Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: The End is Nigh


Super Meat Boy ushered in the full-blown explosion of the punishingly-hard platformer. With its mix of absolutely precise controls, demanding level designs that forced you to master said controls, and copious amounts of blood (most of it yours from failed attempts) it set a high bar for all challenging platformers that followed. Now, a number of years later, we have The End is Nigh, a new entry into a very similar space but with some new and different tricks. While it may not have the same manic speed and flow of Meat Boy the threat of death is still very real and near-constant.


In the game you’ll be playing as Ash, a die hard gamer in a post-Apocalyptic hellscape whose favorite game goes on the fritz… or something like that. Your goal is to survive through a variety of levels of steadily-increasing challenge to progress to the end while trying to collect tumors, game cartridges, and the shattered pieces of your personal sense of pride as you’ll consistently prove that failure is always an option. The thing is that in a game like this it isn’t about the destination, it is most certainly about the journey, and if you have a sense of curiosity you’ll begin to find the game’s ample hidden areas and secrets on the way and that’s where the game really shines.

One substantial difference between Ash and Meat Boy, and that in theory makes Nigh at least a little more accessible, is pacing. Lacking legs, Ash appropriately moves at a more deliberate rate and isn’t capable to nimbly performing things like wall jumps. In place of that he instead has the ability to hang off of corners or conveniently-placed hooks in the landscape. In many areas this becomes your primary means of getting around, working out how (and often when) to jump from hook to corner to avoid falling into spikes that are often in every direction. The enticement to linger and tempt death a bit more are the tumors that are on each level, usually in a place that looks impossible to get to. These become a sort of puzzle in many cases and require quite a wide variety of methods to get to initially. Sometimes to get to them elements need to be triggered on a delay, sometimes you’ll need to find hidden openings, and there are even some cases where you’ll need to go to the next level and then find another way to go back and get it. Mix this in with the fact that there are many secret areas that become available to you in similar ways (a hole in the ground is usually worth checking out) through experimentation and the mere completion of the level is very much only the bare minimum of what can be done.


While my assumption is that anyone who isn’t into this sort of hefty challenge hasn’t read this far it can’t be stressed enough that this isn’t a game you’ll casually beat, it is a game that will instead be doing the majority of the beating itself. Precision is the name of the game from your timing, to your maneuvering, to your jumping, and at the end of the day the vast majority of deaths are your own fault. This is just a game that graciously assists you with the means to doing so repeatedly. If you have any rage quitting tendencies that may mean this is a game that belongs to a genre you should avoid as it is meant to be aggravating but the fact is that conquering many of these challenges also ends up being quite rewarding. The biggest downside in the game, though, is that you’re likely to miss quite a lot the first time through. Whether because you didn’t know about a secret exit or you simply decided you’d had it with figuring out how to get a maddeningly-placed tumor if you want to get the most out of the game you’ll likely need to come back again and to do so unfortunately you’ll only be able to warp to the beginning of each block of levels… meaning you’ll find yourself somewhat grinding levels you’ve beaten already to get to the specific stage you want. Granted, you’ll often find what had previously aggravated you to be far easier when you return, especially if you’re only trying to get through and not grab anything along the way. That said, it’s probably the biggest gripe the average person would have with the game as a whole. The thing is, with additional secret worlds you can get to by collecting enough tumors or the promise of retro-style games and levels you can play whenever you find a new cartridge for your collection the temptation to go back is pretty compelling.

All said The End is Nigh isn’t quite as revelatory as Super Meat Boy but then again it also isn’t somewhat single-handedly carving out a new genre. Due to the difficulty it is a bit of an acquired taste but with work and patience the fact is that the game is still very accessible and beatable. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort the amount of hidden and unlocked content in Nigh is truly impressive and while most of it amounts to more challenges of the same nature with some details altered it can still be a lot of fun for the right audience. If you’re a glutton for punishment The End is Nigh is a fitting and satisfying feast.



Score: 8

Pros: 

  • A staggering amount of content once you include all hidden/secret levels
  • A challenging mix of puzzles and execution
  • Relatively simple and yet nuanced controls


Cons:

  • Not for the easily frustrated, at all
  • The degree of required backtracking for missed items is an odd design choice
  • If you don’t buy into the base style of play the amount of content based on it will be immaterial


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