Last year's Portal was a masterpiece because it crossed great gameplay with ingenious storytelling. But not every game gets the content it deserves, and that's the biggest problem with the indie title The Wonderful End Of The World. Of course, the concept isn't as original as Portal's: Wonderful End all but clones Katamari Damacy, challenging players to lead a highly absorbent puppet across an absurd landscape, sucking up as many objects as possible while racing against the clock. Wonderful End spins a scenario about a crafty redheaded goddess who's trying to salvage what she can before Armageddon, but at heart, it coughs up the same giddy surrealism that Katamari did better.
The action satisfies, from the subtle way it adjusts the scale of your surroundings to the fulfilling "thump" when you hit something bigger than yourself. But for a game with such a colorful, anything-goes visual style, the actual design falls short. Twelve maps are too few, and while some are original—like a world made of words, or the homage to arcade games—others tend to recycle the same flowerbeds and orangutans. The whimsical style comes off as shallow, and the developers miss plenty of chances to work in jokes, satire, or anything else that could catch your attention the third or fourth time across a level. And when you finally finish the last map, there isn't so much as a voiceover to send you off: The game ends anticlimactically, and you just have to imagine the heroine dragging that giant ball of crap to a better tomorrow.
Beyond the game: As a way to rope in customers, Dejobaan doesn't just offer a demo: They'll actually return your money if you aren't satisfied.
Worth playing for: While it's derivative of Katamari, that style of gaming hasn't exactly been beaten to death, and rolling around the map with a keyboard and mouse feels better than you might expect.
Frustration sets in when: The difficulty varies widely from map to map: You can ace some of them in the first try, while others are incredibly unforgiving.
Final judgment: This world could've ended a lot more wonderfully.