The End is the latest in a series of “endless runner” games (see recent releases like Subway Surfer and Disney movie tie-in Temple Run: Brave), all looking to cash in on Temple Run’s runaway success.

The End does an admirable though imperfect job of adding its own flavour in what is a colourful, fun, and dangerously addictive addition to the genre.

It’s the End of the World as We Know it

An endless runner set in a post-apocalyptic world, with bright and vibrant visuals reminiscent of Brink, Borderlands or Crackdown that make for an interesting motif for your running, jumping, and sliding around. Between the visuals and the fun soundtrack, it’s a TON more vibrant and in-your-face than Temple Run, but at its core it’s essentially a clone, complete with collectable power-ups and coins (or rolls of duct tape in this case — ’cause you know, when facing the end of the world, you can’t have enough of the stuff).

The buttonless controls follow the Temple Run formula religiously — swiping to turn corners, jump and slide, tilting to steer. The controls are certainly familiar, but coming from similar titles, the accelerometer in The End seemed sensitive, making it very tough to tilt accurately while moving, or full-out impossible in a moving vehicle. Of course, depending on your preferences and iOS gaming habits, your mileage may vary here. For me, I found it led to a clunky first few runs.

The Real Cost of Free

Like seemingly every other free game out there, there’s an in-app purchase option to buy currency for boosts and power-ups and the like. The game isn’t tuned to the point where you need to spend real dollars to progress in the game, but there is an unexpected paywall for the best upgrades, head-starts, score boosters, etc.

For $1.99 you can unlock the “pro” version of the game to access all features. Nowhere in the app description is it marketed as a lite app, and there’s no mention of features being locked in the free game.  So, to see the core gameplay hamstrung by a paywall was a bit of a slap in the face once I got into it.

Adding to that, there’s a heavy-handed encouragement to share your accomplishments to Facebook and/or Twitter to help spread the word about the game. Through in-game batches of challenges/quests you need to complete to level up, there’s near-always one challenge where you need to publish a score to social media. If you don’t share the love, you don’t level up. This blows if you’re an anti-social casual gamer, or one that just doesn’t want to tell the whole world what you’re up to on your phone.

To The End’s credit, they do give you the option to spend some hard-earned duct tape to skip challenges you don’t feel like doing — but the forced-social element leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I understand that the developers want people spreading the word, and that the In-App Purchase (IAP) helps them to put food on their tables and recoup the costs of pushing out a free title like this, but forcing me to be social, or tuning/restricting gameplay to encourage IAP doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities. I get that it’s a free game, but if you’re making gameplay decisions for the sake of generating awareness and dollars, it’s a tasteless Zynga-esque move. I’d much rather see them charge what they need upfront, and let the strength of the game itself determine how much sharing happens.

Conclusion

IAP and social letdown notwithstanding, The End is a Temple Run on steroids that’s fun to sink your teeth into. If you’ve burned out on Temple Run and are looking for a new endless running to soak up a few hours, it’s totally worth checking out.

The price is right… at least at first.

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