Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel’s latest title is not just a pop culture usage of an old phrase for the apocalypse. Playing this game requires the player to accept the impending doom of their patience, death count, and probably even their controller. That’s actually not a bad thing – that’s just the norm.
The End Is Nigh is McMillen’s subsequent foray into the realms of ultra hard platforming games. Following very much into the veins of what made Super Meat Boy such a success, this game is full of deadly obstacles and creatures. The creatures may be cute, and at times morbidly so, but don’t be fooled: they are deadly. At least you have Ridiculon’s wonderful rock rendition of classical songs to accompany you.
Our protagonist this time is Ash: a black blob who’s missing his right eye. He’s a game streamer of sorts, until one day his game cartridge stops working. Out of things to do, Ash decides to finally go outside and find a friend. Except the world really has gone to pieces.
Exploration and platforming is the meat and potatoes of this game. Players must traverse the world one screen at a time, with the next one usually acting as a save point. There are several interconnected areas for the overworld, and each area consists of several interconnected levels.
Within these levels are collectibles called tumors and game cartridges. Regular tumors are in each level, usually requiring the player to go out of their way just to collect them. Some hidden passages contain mega tumors, which are worth five regular tumors. While it’s possible to get through the game by getting just a minimal amount of tumors (i.e. the ones just the ones you can easily get), unlocking the endings will require collecting these items. Some stages are also locked until you get the required amount of tumors.
Even harder are the stages that contain game cartridges, which are used to play minigames on Ash’s console. The minigames are usually a riff on modern-day games with equally similar names, such as River City Rancid for River City Ransom. These cartridges deliver a double dose of pain that ultimately end up as a bragging right ingredient – the stages where they are hidden are much harder than usual, and the minigames themselves are more unforgiving than usual.
As you may have surmised by now, platforming makes this game’s world go round. The controls are tight and responsive, which is essential. Ash’s speed is satisfying to control with either the analog stick of the directional buttons. He has a constant speed that the game respects – none of the moving obstacles exploit this quality.
Ash also can grab the edge of platforms and catapult himself to cover more horizontal distance. He automatically latches on to these edges and hooks when approaching them while jumping, or he can deliberately grab it before falling by holding the right trigger. Knowing this mechanic, combined with a good sense of timing, is essential to clearing a lot of stages.
Of course, no McMillen game is complete without his signature art style. Everything is grotesquely cute, giving creatures a macabre but adorable appearance. The environment is clean, as is expected. The effects that accompany them are appreciated, but sometimes they end up obscuring key areas of the screen. There’s also no option to turn them off, causing added unnecessary difficulty.
As mentioned earlier, the soundtrack for this game consists of modern renditions of classical pieces, usually rock. They serve as great ear candy to soothe your frustrated fingers while making the required tight jumps. Their chiptune versions of the game cart stages sound just as fantastic as well. But while Ridiculon’s work for this soundtrack is undeniably great, some of the tracks do add to the fatigue when listening to them for too long.
The end is definitely nigh
If you plan on collecting all the items, along with all the endings, it’s necessary that you take a break. The game is truly stressful even for those who are good with platforming. Considering that some of the items require you to go through the stage several times, the fatigue will definitely set in quickly.
And while it’s hard to play this game without comparing it to Super Meat Boy, it’s important to remember that The End is Nigh has its own identity. Gone are the wall jumps and sliding – they’ve been replaced with other similar mechanics. There are no boss fights and girls to save, it’s just Ash and his search for a friend. The two games’ difficulties might be similar, but The End is Nigh definitely sets its foot firmly in the annals of great platformers.
Review Copy Provided by Nicalis