App Reviewed on: iPhone 4
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Even with all the innovations that come with constantly evolving technology, after 24 years of mashing buttons and twiddling joysticks, these days very few games surprise me.
So even though it's not the most momentous of surprises, I have to doff my M-emblazoned cap to Dead End for having controls that made a mockery of my expectations of a twin-stick shooter. Outwardly Dead End looked like any other zombie-murdering twin-sticker, with a recognizable assortment of weapons and lumbering enemies. Then, after two seconds of trying to control my terrified survivor, I realized this game was all about the controls.
Because he's so terrified, my survivor dude runs around automatically, all the while comically flailing his arms in the air. The only way to get him to shoot is to spin him on the spot; a right-sided click makes him spin clockwise and left-sided for anti-clockwise. Let go and he both stops shooting and spinning, resuming his frantic fleeing until spun again. Trying to make sense of why he does this is a futile exercise, but as a challenging control scheme it really works. The weapons are designed with the control scheme in mind, so knowing things like how to swing and shoot with the close-range mallet versus the more sluggish flamethrower is key to progressing through the game's 15 waves of undead.
It takes a little getting used to, but it distinctly separates Dead End from the pack and that's to be commended in what is an increasingly saturated genre - not just twin-stick shooters but twin-stick shooters with zombies. Harder settings strip the controls down to one-stick, with the rotation alternating, and is compensated with more points for each zombie murder.
Also to be commended are the sound effects, with everything from the shotgun blasts to the mini-gun blare spoken rather than computerized, much like indie PC title And Yet it Moves. It gives what's already quite a quirky game a little extra personality. And frankly there isn't that much to criticize with Dead End apart from an (admittedly understandable) focus on keeping everything outside of the controls straightforward, predictable, and rather derivative.
There are better twin stick shooters on iOS, no doubt of that, but few of them feel as unique as Dead End does. If it had gone with more traditional controls it would probably still be a fun enough game, but because it's brave enough to try something different, Dead End has a curious hook to it.