App Army Assemble: Madness/Endless - "Should this stealth action horror game be installed on your phone?"

We ask the App Army

App Army Assemble: Madness/Endless - "Should this stealth action horror game be installed on your phone?"

Madness/Endless is a horror-themed stealth action game from independent developer Poke the Ant. It tasks players with eliminating abominations that lurk around every corner. They can be dispatched using the game's one-handed swipe control system, which was designed with mobile in mind. So, we decided to hand Madness/Endless over to some of the most avid mobile gamers we know, our App Army.

Here's what they said:

Isaiah Stuart

I really liked this game almost immediately. The sound design and visuals are incredibly atmospheric and, for me at least, reminiscent of Darkwood. The action in this game is solid, and your draining sanity keeps the tension up. I prefer my horror games this way; jumpscares are trite and predictable, and gore gets repetitive. A spooky atmosphere and solid gameplay are a much better combination in my opinion (see also The Room, Cultist Simulator).

There's a real coat of polish on this game that I've come to expect the absence of in this kind of small mobile game; the dialogue is natural, there are no grammar or spelling issues so far, and they've actually gone to the trouble of creating a story for this thing. Overall, 10/10. The only thing I'd change is I'd like an option to play in landscape mode, as portrait mode is kind of uncomfortable.

Oksana Ryan

This is a nice game that I found different enough from the usual dungeon style that it was interesting to play. In fact, once I started to play, I found myself wanting to keep going to see what came next. The gameplay is colourful and once I mastered the controls it was easy to move around, killing enemies and making my way through the tunnels, but I turned off the sound as it became very repetitive. The action can be lightning-fast or can be slowed down to hit more than one target at a time - it took me a few tries to perfect this but it was worth the effort. As far as it goes the game was great to lose myself for half an hour or so at a time and I’d recommend it.

Gal Haber

Many mobile games try to innovate with a unique gameplay mechanic and they live or die by it. Madness/Endless tries to add something new to the flinging mechanic… and fails. It’s just not interesting enough to hold its own for a complete game.

Additionally, the game has other problems as well. It has mediocre-level design where you can often fly into the unseen. It has annoying enemies where hitting them can be quite a chore (here’s looking at you guys with walls on your backs). It has a filthy art style which was unpleasant to look at. And the worst culprit of them all is the checkpoint system which has you repeating long sections over and over which becomes tedious fast. Overall, I found the game to be too frustrating and the story was not compelling enough for me to soldier on. You can easily pass on this one.

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Robert Maines

Madness/Endless is a top-down action game where you must clear rooms of eldritch horrors by smashing into them using the touch slide technique. Touching the screen as you slide slows down time and allows you to target multiple enemies. The horrors get more difficult to deal with as you go through the levels with some you must avoid their gaze and others can only be hit from the side. Your sanity level falls fast when the horrors are around so you must kill them quickly.

For the most part, it plays well, but the switching from clinging to walls using a virtual joystick to sliding around the levels gets frustrating when you trying to kill multiple horrors. The 16-bit style graphics are basic but do the job and the audio SFX are great. If you want a challenge this game is for you, more casual players might want to give it a miss.

Dries Pretorius

I took a leap with Madness/Endless and bought it on launch, I was not disappointed. There is something special about this game, I am not only talking about the juicy way it blends the meticulous timing and evasion of stealth games with hot-knife-through-butter feelings of power. The way that the, sometimes blind and pathetic, sometimes colossal and ferocious Eldridge horrors explode from their subtly exposed weak points to the tips of their tentacles as you crunch through their ranks in a gory blur.

The story is compelling, sometimes shocking as it peels your character’s amnesia to the reasons for your being in this hell world. There is an endless mode for extended replayability. It is also a premium indie title developed natively for mobile, like Afterplace it demonstrates the potential of mobile gaming by setting a firm genre milestone down on the platform. Easily my favourite release of the year so far. It gets my highest recommendation: Platform Essential.

Max Williams

I really liked this game. It has a very original (to me) mechanic of crawling around walls with a d-pad and then launching yourself at enemies with a swipe. Time freezes when you start to swipe so you can make sure you do what you were intending to do, and you can also stop mid-flight and fly off in a different direction: keep that in mind all the time as often you launch yourself then think "oh shit!". The theme is dark and nasty, with unseen forces controlling your destiny. It's genuinely quite unsettling.

There's a nice touch which is at the end of a level it shows you all of your swipe movements as slashes - ones from failed attempts in red. Overlaid on top of one another, it's a neat reminder of how much effort you put into beating the level. And, sometimes that is a lot of effort - this is a hard game, but not unfairly so: it's hard in the way that the likes of Super Meat Boy are hard - you're not forgiven for your mistakes. In summary, a very original action-adventure which will have me coming back to find out how the story unfolds.

Mark Abukoff

I really like this game. The simple controls. The murky dark bloody locations. The generally short levels (makes for a quick play). The moody sounds. The doors CRASHING open. The random wandering monsters. I like the constant time pressure as your sanity is drained from you. I like the pressure that you can’t spend too much time hanging back, waiting for the right moment and that if you pause too long between killing your enemies (trying to line up that perfect shot), you’re moving again. And probably dying.

That’s a change from most tactical games that let you take your time thinking about your moves. And, inevitably, one way or another, Endless Madness. In big letters on the screen every time you die. So yes this really is a wonderfully moody and brutal game. Also worth noting is that there’s an ‘endless’ mode that (as far as I can tell- I haven’t made it very far through that) is what it says. No rest between rooms.

So my only complaint (and it’s not a big one) is that the difficulty ramps up pretty quickly after the tutorial. Really quickly and really hard. If that curve wasn’t quite so steep, I would happily rate this game as perfect. As it is, it’s really very good on all points. If you like a dark and moody and really brutal tactical dungeon crawler, you’re going to like this. But you’re also going to hit a lot of madness. And die. A lot.

Chad Jones

Madness/Endless reminds me of a top-down Darkest Dungeon. There is both a directional pad for moving along the walls and a flinging movement for fighting and instead of losing health, you lose sanity. The story, graphics, and sound are great and set the mood. After a bit of time in what ended up being the "tutorial" the world opens up and you see more and that's when it dawns on me I'm both hooked on this game and intrigued. I think it's great for short bursts or if you want to play for a long period and challenging enough to keep coming back "just one more time" to beat that section and move on.

Jc Ga

The game has a pacing and bloodlust reminiscent of Hotline Miami but is set in a Lovecraftian universe. And this idea is appealing. The soundtrack, the visual effects, and every character design has style. The tutorial is well done, the controls are fine, and the first hour of play is a delight. And then you discover how the game can be difficult sometimes.

I like a game to be punitive if its playability compensates for the challenge, this is the case here, moreover, the level design shows a certain cruelty towards the player which I like. Masterfully getting rid of a group of enemies with agility or creativity using the items that are useful and numerous is very satisfying (and I don't even think about the real bosses, which offer great battles) so I agree that encouraging risk-taking is generally justified here.

I only have a small complaint: I find it harsh that the character loses sanity points as soon as the door of a new room is opened: entering the room requires some caution due to a lack of visibility inside the new room and you have to plan your movements, but health points are hard to recover, so you need to hurry and nine times out of ten I lose by throwing myself recklessly into the new room: in other words, unfortunately, I have to take the most risks when I do not yet feel in the heart of the action!

It is especially true for a level shortly after the tutorial, much more difficult compared to the following. Anyway, restarting the level is very quick and you become better by knowing every corner of the level (and in fact, it's not a meaningless expression for this game). Overall, for the rest the game is motivating, addictive, fun and very stylish, so I totally recommend playing it.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.