Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4
Developer: Eduard McMillen, Tyler Glaiel
Release: 12th December 2017 (Switch)
The End is Nigh isn´t only a perfect opportunity for bad puns but the new game of Eduard McMillen and Tyler Glaiel. Coming from the same mind behind the original Meat Boy, it´s luckily not a clone of a beloved indie classic but something way different and nearly as good. It´s also available on the Switch now!
In a destroyed world the ultimate end is nigh and only Ash, a little black ball of tumour, is alive, desiring to find a friend before everything ends. With this little cute premise, The End is Nigh justifies its hard and brutal platformer journey through different areas.
Naturally it´s not particularly strong in the story department, completely focusing on delivering a fantastic gameplay experience. Ash himself may only be a black blob but is incredible versatile, able to hang on cliffs, little spikes or traverse underwater levels without having to worry about oxygen. Still, comparing him to Meat Boy would certainly be wrong, since The End is Night aims for a way slower pacing. Wall jumps are impossible for example, while Ash doesn´t sprint with light speed through every level. Although the movement got slowed down and combined with features like cliff hanging, everything remained just as responsive. Actually it may be one of the few games where controlling a blob feels perfect, he reacts to every input in real-time, no animation priority, there´s simply nothing to criticise.
However the true star of The End is Nigh is clearly its superb level design. As in mario games or any other great platformer, it mainly relies on “learning by doing” to teach the player new mechanics. Since every new area introduces a new form of enemy, like a frog or shooting plants, with their own unique behaviours and attributes. If the game wants you to understand, that it´s possible to use frogs as jumping pads, it doesn´t simply slap a text wall on the screen but presents a situation only solvable by using this technique. Especially during the early moments of each individual section the game slowly teaches new mechanics through amazing design.
In combination with the overall goal to achieve slower paced levels, The End is Nigh is able to implement some pretty great and awfully hard ideas into the platformer mix. Often it´s required to only wait for a few seconds before continuing jumping, in order to not be hit by flying spikes or frogs. Additionally, the game is packed with collectible tumours, tinier black blobs hidden in levels but also secret passages or walls, able to unlock even harder bonus stages and they work as charming as the moons in Mario Odyssey.
Still, as great as the design may be, as frustrating is the difficulty level towards the end. Surely it´s not an easy game and death is almost unavoidable but it tends to mix all of the introduced mechanics into one giant, frustrating end blob Ash has to die through. The further we progress the more the levels get stuffed with things to consider, dodge and jump away from, almost too much. Where Super Meat Boy relied on a few but grat working concepts, The End is Nigh is simply too stuffed for its own good, sometimes not knowing what to do with all its mechanics and ideas, leading to an even bigger difficulty spike during later areas.
The art direction of The End is Nigh is another double-edged sword. On the one hand the minimalistic, black, rough objects and characters grant the game an extraordinary dark tone, fitting for the post apocalyptic theme. At the same time everything can maintain a certain cuteness, be it Ash or those tiny tumours, they don´t look disgusting, no, I actually wanna hug them. On the other hand it quickly becomes repetitive to look at, once the game can´t offer much new. Even though the colour palette changes every new area, the overall simple artstyle remains, not able to offer enough interesting things throughout Ash´s journey, to keep its looks fresh. The soundtrack is pretty damn great though!
The End is Nigh isn´t a totally flawless game but nonetheless an amazing platformer. With its simplistic theme, tight controls and truly superb design in every aspect, this little indie game may very well be one of my favourite platformer of recent years, especially on Switch. For 14.99 it´s a game no one should miss, despite tiny flaws.
[A Review Code was provided by Nicalis]