I think what I found so engaging about The Endless Dogwatch is it’s a first-person adventure game you can end at any time. While the overall game is scrappy, and has some very peculiar theories on wasp removal, there is just something about its atmosphere, its weirdness, that grabbed me – not least because escape from the spooky ship on which the game is set is… always possible.
Things begin with you at the helm of the S.S. Carolina, in 1928, with a drunken captain refusing to tell you why you’re there, and seemingly wanting the ship to be lost at sea. After you do some wibbly-wobs with the ship’s wheel, he gets seasick, you nick his locker key, grab some binoculars, and notice a weird boat in the distance. The E.V Grimm. Moments later a creepy figure appears in front of you, and you’re knocked out.
After you come round, the goal of the game is to get off the boat to safety. Except, that’s something you can do almost straight away! Which is just brill! There’s a lifeboat, and you can get on it. Or, should you be feeling somewhat less positive, you can jump over a barrier and take your chance in the drink. The game then assesses your chances of survival based on the equipment you’ve found, and the tasks you’ve completed.
Of course, the real goal is to find any remaining crew, and gather as much as you can to ensure a healthy chance of making it to dry land. Yet, genuinely at any point after visiting just one other room, you can jump on the lifeboat on the upper deck and get out of there. It’s an ignominious ending if you do it straight away, but it’s a genuine way to finish the game.
Naturally, you’ll want to get a lot more out of your £4 than that, and the game offers a “Continue” from the main menu that lets you pick up where you abandoned ship. That way, you can deliberately end it as much as you like, without needing to worry about boringly repeating what you’ve already done.
As a point-and-click game, it’s fair to say it’s not exactly the greatest. Some puzzles are just damned weird (although generally you can find clues to the most obscure requirements), and the writing gets a bit odd here and there. But honestly, I really liked it! I love the bonkers pixel art, that conflation of a horror setting with such cheerful cartoon faces, and I love how silly the story ultimately is.
It’s completely daft, but it’s so endearingly so. It’s also very short, but then it’s very cheap. This isn’t an instant classic, but rather a fascinating curiosity – a game you can end any time you want, but you just won’t get the satisfaction of knowing what’s going on.