Released in July of 2017, The End Is Nigh is a spiritual successor of sorts to Super Meat Boy, a hard-as-all-hell platformer which got its start on the Newgrounds flash development scene somewhere around a decade ago. Another game from the clinically warped mind of Edmund Mcmillin, The End Is Nigh takes obvious inspiration from the proceeding title, but it offers enough visual and mechanical innovation to escape the shadow of the developer’s previous efforts.
Though the game has been out for over two years at this point, it has since seen a port to the Nintendo Switch and is currently available for free via the Epic Games Store, so there’s never been a better time to get in on the post-apocalyptic platformer fun. Coincidentally, Meat Boy co-developer Tommy Refens recently announced his support for Epic’s exclusivity deals on PC, and, while that’s not really related to the matter at hand, given the circumstances, it seems like a curious connection. Plus, Nigh could serve as a nice pre-emptive strike for the upcoming Super Meat Boy Forever… if that game ever actually sees the light of day.
It's The End Of The World As We Know It... And I Feel Fine
To begin with, The End Is Nigh actually has a bit more of a narrative base than Meat Boy. While the former game essentially borrowed its "rescue the princess" plot from Super Mario Bros., this game tasks the player with guiding an amorphous ball of goo named Ash through his quest to collect tumors and other miscellaneous body parts and construct a friend out of them with whom to weather the end of the world. It’s a lot less serious than it sounds, and the light meta-commentary on gaming culture and introversion is worthy of a laugh or two.
However, when it comes to visuals, the game seems to be cut from the same cloth as Meat Boy; both characters are squishy and slimy, both games have a cartoonish aesthetic and, despite it’s more recent release date, The End Is Nigh feels very reminiscent of the old days of browser games built using flash. In fact, it bears a not-insignificant resemblance to Gish, one of McMillin’s earliest games which garnered a prominent status in that scene.
Moreover, both Meat Boy and End Is Nigh have sinister undertones creeping just below their happy-go-lucky surfaces. It’s a staple of the developer's work and is probably most noticeable in the ultra-disturbing The Binding of Isaac and it’s 2014 sequel, Rebirth. Many of McMillin’s games establish a veneer of Saturday morning cartoon innocence while dredging up grotesque motifs for those who dare explore a little further.
In terms of gameplay, while The End Is Nigh certainly bears a surface-level semblance of other difficult, speed-centric platform titles, it’s definitely a lot slower and more methodical than Meat Boy. Though the comparisons are still apt, Nigh plays a lot closer to something like Celeste than Super Meat Boy. Part of what makes this game feel so much slower is the fact that Ash doesn’t have nearly as much momentum as Meat Boy does. The mechanics in that game warrant lightning-fast jumps and dodges, while Nigh allows players to think things through and take obstacles one at a time… well, usually.
In fact, one major thing both Celeste and Nigh have in common would be the level sizes. Most of the levels in Matt Makes Games’ 2018 mountain climbing simulator are bite-sized and self-contained, and the same is true of McMillin’s most recent platformer. The levels in The End Is Nigh almost all consist of one screen, and, more often than not, the player can gauge the scope and breadth of the area as soon as they enter from stage right.
Both games are also startlingly alike in how players can hop from world to world from a menu, and, while Nigh doesn’t allow players to access every single level from one place, there’s still an arcade-esque emphasis on level selection which betrays any real sense of linearity. Both games also offer collectibles to incentivize replayability and tantalize completionists, though, much like in the previous game, collecting every extra tumor and side objective in The End Is Nigh would be downright masochistic.
Your Tumors Are In Another Castle
One major improvement is the fact that Nigh totally pulls a Ghosts n’ Goblins on the player and asks them to beat the game twice. That’s right; once the player collects all of the necessary body parts and builds Ash a friend, the world comes to a second end, and you’re forced to retread all of the levels, though they’ve now been made significantly more difficult.
In fact, the latter section of the second half of the game is particularly grueling, demanding absolute mastery of the controls and mechanics. The final act asks players to march through the entire last world backward while on a strict time limit—yeah, it’s that hard. Plus, that’s to say nothing of Nevermore and Ash’s collection of retro games, both of which are level sets so excruciatingly difficult that beating them is undoubtedly a masters-only endeavor.
Is All The Aggravation Worth It?
For the low, low price of literally nothing, The End Is Nigh demands to be played. Even for those who aren’t particularly interested in the I Wanna Be The Guy school of game design, Nigh is a compelling title which, though frustrating, will draw you in again and again. For those who still refuse to kowtow to Epic, this game is still worth the asking price over on Steam, and, dare we say, is a must-play on Switch.