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You can’t walljump. For me, this is what defines The End Is Nigh [official site], the hardcore platformer from Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel. McMillen’s last co-created platformer was Super Meat Boy, a game that made simply moving left and right a kinetic joy. The End Is Nigh is by comparison a slower but no less difficult game. (more…)
The last thing I expected from The End is Nigh, Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen’s latest game in the controller-busting platformer genre, was for it to suddenly open up into an exploration adventure with forking paths and curious characters.
You play as Ash, a sentient ball of guess-what and one of the only survivors of a nondescript apocalyptic event. Ash gets lonely and decides to find a friend, but needs the body parts to build one first, which can only be obtained by jumping through dangerous obstacle courses.
At first, it feels like business as usual, moving from screen to screen dodging spikes, making precise leaps, finding secrets, and grabbing collectibles (tumors, this time). Air control and momentum are still emphasized and feel similar to Super Meat Boy’s floaty but precise controls. The most apparent difference is that wall-jumping is out and ledge-grabbing—a mechanic that allows you to latch onto any edge or outcropping to gain extra horizontal distance when leaping off—is in.
Each challenge takes place on a single screen, but unlike Super Meat Boy, every screen is directly connected to the next. You can go back and forth between screens at will in a single world, and for good reason. Secrets areas are everywhere and you’ll definitely want to revisit specific screens to unlock doors or revisit certain characters. I’m not far enough to know exactly what all those locked doors and hidden passages hold, I just hope they’re harboring some of McMillen’s special brand of strangeness. Super Meat Boy’s hidden areas felt like you were breaking into an abandoned, forbidden part of the code, so if they’re just optional challenges with silly collectibles, I’ll be bummed.
Whether or not you want to turn the game inside out, the critical path is challenging enough. The End is Nigh introduces new concepts at a leisurely pace. After you get the hang of the jumping around, you’ll learn to gain distance and momentum by jumping out of ledge grabs. And then you’ll learn you can chain jumps off of enemies. And then you’ll learn that you can press a button to dive while in water and jump to shoot out of it, magically preserving the momentum from the dive.
And then, not until several worlds in, you’re told that you can ‘dive’ anywhere to boost your falls, gain momentum, and bust through specific material types or fly past moving obstacles. It’s like gaining a new ability, even if it was there all along.
Then the world branches into several paths, and down each you’re asked to use every skill in a single screen. A floating demon might give chase while the world collapses all around. You’ll need to dive in and out of poisonous water to gain momentum to reach a handhold just out of range, and execute narrow jumps up and around spiky architecture to make it to the exit. If the respawn for each screen wasn’t instant, I’d uninstall The End is Nigh immediately.
But it never feels as challenging as Super Meat Boy, at least when comparing their first few hours. The ledge-grabbing mechanic makes levels feel like a navigation puzzle to be discovered through observation (and dying over and over), rather than a freeform platforming jungle gym, which means button mashing improv and instinct likely won’t get you far. It feels like the opposite of N++, whose floaty, quickly accelerating movement let me improvise and scramble through more than a few challenges I’m not sure I deserved to complete.
In combination with a host of clever level design gimmicks (deadly sentient thomping blocks, chain-chomp watch dog baddies, bouncy puff balls that spew poisonous gas, morphing/collapsing levels, and so on) the primary challenge in The End is Nigh is in decoding the new rules it introduces in the form of enemies and obstacles, and then moving through them on a clearly intended path.
Most new screens look impossible to complete at first, but a few deaths in and you’ll know which ledges to grab and platforms to jump between. You’ll learn to feign a leap to distract the chain-chomp watch dogs before flying by, or to exploit triggers that collapse skyscrapers to skip a platforming gauntlet entirely. Such a quick cycle of trial and error essentially guarantees you’ll come to know most screens better than your bedroom. In the end (which is nigh) you’re meant to feel as smart as you are skilled, and as someone that doesn’t get into games that are hard for the sake of it, I’m happy The End is Nigh gives curious players something to chew on besides a gamepad.
In being so diverse and experimental, some of The End is Nigh’s levels inevitably don’t land, but at least they’re over quick (if you have the patience to best them). Ledge-grabbing can be weird too. Sometimes you’ll have to land a grab in an awkward position, and Ash’s air control is extremely sensitive, so inching the mushy ball into a tiny, invisible trigger zone to grab a ledge is more trouble than I’d like. It doesn’t help that Ash leaves a residual trail behind, which can easily cloud up your vision when trying to move in a fast and precise way.
The collectibles don’t carry any obvious incentive either. So far, I’ve gathered about 25 tumors and I already don’t care anymore. They’re poised in a seemingly impossible to reach corner in every level, and they serve as the challenging platformer’s toughest tests. And, unless I’m reading into it, they’re also a crude commentary on arbitrary trinkets scattered around similar games.
Maybe after finishing the main path I’ll happen upon enough of them to unlock something interesting, but I wish there was a better breadcrumb trail leading me there. Particularly tragic is the lack of competitive leaderboards for each screen. Who will I bully when I come into work? The only metrics I could find were a timer and percentage listed for overall game completion. They’re great tools for speedrunners, I just want to chastise my peers over smaller, pettier victories.
But most of The End is Nigh’s problems are easily blotted out by its strange, branching world and mysteries waiting to be unraveled. I stumbled into a secret area early on and found a floppy white figure standing behind a wall in the corner of the screen. I want to know the significance of the floppy white person. I need to know the significance of the floppy white person. Together, we will find out the significance of the floppy white person, and The End is Nigh’s excellent platforming challenges are a most welcome medium for finding the truth.
The End is Nigh, a collaboration between The Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel, will release on July 13, it has been confirmed. Along with the news, a new gameplay trailer has been uploaded by Glaiel, offering a more substantial serving of footage than previous videos.
For anyone who played and loved Super Meat Boy – which McMillen worked on – this looks essential. Even the movement of player-character Ash looks similar to that oddly loveable chunk of meat, though the levels don't appear to scroll, instead switching to different screens.
Whether the game holds surprises or whether it is, indeed, a fairly straightforward platformer is besides the point: I think it's gonna be good. Here's the video.
Super Meat Boy co-creator Edmund McMillen and Closure dev Tyler Glaiel have shown off more of After announcing The End Is Nigh [official site] last week, the deadly new platformer they announced last week. As you might expect, the new gameplay video is full of spikes, pits, jumping up and sliding down walls, quick deaths, quick restarts, and odd-lookin’ sad creatures. Unlike most games announced around E3, this one is coming soon — in just under one month — so have a look, tired eyes. … [visit site to read more]
The Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen told the world last month that he and collaborator Tyler Glaiel had been working on a brand new project that was very near, but not quite ready for, an official announcement. Today he unveiled that project as The End is Nigh, "a sprawling adventure-platformer where you die a lot, but that's okay because you are probably already dead anyway."
The End is Nigh puts players in control of Ash, "one of the few 'things' that have 'survived' the 'end of the world'," as the Steam description puts it. "Follow Ash as he flops his way through a future of pain and suffering. Feel his stress levels rise as you throw him into an endless swarm of decaying, mutant animal-like creatures and help aid his final epic quest... to simply make a friend (out of pieces of people he finds along his journey)."
You will also collect videogame cartridges and tumors, "if that does anything for ya."
The reveal trailer gets very loud and sweary in spots, so depending on where you are right now, you might want to turn the volume down or throw on some headphones before you watch it, or just wait until later.
McMillen said in his May tease that The End is Nigh is "easily one of the largest games I've ever made," and it appears that he wasn't kidding. The game will include over 600 levels spread across 12 (and possibly more) chapters, with 80+ achievements, more than 20 "fully playable mini game cartridges" (each with their own achievements) and hundreds of "little squishy tumors" to collect, 80+ main-game achievements to earn, and "loads of hidden extras and endings that you will probably see someone else find before you do."
"Stress" is also cited as a feature, and based on the teaser I can see why. The End is Nigh looks really good as a high-mortality twitch-platformer, which is exactly the kind of game that drives me almost immediately apoplectic. I can respect and even admire games like that, but I sure can't play 'em.
The End is Nigh is set to come out on July 12. Pricing hasn't been set, but the very McMillen-esque system requirements are below and you can find out more at edmundm.com.