Each of us has probably had a time in our lives where we felt overlooked, misunderstood, or even just plain bullied. In endeavor by Zillix, you play a small dwarf who sets off in search of a lost treasure after his father passes away. The other mountain-dwelling members of your clan are less than helpful and in fact seem to view you as little more than a nuisance. But when an unexpected tumble lands you in a strange realm, will you ever be able to find your way back home? More importantly... do you want to? Combining retro style with good old fashioned Metroidvania gameplay, endeavor is a surprisingly big quest for such a little critter packed with secrets, lies, treasure, and multiple endings... good and bad.
Embark on your quest of dwarfly epic beardishness by using the left and right [arrow] keys to move, [X] to jump, and the up and down [arrows] to climb. You're a fairly sturdy little fellow, so you don't have to worry about actually dying... in fact, you don't have to worry about drowning, lava, and even large falls will only temporarily stun you. Which is handy, since you'll spend most of your time getting around by climbing cliffs and ledges both above and below ground, and as anyone will tell you; what goes up must come down.
The pale blue bar at the top of the screen represents your endurance; you need it to be able to jump and cling to things, and it depletes slowly when you exert yourself, but quickly recharges if you're standing still on firm ground. While initially your itty-bitty dwarven hands can only hold hold on to things for a very short time, which makes climbing risky, you can find fruit in your journey that increases your endurance, which will let you cling and climb longer. Also in the realm of useful upgrades you'll find certain artifacts throughout the world that will help you do things like swim deep underwater.
Analysis: I tend to be a little suspicious of retro games as a result, since so many of them try to slide by style over substance, hoping your subconscious is flooding with warm nostalgia at the sight of an 8-Bit character. This is not one of those games. If you remember October's Summit, which was a game created in only 48 hours by the same author for a competition, you'll be amazed at how much the world and concept has expanded. The narrative is relatively sparse and is mostly down to what you pick up on from the brief snippets of dialogue from characters throughout the game. I wouldn't say the "bad" ending is a particular surprise, since most gamers will probably see it coming a mile away, but both it and everything leading up to it feels suitably epic so that when the credits rolled I was eager to leap back into it again for another try, a different course of action to see what would happen instead.
endeavor's world feels appropriately massive, and exploring it is a lot of fun. Exploring makes up the lion's share of the gameplay since you're typically given very little direction. Certain NPCs may offer you quests and you can complete them or go off and do your own thing. Whatever you decide to do, it will take you all over the map, which means you'll go far and see a lot in the process. Eventually you'll gain the ability to teleport to certain locations you've already been to, but since you still have to walk everywhere else (including back to the teleport spot) you'd better hope those boots you're wearing were made for walkin'.
Of course, the game is not without its frustrations, apart from travel. The lack of an in-game minimap can make it frustrating when you're trying to backtrack to a previously unaccessible area with a shiny new power up, or track down all those luscious fruits. My personal biggest complaint is that there are times when the world, big as it is, feels a little empty. More creatures, more NPCs, even of the one-liner variety, would have done a lot to enliven things and inject a little personality into each environment. I did want to replay for a different ending, but at the same time there was no particular encounter or event I looked forward to because the method is basically the same; go here, climb there, try not to fall here or you'll have to climb alllllllll the way back up.
Regardless of its flaws, endeavor is still pretty great, and should be regarded as a big achievement by its creator Zillix. I'd love to see the world expanded on a bit more, and to be able to experience it with more varied gameplay. There are some great hints at a big, rich world out there to explore, and I want my piece of it. endeavor might be fairly easy, but even without a lot of bells and whistles its a surprisingly engrossing little game with a lot of great touches, fans of fantasy who are looking for an adventure they can jump right into will find a lot to love here.