The End is Nigh review: No end in sight

Credit: Edmund McMillen
Credit: Edmund McMillen /

The End is Nigh is a charming, dark, and difficult hardcore platforming title from the minds that brought you Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac.

Developer: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel
Publisher: Nicalis
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: December 12, 2017

I’m not sure what got me to most when I first got started. It might have been the inability to wall jump, or the insane amount of deaths I’d accumulated in the first few levels. But for some, this is desirable, and the hardcore platforming of The End is Nigh now on Nintendo Switch is for them. Meanwhile, I’m over here dying 22 times in the first nine levels and nearly lobbing my Joy-Cons across the room.

the end is nigh
Credit: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel /

However, that is what defines The End is Nigh by Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel. Its difficulty and structure could almost place it as the spiritual successor to Super Meat Boy. But unlike Edmund McMillen’s previous works, The End is Nigh is slower and not as frenetic.

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The opening of the game is quite the marketing campaign for players who stream the game. The opening is astoundingly fourth-wall breaking. Ash, our protagonist, is a streamer introducing us to his latest game: The End is Nigh. Within seconds his stream to comes to an abrupt halt as the cartridge he used breaks, sending him into a frenzy of incomprehensible cussing, and not long after, sending him out into the open world.

His reason for leaving? To find a new friend. After all, Ash_Dies_Alone doesn’t have a lot of friends. Why? The world has ended, and our little blob of a friend has hopes that someone is out there to keep him company. Once he sets out from his comfortable, rundown ruin, we quickly get to see the morbidity that this dark world holds. Just starting out, you’ll instantly start talking to piles of bones that provide you with instructions, tutorials, and hints about each of the stages you enter.

Right out of the gates you will notice a few subtle changes from both McMillen and Glaiel’s past works. You won’t have the capacity to wall jump; you’re forced to traverse each map, which takes place on a single screen (ala VVVVVVV) in entirely new ways. One example is certain ledges that have hooks. If they do, you can push away from the surface by facing the opposite direction, and travel in longer horizontal distances with a shallower arc. There are plenty more gameplay puzzles like this to discover along the way.

the end is nigh
Credit: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel /

Not only are the jumping mechanics moderately difficult, but every stage is out to kill you. Each new area introduces new obstacles ranging from collapsing towers, spikes, rising lava, odd fleshy masses that have spikes on them, or even clouds of poisonous gas. Timing is key to this game. Recognizing patterns and leading your undying enemy to where you need them to be is required to succeed in most places. Some of the stages led me to use my enemies as platforms, bouncing from one head to another and reaching the exit all the way across the screen.

I was relieved to find that, unlike Super Meat Boy, there’s no hard-to-beat clock. I wasn’t forced to just rush forward and complete each of the game’s levels at breakneck speed. It’s more of a puzzle-platformer, forcing me to manipulate some of the stages to benefit me most and find the quickest route through my current room in order to proceed to the next. Sometimes I’d find myself poking around, waiting to see if each of the stages had a pattern, and how I could make Ash fit that very pattern.

The End is Nigh [Credits: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel]
Credits: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel /

It’s witty, dark, and somehow it reminds me of the Javascript games I used to play in the 90’s growing up.

Once you get the hang of the structure, many of the stages feel like a well-greased machine as you bounce from platform to platform. There is a lot of trial and error in The End is Nigh, but that’s where the game is most rewarding. I’ve died 2,382 times. Yes, you read that right. I’ve died a solid 2,382 times and only have somewhere near 40% completion rating. But how have I “completed” this game with only that much of a completion rating? Perhaps completed is rather misleading. Each level has a “Tumor” you can seek out if you choose. These Tumors are rather hard to reach and require finesse to obtain. Once enough Tumors are acquired, you can then move on to a secret area, and increase your completion rating by having done so.

But there are also some hidden areas that are a bit harder to reach unless you know what to look for them. Some come with hidden walls that you can only access by searching for them. The risk is worth the reward. You’ll find Mega Tumors (worth five regular ones) or collectible game cartridges, offering extra challenge and replayability to those willing to seek them out. And beyond all that is a New Game+ mode where every level is reshaped to be even more vicious. By “finishing” the game, I’ve only scratched the surface.

The End is Nigh [Credits: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel]
Credits: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel /

Visually, the game is quite the beauty. It’s witty, dark, and somehow it reminds me of the Javascript games I used to play in the 90’s growing up. Unfortunately, even with these appealing factors,

The End is Nigh

can be a bit much and is not for everyone. Even those used to difficult games may find the constant deaths frustrating and need to step away for awhile. For those drawn in by the challenge, however, it’s fun, it’s insanely hard, but it is also insanely rewarding if you take your time, slow down, and make the effort to obtain the games hard to obtain collectibles.

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8.5. <em>The End is Nig</em><em>h</em> is a marvelous and challenging game, and is both familiar but also somewhat alien for fans of both Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel’s past works. Its excellent level design and numerous hidden secrets and challenges will offer those willing to take it on hours upon hours of grueling, satisfying gameplay.. Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel. . The End is Nigh

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.