The End is Nigh – that;s definitely the case here! You play as Ash: the last blob left on earth following an apocalyptic event. All you have to keep you busy is your video game console. You are happy enough in a morose sort of way until your console finally packs up – what follows is a hilarious, full-blown meltdown which is definitely not child friendly. As a result, Ash decides to head out and find a friend.
The musical group Ridiculon is back with Edmund. Having previously made the music for Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, its great to hear their work again on The End Is Nigh. What they have done here is, in my opinion, their best work to date for a game. They have taken 35 classical tracks from the 1700’s and 1800’s masters, including Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mozart, broken them into pieces and recreated warped versions that are recognisable yet darker. From the get go, Gnossiene No. 1 will have you scratching your head as you sort of recognise the song but can’t quite figure out where it came from. When the first stage comes around and Danse Macabre gets to its famous section, it made me smile. Considering you are going to be stuck on some of these levels for a long time, good music is essential rather than a simple nicety. Ash’s epic intro has a decent voice over, and the sounds effects are rather good – nice squishing and smashing sounds that finish of the audio.
Edmund McMillen’s style is all over this game, and its visuals remind me of the awesome Binding of Isaac. The world is bleak as is befitting a post apocalyptic world, and each stage has its own style across its levels. Ash’s movements are cleverly done considering he is a blob, and the faded backgrounds are a nice touch. Enemies and the foreground are simple but nice. The game is mostly in a black and white chromatic scheme, and the styling is strong. It’s not particularly flashy, but that strikes me as the point.
The End Is Nigh will be familiar to anyone who has played Super Meat Boy. You progress across single-screen levels with precision platforming that progresses from merely difficulty to downright devilish. You use the left stick to move around and press A to Jump. Holding it down longer will make you jump higher and further. A lot of the puzzles require you to be very precise with the pressure you apply. Thankfully, the Switch is well built to have this sensitivity on all of its controllers. Once in the air, ZR will slam you to the ground more quickly, and this is the extent of the button inputs. Ash can cling to ledges and pushing away from a ledge lets you jump a greater distance from it. This feels great, and a combination of precision jumping, clinging to ledges and slamming down gives you the tools you need to tackle the oppressive and downright frustrating levels as you go. Your enjoyment of this game is directly linked to how much you enjoy punishment – if you are not one for tough games and find just completing a challenge to be a reward, then this probably will not be the game for you. It’s bleak and difficult, and you will die a lot. So far I have died 2,453 times. Thankfully, the game employs a clever almost instant re-spawn system.
The level design is spot on, and everything feels purposeful which is a feat considering just how many levels there are. You will face death machines, crumbling buildings, spikes, poisonous gas, ghosts, monsters, switches that lead to more spikes and more. Some of the levels are at a slower pace letting you take each jump with precision whilst others are against time due to spike walls closing in or gas clouds chasing you. As a result, there is a nice balance of varied levels – some you will whizz through and others you will be stuck on for some time. Each level is quite short, so playing on the go works very well. That for me is the way to play this game: a few minutes at a time. As you progress, each level has a tumour that you can collect, and each Stage tends to have a cartridge for a game which you can play back home. There are a huge number of these to find and even multiple endings depending on how well you do in the latter stages of the game where the pace really kicks up a notch.
The game is huge with 600 levels, an innumerable number of hidden areas to find and an amazingly large sound track. The game is releasing at $14.99 on the US eShop and justifies its price if you enjoy this type of challenging gameplay.
There is also a physical version for collectors available for $29.99 in the US.
Nicalis are doing a great job with the Switch. We recently reviewed Ittle Dew 2, and a sequel to Super Meat Boy is coming out next year.