The End Is Nigh
The new game of Edmund McMillen, creator of The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy, is finally here!
Storywise the game revolves around the character of Ash, a one-eyed blob (?) that has survived the end of the world. After the cartridge of his favorite game stops working, he decides to build himself a friend from the remnants of people he finds along the way. And by remnants, I mean tumors.
So as usual, a pretty disturbing setting from the pretty disturbed psyche of a pretty disturbed game developer. The Art style is a savant mix of the strangeness and grotesque found in Super Meat Boy and the insanity and adorableness of The Binding of Isaac, giving a disturbed sensation without getting in the way of the clarity and readability of the level.
In the game you go through the hundreds of levels, like literally hundreds, 6 of them at least. In 12 chapters. Each of these levels has a tumor hidden. These tumors are used to unlock hidden areas. I think. It’s hard. The game is hardcore. Most of the so called hardcore games aren’t hardcore. But this one is.
As with Super Meat Boy, the controls are really fine and precise. Maybe too fine, each key input is registered and can make you miss your landing and fall on spikes. So, finishing a screen requires precise leaping above spikes, enemies and holes. In this game air control and momentum are the key. Some of the movements are logical but not intuitive. For example, there are no wall jumps, but a ledge grab will allow you to gain speed and cross a higher distance. Pressing down when falling allows you to gain speed and break some elements to discover secret passages. Each screen is linked to another one, so you can go back and forth through levels to look for hided places and the tumors you’ve missed.
Basically, you’ll have understood, the game is an epic version of “Die and Retry”, where each new screen will have you scratch your head, asking “what do I have to do now”. Then you’ll be raging after dying for the twelfth time because you missed that ledge and then sighing because you realized there was a much easier path at the top of the screen.
The main path of the game is hard enough to keep you focused on it for a few hours, but to finish it completely, by collecting all the tumors and hidden secrets, it will take you, like most of McMillen games, hours upon hours and a good chunk of your sanity. The final touch is the ultra pompous sound design, where Brahms and Dvorak meet electric guitar and electro sounds. Together the visual art, conseptual design and soundtrack of The End is Nigh manage to keep the player tensed and focused on a joyous and wonderful apocalypse feeling.
And that’s all we can ask from McMillen.