So… imagine if Super Meat Boy had a more ambitious spiritual successor while retaining everything that made it a genre triumph. Now stop imagining and go buy The End is Nigh. I’ll be here when you get back.
Throughout my 11ish hours with The End is Nigh, I keep coming back to the same thought: Why does everything Edmund McMillen touch turn to gold? It’s crazy right? The Binding of Isaac, Super Meat Boy, Gish, Time Fcuk, and now The End is Nigh. I’ve been enraptured by a state of awe my whole time playing his newest game, because it seems like he should have made something tragic by now. I couldn’t contain my excitement when this game’s trailer dropped last month, but I had a suspicion in the back of my mind that maybe, maybe this was the one to go south. The game’s co-creator, Tyler Glaiel, wasn’t a name I was familiar with, and the release date was fast approaching without much of a warning at all. I shouldn’t have been worried. At all. In fact, it might even be the best game Edmund’s ever been a part of.
The End is Nigh takes the fast-paced platforming of Super Meat Boy and rips away the world map based level structure. The entire game is an open world that can be explored without any loading screens with branching paths and an abundance of secret areas to uncover. It also plays into more puzzle elements than Meat Boy ever tried to. There were several moments in The End is Nigh where I was forced to stare at my screen and puzzle out just what exactly I even needed to do. There are still plenty of the pure run-and-jump-from-left-to-right segments, but several times you’ll be asked to pause and think about what your options are. This game presents itself as a straightforward platformer at first, but you soon realize it has a tiny bit in common with the traditional Metroidvania as well.
As you continue through the game you’re shown new ways to use the skills at your disposal. You’ll never unlock an upgrade or anything; you’re given small tutorial prompts that explain how to use hidden abilities that you’ve had the whole time, like holding a certain button to make yourself a bit heavier. You can backtrack through old areas and find new ways to tackle secrets that were maybe a bit too secret your first time through. I’ve explored the opening areas multiple times at this point, and nearly every single time I go back I stumble across something brand new. The world in The End is Nigh is so full of hidden passages at every turn, anywhere you think you might be able to squeeze through… you probably can. Keep your eyes peeled through each and every scene or you’re sure to miss important items, hidden levels or other secrets.
The game handles as excellently as you’d imagine of this pedigree. Though it feels familiar if you’ve played Super Meat Boy, it never feels like a retread through old ideas. The art is sharper, there’s more puzzles to solve and secrets to find, and it presents new ideas at such an excellent pace that nothing lingers past its expiration date. I can heap praise on The End is Nigh until I’m blue in the face, but I rarely come across a game that I feel so strongly about.
I’ve been waiting for a worthy follow up Super Meat Boy since 2010, and it turns out that one of its creators was the only person talented enough to deliver. There have been great platformers since: Shovel Knight is a good Mega Man riff, just as Castle in the Darkness is to Castlevania, but The End is Nigh is pure platforming in the same way that Super Meat Boy was eight years ago. Those two games stand atop a pedestal that only giants like Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3 can lay claim to. When I say The End is Nigh is a wonderful thing, I’m not doing the game justice. As I near its final hours, I’m struggling with the fact that the end is most certainly nigh. I’ll be returning to it for years to come, and I hope you do to.
If you’re ready for some tough-as-nails platforming goodness, check out The End is Nigh on its Steam page. Good luck!