Fans of classic platformers rejoice! Skirmish Entertainment have officially released their first game, End of the Mine; a 2D, side-scrolling platformer inspired by horror and sci-fi games.
The first thing we are greeted with is a short cinematic of three miner friends enjoying a drink in a bar, before a cutaway of one of them hastily falling asleep in their bed. The next morning, this little miner is awoken by a floating robot, and so off to work he goes. Unfortunately, when he gets there, all his friends have disappeared. It’s now over to you as the miner stands in a barren landscape of rocks, rocks… and more rocks. It is very grey and desolate: you are alone apart from Camm-e, your floating robot sidekick.
The tutorial is very simple: you pick up a gun and a pick axe, the former for fighting off monsters, the latter for mining minerals and smashing crates full of goodies. You are also equipped with a jetpack in order to avoid the crevasses of stalagmites that will, unfortunately, instantly kill Mr. Miner.
The environment is in a traditional platformer style that is reminiscent of Super Metroid. There’s plenty to explore, and each area is noticeably detailed, even down to the rocks that make up the floor. The opening level has little to offer in the way of fighting, but it does give players a good opportunity to learn the controls and get the hang of what they’re doing.
The first proper level though, is where it all kicks off. You start by playing a quick, simple shooter on a random arcade machine that just so happens to be at the entrance of the cave. The points you get in the arcade game go towards Comm-e’s battery life, and thus her torch lighting the way through the cave. Once you’re in the cave, you’re soon greeted by an onslaught of floating Doctor Who-esque monsters that appear to be eyeballs inside gaping mouths. Not only do the fly around, they shoot right at you, so you need to be quick and on the ball if you want to kill them and avoid being hit.
This soon descends into mild madness: these monsters have no care should you be busy trying to fly over a crevasse, or if you are attempting to get over an abandoned digger, they’ll still come flying at you whenever they get chance.
These monsters, though, are only the beginning. End of the Mine is filled with progressively grotesque and genuinely creepy monsters. You never know what’s going to be waiting for you round the corner – especially if you are in the dark, or about to go down further into the mine with no sense of where you’ll be landing.
End of the Mine is made up of five areas, each with multiple levels spread over six different environments. There are also 16 boss battles throughout the game, that get annoyingly harder as you go on (battling a giant zombie centipede with a pistol isn’t the easiest of tasks). The unique art style this game presents to its players, though, makes these difficult battles more enjoyable. The original score by Ian Bailey is a perfect accompaniment, and carefully captures the essence of being stuck in a cave and exploring the unknown. There is no dialogue in the game either, which really gives way for the score to take over and totally immerse players. Whether that was a conscious decision or not is unknown, but it doesn’t matter because the overall effect is brilliant.
All in all, Skirmish Entertainment have created an excellent action packed platformer full of terror and adventure in End of the Mine. Admittedly, some of the monsters may not be suitable for the younger generation; despite the vibrant colouring and delightful motif of the bright orange-suited miner, the monsters can be genuinely a little unnerving. There isn’t much in the way of gore, it’s more of an atmospheric creepy game, but this is also the reason for it being truly immersive.
End of the Mine is an impressive experience for a Kickstarter game from a developer that is only just starting out. There are still a few minor issues that need fixing – I encountered a few crashes while playing – but I would definitely recommend giving it a go as more patches are released.