Madness/Endless review
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Madness/Endless review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on February 7th, 2023
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: DRIVES YOU MAD
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This stealth action game feels incredible when it is working the way it should.

Developer: Poke the Ant

Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone SE

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

It's not too common these days to see a mobile action game like Madness/Endless. This stealth/action/horror game supplies plenty of challenges using its unique control scheme and isn't shy about being downright devilish in its level design. Not everything Madness/Endlessquite satisfies, but even at its lowest points, the feeling of bouncing around a room at breakneck speeds to kill a room full of enemies feels great just about every time you do it.

Slo-mo slayer

In Madness/Endless, you play as a warrior who wields a sentient blade as they head into dungeons full of creatures so horrific that meeting their gaze instantly drives you mad. While in these dungeons, your character can only shuffle along the wall, though at any point you can dash across the room, killing anything in your path with your blade.

Your goal is to clear out every room by killing every monster in it, and you must do so quickly, as merely being in the presence of these creatures erodes at a sanity meter displayed at the top of your screen. You can gain this sanity back by killing creatures, particularly through chaining combos of dashes together, which is made manageable through a slo-mo mechanic that allows you change your trajectory mid-dash by tapping and holding on the screen.

Story slog

Madness/Endless has a story, and it's about what you'd expect from something featuring "eldritch monstrosities." The world is in a dark place, you can save it, but it's hard to tell who to work with because of your mysterious past and the fact that everyone seems bad. There are two possible endings you can reach by the end of Madness/Endless, though if you're like me reaching one of them feels like more than plenty of game to play through.

This is to say Madness/Endless is quite a long game, though gaging length on a game like is also kind of tough to do. You will die and have to retry levels a lot, and the number of times you have to do that will likely be the main determinant of your playtime. On top of that though, Madness/Endless does this strange thing in its story where it starts dropping hints that you're near the end of the game around its midpoint. Even if this doesn't impact the actual length of Madness/Endless, it made the back half of the game feel super dragged out as I was expecting resolution much earlier than I got it.

Retry till rote

The back-half of Madness/Endless doesn't just feel sloggy because you feel like it should be done quicker, it is also a lot harder to complete quickly. As expected, Madness/Endless ramps up its challenges as you get further into the game, but the ways in which it does are sometimes not entirely fun. Late game enemies, stage designs, and bosses all seem to get to a certain level of challenge where your only hope at making it through them it to die a lot while memorizing level layouts and attack patterns.

I get that this is a kind of challenge some folks may want. I am also not opposed to it in theory, but my problem with it in Madness/Endless comes from its somewhat inconsistent control scheme. While it feels amazing to leap and dash between tons of enemies to rack up a combo, sometimes the tap-to-pause and re-target command doesn't work and you run headlong into spikes or some other hazard. This results in a lot more retrying, to the point that the last few levels of the game I basically had to memorize perfectly and even then would still have to retry a few times because of unpredictable control issues.

The bottom line

By the time I finished Madness/Endless, I wasn't interested in playing through its endless mode or exploring an alternative ending. I was satisfied that I had conquered its challenge despite what felt like occasionally faulty controls. I only stuck it out because--when working--Madness/Endless feels like one of the best action titles you can find on mobile.

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