking back on it, even the triominoes mini-game would be worthy of a positive review and it's just a small element of the whole. That's got to push you towards playing, you non-commenter, you.