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The survival horror market is rather sparse when it comes to mobile gaming, and I never really understood why that is. Games like Silent Hill 2 prove even today that a game can be horrifying without fancy HD graphics and great controls. In fact, it's the low draw distance and clunky controls that created some of that Horror. Outside of Dead Space, there haven't been any other iOS games to successfully illicit fear in me… until now anyway. I present End Night HD for the iPad. Let me be clear. This game has some serious wrinkles to iron out, and is not for everyone. It can, however, be quite scary, which is always important.
Without any real exposition or story, it's clear that you and someone else are trapped in a town full of mutant zombies who, in the low light and quick movement, really resemble Half Life's Headcrab Zombies. "Ravenholm" is still one of the freakiest levels in a game ever, especially with those Howler Headcrabs. You start the game in a safe house, and must frequently open the gates, venturing out to find various samples to bring back and scan, all in an attempt to create some kind of cure. Using a paper map of the town with samples, health packs, and armor marked all over it, you basically take part in a great big horror scavenger hunt. Story elements are all done through the environment. For example, upon returning to the house the first time, you'll find your partner dead with a pistol on his body for you to use, indicating that he just couldn't take it anymore and took control over his own death. Also, there must be a knife factory just outside of town, because there are knives sticking out of EVERYTHING. Zombies, furniture, you name it!
Upon booting the game up, you choose between an axe, pistol or shotgun as your starting weapon. The shotgun is the most powerful, but the ammo for it is more sparse. The pistol is pretty solid and has lots of ammo. The axe is obviously limitlessly available, but it means you have to get close enough to kiss these freaks before you can cut them down. As you explore, you'll collect information and money for extra points, which are used in upgrading your base stats and skills between games. Your character will feel great remorse for killing so many people, and eventually need a bible or some booze to get over it. You'll also need caffeine to help stay awake, and you'll have to wash zombie blood off of yourself to stave off infection, which is gradual and actually visible on your character. These "babysitting" elements of the game can be quite frustrating, but they all make it more interesting.
One thing sure to annoy people is the "arcade" nature of the game. There are no checkpoints or extra lives here. All the missions are randomized every time as well. One life, one night… can you survive? This is an interesting idea, but I'm not so sure that it works in execution. Especially since zombies relentlessly attack you, and it's very easy to mess up just once due to the controls or by your own error and die. Even after you're almost fully upgraded, it's way too easy to die. This is in part because of the touch controls, and the lack of tactile feedback they entail. This is also due to the camera. People are complaining about the camera, but I quite like it. It's zoomed in very close to your character, in an attempt to create a very claustrophobic effect in which you develop a very itchy trigger finger. It's great for the horror elements, but also endlessly frustrating. Once you beat the game, you just unlock an even harder difficulty and do it all over again. I know it's not what the developers were going for, but some kind of checkpoint system would really be appreciated.
The high definition graphics of the Unity Engine are all well done. The soundtrack is nice at first, but then you'll realize there is only one ambient track that loops forever, and you'll get annoyed. This game can start out rather scary, but it quickly becomes anything but and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The developers have already released one patch which addressed several issues, and once they've perfected the game in their minds, they'll release an iPhone version. There's nothing inherently wrong with this "arcade horror" style, and I like the things they've tried here. It's an innovative and experimental game that tries something fresh and new. Unfortunately, I just don't think it works all that well. Still, I was able to really enjoy this game for a good while before it got on my nerves, and it was rather scary at first. At the time of this review, you can download it for three dollars, and I'd say it's worth checking out; especially for horror fanatics.