Publisher: Membranos Interactive Media Studio
Developer: Membranos Interactive Media Studio
System requirements: Windows XP SP3/Vista/Win 7, 2.0 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 512 MB graphics card with Pixel Shader 2.0 support, DirectX-compatible sound device, DirectX 9.0c, 300 MB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: Available now
DeadEnd: Cerebral Vortex is a casual game that advertises itself as a “first-person surreal labyrinth game.” That’s a fancy way of saying it’s a maze game. In these mazes, you’re tasked with navigating your own subconscious in an attempt to find the pieces of your shattered soul. This would be a lot easier if the “surreal” part of the game didn’t include illusory walls or open spaces. You’re navigating a maze, all right, but it’s the kind of maze David Lynch or Rod Serling might create to make you question your sanity.
The controls and format are fairly simple. There are no enemies or time limits, so the challenge is really in navigation. There’s no auto-mapping function, and because the landscape is illusory in many respects, you can’t take anything for granted while you wander. There are also goodies to be found, including items that remove illusions, paint cans that leave a trail for you to see, and teleport devices that move you around in unpredictable ways.
I love the ideas behind this game. It’s not just a way of making the genre more interesting through gimmicks, either. A maze that’s half illusion, where the illusions can be turned real and vice versa, will keep you interested. But I hate some of the ways in which the game is executed. The controls are abysmal. I can’t emphasize enough how absurd it is that I have to click the mouse each time I want to move one lousy tile. And you can’t map movement controls to the keyboard, either. So you end up slowly panning around with the mouse in first-person and then clicking the mouse button each time you want to move. You can’t even hold the button down for continuous movement. This is simply unacceptable in a game whose primary form of interaction with the environment is through movement. I also felt that the scenery, while interesting, could’ve used some sprucing up. The game relies on its atmosphere to sell its surreal premise, and I’ve seen better in games offered at this same price.
I can’t say that maze games are really for me, but I’m sure you can find a better way of creating them. The premise is sound, and the levels are well designed, but the problems of the game outweigh its good points. Priced at $6.99, DeadEnd: Cerebral Vortex is a game with great ideas but poor execution.