The End is Nigh
Developer: Edmund McMillen & Tyler Glaiel
Publisher: Nicalis, Inc.
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Release date: December 12, 2017
So, what is The End is Nigh?
A tough-as-nails 2D platformer that feels like a spiritual successor to Edmund McMillen’s wildly beloved Super Meat Boy. The world has literally come to an end and the only living person on the planet streams his favorite video game The End is Nigh to a sad audience of zero. However, when the game breaks and he runs out of “fucks” to shout, Ash decides its time to make a friend — literally. He’s ready to brave the harsh, crumbling world outside in order to collect tumors and other disgusting things to Frankenstein his very own BFF.
Why should you care?
If you’re a fan of super challenging platformers, especially Super Meat Boy, there is a lot to love here at the end of the world. You control a little blobby thing named Ash who platforms between 600+ single-screen stages of increasing difficulty, where the experience is mostly about precision jumping and maneuvering. The End is Nigh doesn’t give much wiggle room for error, but dying is a constant and always serves as a learning opportunity for the next go — even when the next dozen or so attempts end the same as the ones before them.
Ash doesn’t have a large toolkit to work around, which the level designs play into very well. He always moves at a static speed (as there’s no “run” button), can cling to obvious “hooks” on the sides of walls, and a dedicated crouch button is used to cling onto nearby corners or transition a jump into a quick descent. Gripping onto hooks gives the option to launch Ash straight up (a bit higher than a standard jump) or, by holding the analog stick in the opposite direction, send him firing off in a little blobby arc. That’s basically it. Some levels are straightforward while others crumble around you and force the player to adapt accordingly.
Some of the toughest challenges came by way of collectible cartridges that mimic classic video games. There are plenty of hidden paths tucked away within these single-screen stages, so I was always encouraged to play around with them rather than heading straight for the finish line.
The End is Nigh has a really good look to it and an absolute banger of a soundtrack. This, accompanied by its well-designed gameplay mechanics, have all the makings of a great game. However, its familiarity wore out its welcome far earlier than it should have and I continue to have issues with 2D platformers on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, where I’m required to nail precision movements with a fragmented d-pad and loose analog controls.
Where does it go wrong?
As someone who has played his fair share of Super Meat Boy many, many years ago, The End is Nigh was both comforting and a bit hard to stick with. Both have their own distinguishing qualities about them, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I had already played this before. It’s a very, very well designed game that’s sure to please the hardest of hardcore 2D platforming fans, but after an hour or two, I was ready to play something else; something new and exciting.
Also, as I mentioned above, I (personally) have a hard time with these precision-based platformers on the Nintendo Switch when playing in handheld mode. The Switch’s JoyCon lacks a traditional d-pad, in favor of the fragmented variety that can serve as face buttons when used as independent multi-player controllers. The JoyCon’s analog sticks are also on the loose side, which makes precision platforming a bit of a pain. This is a non-issue when using the Pro Controller while docked on the TV, but like many of you out there, I mostly play my Switch on the go when the attached JoyCon is the only option. This isn’t a fault of the developer, of course, but if you (like me) find yourself using your Switch console as a handheld, it’s worth noting how much worse The End is Nigh felt when using the JoyCon.
Okay, so is it worth checking out?
Yes and no. The End is Nigh is, without a doubt, a well-made 2D platformer. However, its all-too-familiar feel led to shorter gaming sessions in favor of playing something else entirely (I honestly forgot it was even installed on my console after a week or two). If 2D platformers are your thing, you own a Pro Controller, and/or you’ve had better experiences with them on the Switch’s JoyCon than I have, then The End is Nigh is an absolute must-play. I have very little to complain about on the game-side of things. My 2D platformer fatigue just set in rather quickly, having spent enough time with Super Meat Boy over the years.
I don’t use a scoring system here at Cheap Boss Attack. Hopefully, you found the above text far more informative than an arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes.
*A digital copy of The End is Nigh was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.