So close, yet so far
The End is Nigh is a brand new hardcore adventure platformer by Edmund McMillen, the man behind such classics such as Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac. In this game, the player takes control of a one-eyed blob named Ash who’s one of the few beings to survive the end of this world. Tired of feeling lonely, Ash decides to venture out into what remains of this world in the hope to build (yes, build) himself a friend from other people’s remains.
This post-apocalyptic world is broken into over a dozen of different themed zones, each comprised of single-screen levels for you to master. Since Ash is missing any kind of limbs he can only rely on two core abilities, jumping and hang on to ledges by his eye socket, yes, the fact that the main character is missing an eye is integrated into the gameplay. The more limited array of moves makes for an overall more cautious and methodical approach to each and every platforming challenge which felt quite refreshing.
This was far from my wrongly preconceived notion that The End is Nigh was going to be more of the same Super Meat Boy style of gameplay with a sombre tone. Each screen really felt like its own little puzzle in the grand scheme of things and more often than not I would find myself analyzing the whole stage, looking for ledges that I could grab on to and learn enemy patterns before making the first move. This doesn’t detract from the complexity of the level design, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that the ones in The End is Nigh felt more well balanced, cohesive and fun to me than the ones in Super Meat Boy while retaining the same high pedigree platforming and tight controls.
With that said though, the game is still quite the endeavour. Aside from the first world that serves as a tutorial to get things going than anything else, The End is Nigh will put your nerves to the test with extremely tricky platforming bits and insane enemy placement. Throughout my 10 hour playthrough though none of the stages felt cheap or unfair. In fact, deaths felt more like a slap in the hand than a punch to the gut due to how short each level is and how fast the game respawns you back into the action, giving you that urge to give it one more go in the hopes that this time you’ll finally be able to make it through. This feeling was especially true while playing the game outside of the house during lunch breaks, every time I had 10-15 minutes to spare I’d grab my Nintendo Switch and beat a couple of stages before getting back to work making this version the definitive way to play this game. Besides the staggering amount of levels, more than 600, there are also some goodies for those that master the game such as retro mini-games with in-game achievements of their own and a couple of alternative endings.
In terms of presentation, we have a very simple but polished artistic design that takes us for a ride in this grim, brooding world with very few colours and filled with bizarre looking creatures regardless of whether you decide to play it on the go or docked on your big TV. This more simplistic design choice not only functions as a way to instantly immerse you in the game but is also used in tandem with shadows to conceal secrets such as tumours, the main currency in the game, in unpredictable places. Another highlight is the stupendous soundtrack that borrows many classical music themes known to all and remixes them in a surprisingly catchy way while staying true to the overall theme of the game.
The End is Nigh is without the shadow of a doubt a must-own for anyone who’s thoroughly enjoyed any of Edmund’s previous work and a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch. It masterfully encapsulates the grim overtone of The Binding of Isaac with the tip-top platforming of Super Meat Boy while still having its own identity.
SGR SCORE: 9/10