Super Meat Boy has always stood as one of the most famed of indie icons. The mere mention of the name brings to mind boundless frustration and the sort of macabre cartoony gore which manages to be as hilarious as it is disturbing. It seemed to be a lightning in a bottle experience, but one half of the creative team behind it (Hello again, Mr. McMillen) has returned to refine the mechanics with this latest release: The End is Nigh.
Anyone who has played Super Meat Boy will feel immediately at home. As before, you’re left racing towards the end, hurling your character over serrated obstacles and trying desperately to make that one perfect jump. Yet what separates these games is how The End is Nigh proves to add a deeper connection to its core gameplay, and offers more of an addictive edge.
Compared to the world-by-world set-up you might expect, every level present here flows from one to the next, giving more of a sense of continuity and exploration. You’ll often find yourself looping around and backtracking Metroidvania style, with many previous environments retaining hidden passages and secrets needed to help you progress. While this could have easily piled busywork atop of an otherwise streamlined experience, it instead enhances it. The extremely rich designs of the dystopian wastes around you means you’re always keeping one eye open for secrets, and it encourages you to revisit older environments. As a result, it reduces the feeling that you’re simply bashing your head against a brick wall, and instead gives a real sense of progressing forwards even while repeating the same area time and again.
The story – what little there is of it – is also tied much, much closer to the mechanics this time; notably in how a few late-game twists only come about. With this said, a few very entertaining elements are notably absent. While the world itself is fun, there’s no denying a disappointing lack of challenges via boss battles to keep your heart pounding or to break up the levels. Creative as they are, one or two would have massively enhanced the game. Furthermore, the dreary Binding of Isaac level of hopelessness can understandably put off a few fans. Without any moments of true joy to reward you, your constant failures can be that much harder to push past.
While it’s clear this will have no happy ending, there’s no denying the mechanical strength behind The End is Nigh and the incredible creativity on display. Give it a look if you’re after a fantastic adventure platformer, but just be sure to watch the trailer first.
THE END IS NIGH / DEVELOPER AND PUBLISHER: ED MCMILLEN AND TYLER GLAIEL / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW