Link: End Roll
Genre: RPG Adventure
Creator: Segawa (translated by vgperson)
Content Warning: Severe (view spoilered text on download page)
If you like your adventure games decidedly morbid, surreal, and don’t offend or upset easily, the Segawa’s End Roll, translated by vgperson, may be for you. In it, you control a young man who’s been locked away, forced to inject a strange “Happy Dream” medicine each day. The videos that play on the wall and the guards that tend to him insist he’s a dangerous maniac who doesn’t deserve to be treated so well, since the drug induces a deep sleep with pleasant dreams. In his drugged slumber, the boy, Russell, finds himself the newcomer in a small, cheerful town, but not everything is as idyllic as it first appears. To play, use the arrow keys to move, and Z to interact. ESC or X opens the menu, where you can save and load your game whenever you like, and considering the potential for danger, not to mention the way the end can change depending on certain events, you may want to do so frequently, and in different slots.
End Roll also has a lot of classic RPG elements to it. In certain places, you can encounter monsters, and enter into turn-based battle. You can attack, defend, or use skills and items as you’d expect, and winning will grant you both experience towards leveling up, and the currency of the game… walnuts! Once a character has been added to your party, even if they leave it at some point in the story, by visiting orange balloons you can add them to your party again as temporary “helpers” that will fight alongside you until you return to town. After you’ve explored a bit and gone to different places, you’ll unlock a shop that will let you warp to anywhere you’ve been previously.
If you feel confused or unnerved after starting up End Roll, well, it’s doing its job. It’s meant to be the sort of story you piece together as you go along, and to say it’s a dark one is kind of an understatement. Is it offensive? Well, that probably depends on you and your overall comfort level, so if any of the warnings on the official download page bother you, it’s probably best to leave End Roll to other players and play something else. There are times when End Roll can feel a bit like it’s trying too hard to be shocking, and it’s when the game pulls back from all the grotesquery and deals with its horror and subject matter more subtly that it’s most successful. It’s sort of like what you’d get if you could travel back in time and ask your most earnestly emo tween self to make the “edgiest game they could think of”, in between updating their AOL profiles with passive-aggressive My Chemical Romance Lyrics, and getting yelled at for stinking up the house with all the black markers they were using to draw on themselves. A little viscera and darkness can go a long way, but End Roll is at times almost comical in its dramatic tendencies and desperation to be dark and dismal.
That said, the recurring themes and imagery are a bit obvious, but interwoven well within the overall character and environment design. Finding out what everything represents and how it all fits together is actually pretty neat, especially since nobody but Russell within the dream actually knows it is one. The characters themselves are likable, even if they tend to represent some overused tropes, though the mayor being referred to as “elderly and frail” and represented with tons of wrinkles and grey hair at the grand old age of 45 may make some older gamers need to go lay down a little. Learning how, exactly, all of this connects to Russell and is meant to be a punishment for what he’s done isn’t necessarily surprising, but it does unfold in a very well paced and multi-layered way. If you take its material with a shaker of salt, End Roll is actually executed pretty well despite its commitment to digging through every “off limits” idea it can think of. “TAKE ME SERIOUSLY,” the game howls, throwing red everywhere.
When it comes to gameplay, End Roll doesn’t really bring any new mechanics to the table, but it uses what it has quite well. Battles are challenging, if not the sort of thing that needs a lot of grinding, and things like the optional helper characters, teleportation, item delivery and more makes it feel extremely user-friendly. The game is split into seven days, each beginning with another dosage of medicine, and there are a lot of extra sidequests and secrets to uncover in addition to the main story. As a result, talking to people and revisiting areas never feels like a chore even later in the game, which is a rare treat. It’s an all-around well designed game that respects the time of its players, doing away with a lot of tedious and annoying elements of the genres. It may be depressing and violent and gory and weird, but that doesn’t mean it can’t play like a dream!
The ending you get is actually determined in part by how Russell ultimately feels by the end of the game, something that can change by doing certain things that unlock new scenes on various days. As a result, you’ll want to make sure you thoroughly explore the town multiple times before bringing each day to the end, and talk to characters multiple times whenever anything happens. End Roll’s aggressive bleakness and gory content won’t be for everyone, though some may simply find it a little comically overdone rather than upsetting. It doesn’t always seem like it knows how to treat the subjects it broaches, and at times it can be corny rather than scary, but its a compellingly weird game with a beefy amount of content that’s served up in an extremely well designed manner. Is it destined to become the next Ib or Alice Mare?… well, maybe not. End Roll’s overbearing grimness and at times comically violent content means it lacks the subtlety and intelligence for that. But if you’ve been looking for a creepy RPG adventure that’s over the top, yet still well designed, End Roll is still worth playing.