The End is Nigh is the latest platformer from Nicalis and Edmund McMillen. The other works credited to their names are Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac. Those games were both creepy, unsettling, difficult, and tons of fun all the way through. They helped to define what the indie genre could be and, for the most part, The End is Nigh continues that trend.
This game puts you in the role of a gaming-obsessed blob named Ash. We start out with him playing a retro game appropriately titled The End is Nigh. Unfortunately, one fatal death and he starts going on a cussing fit realizing that his only source of entertainment is now gone. Once he looks around, players understand that Ash has been fairly bored for years. The Earth was destroyed long ago due to an apocalyptic event, and nothing is as it used to be.
Nonetheless, Ash’s determination and winning smile motivate him to no longer be alone. He decides to collect tumors (exactly what you’d imagine) and body parts in order to create a friend that will live with him for the rest of their days. Prepare to embark on a dark quest.
There’s something to be said about the type of games created by Edmund McMillen. They’re always this twisted blend of charm and dark humor. The Binding of Isaac literally dealt with going through the levels of Hell. As you might expect, The End is Nigh treasures itself in this style. Whether you’ll be finding lifeless skeletons who tell jokes or you’re still collecting floating tumors with eyes, there’s always something magnetic and grotesque about the game.
Once you start moving through the levels of a deceased Earth, you begin to realize that The End is Nigh, in a lot of ways, is a spiritual successor to Super Meat Boy. It’s a platformer that will put your skills and patience to the test. Precise jumps, impeccable timing, and difficult foes all line Ash’s adventure through the various worlds. However, instead of being level-based and selecting them from a menu screen, the world of The End is Nigh is all connected together (more on that later).
Thankfully, the game does a good job of teaching you what Ash can do and how he can do it. The levels are difficult, but they’re fair. As you learn the nuances of each challenge, you can learn to overcome it. I was never bested by the same level twice. That said, you will die a lot. I accumulated a precise number of 2000 deaths from start to finish. Don’t let that discourage you, though. The no-life, quick respawn system of The End is Nigh makes death feel like a part of the game. It’s not rage quit-worthy to die, because you’re always learning something about each level.
Due to how difficult of a game The End is Nigh is, it’s important that McMillen put in precise controls or the entire game would fall apart. Fortunately, Ash controls like a dream. He’s responsive, fluid, and does whatever you want him to do. Most of the deaths feel like they were entirely my fault. Most of them.
That brings me to my biggest complaint regarding the controls. There are several underwater segments, and Ash doesn’t handle nearly as well in them. Often times, I kept dying because the controls were a bit too slippery. That said, those segments are still very beatable, but they’ll take you longer than other levels.
As I stated before, Ash has the ability to collect tumors within the game. These are all pretty well-hidden and will require some skill to obtain. What do they do? I won’t spoil it, but I will say that if you want to beat the game efficiently, collect as many as you can. You can thank me later.
On top of tumors, Ash can also collect game cartridges. Take them back to his house, and you can play retro levels of The End is Nigh. However, these stages are significantly harder than the actual game, so proceed at your own risk.
When talking about the various collectibles, here’s where the game gets creative. Many of them are well-hidden or nearly impossible to get to. The only way to acquire them is through some quick thinking. Because all of the levels are connected in The End is Nigh, you can climb to the top of one stage, jump off the side, and land at a high corner in the neighboring level. It’s very similar to some of the platforming challenges of VVVVVV.
Needless to say, there’s no obligation to collect everything in The End is Nigh. Players who want to spend the extra hours, though, will have plenty to do.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for The End is Nigh was provided by Nicalis for this The End is Nigh review.