This week, Yahtzee reviews The End is Nigh and Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles.
You know, in this age of fear-mongering, populous takeover, increasing class divide, and Ed Sheeran cameos in Game of Thrones, a lot of people seem to take comfort in the fact that the mushroom cloud will probably drop soon and burn our eyes out while the radiation agonizingly dissolves our bodies from the inside out. Well, it's a lovely fantasy, millennials, but sadly we're an infuriatingly adaptable bunch, and if nuclear stormfire couldn't save us from the Bay City Rollers, it's not gonna save you from - discreetly Googles current Billboard Top 40 - Imagine Dragons. You're probably just gonna have to tough it out, but in the meantime, there's no harm in a bit of wholesome escapism with Edmund McMillan's new game, The End is Nigh.
Edmund McMillan is a game designer forged in the old 2000's Newgrounds Flash game era when everyone was learning that lack of censorship plus extremely low barrier for entry equals an awful lot of super-violent, poorly drawn cartoon games and animations about poo. McMillan stood out by making such games as Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, actually quite well-designed super-violent cartoon games about poo. McMillan's hallmarks, besides poo, include high difficulty, a simplistic but highly animated art style mainly centered around squashy blobs of flesh, an obvious enthusiasm for retro games, and a grandiose apocalyptic sort of thing, so The End is Nigh represents all of his squishy blood-leaking poo monsters coming home to roost, so to speak.
It begins as a squashy blob of flesh retro playing video games before realizing he has to step into the grandiose apocalyptic setting to make things highly difficult for himself. The game is a 2D platformer with much of Super Meat Boy about it, except slower-paced and is theoretically open-world as opposed to Super Meat Boy's level-based structure. In practice though, each room is an individual challenge and there's not much point in coming back to each one once you have the bandage- I mean, tumor, so it might as well have been level-based for all it mattered. Well, I suppose you might want to come back if you get off on watching water balloons full of gravy explode, but there are plenty of places where you can enjoy that particular spectacle, such as every square inch of the fucking game!
Hey, look at me, world! I'm about to say that this high difficulty game is too hard! That's right, now you have a whole brain cell dedicated to me saying that and you'll never get it back! Yeah, genius, it's supposed to be hard, but a slower difficulty ramp-up would be nice. Difficulty curve, not difficulty wall, not difficulty overhang slick with eagle jizz.
Feels like every time a new element is introduced, it's demonstrated precisely once and then we're immediately called upon to pixel-perfect footsie-jump off it with the exact timing necessary to miss a gargoyle's deadly swinging bellend piercing by one eighth of an inch. And if that's what you want, then I can recommend The End is Nigh, as well as possibly hiring a therapist to work through your self-destructive urges.
I like hard games, you know that, but The End is Nigh just isn't grabbing me, and I think it's because I don't get a sense that there'll be any reward for putting myself through the trials. I repeatedly pound my testicles with a hammer because I'm trying to save money on a vasectomy, not just for the sake of it. Super Meat Boy had stuff to unlock, a squashy flesh-blob princess to rescue, a dizzying array of secrets, a lively air of fun, and a varied pallette of blood-reds and poo-browns, and End is Nigh just feels like Super Meat Boy with none of any of that. Your only reward is more harder challenges. Fucking hell, at least Sisyphus was getting regular exercise!
In brief, I don't think The End is Nigh has enough going on. I turn on, it goes "Hello, everything has gone to shit. I'm shit, you're shit, the world is shit, why don't you come outside and see how shit it is and will continue to be whatever you do?" And then I turn off the TV news and play The End is Nigh instead which gives a very similar vibe, and I don't feel particularly motivated to stick with it. I'm not saying it needs to promise me chocolate buttons and snuggles under a rainbow, just something other than more opportunities to get remorsely pounded like I'm a turd that's trying to stomp through a shower drain.
I thought I'd better play something from the opposite end of the open-world spectrum as well this week, if only to stave off the voices, and Steam obligingly belched up the rather ungainly titled Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, an open-world, crafty-explorey, hoarding time-wasty, ooh-nicey-strokey-animals game.
The vibe I was getting from it was Harvest Moon by way of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: build a farm inside a freely explorable sandbox world, and help lots of people who are all perfectly alright, except they're missing five moose scrotums for their husband's sausage factory. Also, the art style reminded me of a Playmobil pirate ship I used to have when I was a kid, especially at the beginning when you're on a pirate ship although thankfully this one didn't have the spring-loaded cannons with the projectiles that get lost in the carpet for the guinea pig to one day choke to death on.
A ship in an intro sequence to a fantasy exploration game is of course an equivalent to a helicopter in the intro to an action game, so naturally it's wrecked for no adequate reason and we're deposited on a beach to start our quest. What was our quest again, Yonder: The Cow Tipper Chronicles? "Uhhhhh... pick up some stuff." Anything else? "Uhhhhh... talk to those guys." I talked to those guys, Yonder, and they told me to pick up some stuff. "Well, there you go then."
I think the key phrase that sums up the Yonder experience is "What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?" It is the final destination for every path that you take.
You explore the island, find a hidden ore vein in a cave, mine it for copper, then you have some copper. What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?
Oh look, a place where I can build a bridge if I bring it twenty sticks, ten vines and a tube of Pritt Stick. It leads me to an island with a treasure chest containing a vajazzling kit. What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?
I think we're supposed to be setting up farms, so we search the land and find the places where farms can be built and build farms on them. What the fuck am I-
"Wait, now we can find a wild cow, wave a Curly-Wurly under its nose and lead it back to the farm to make it your cow."
Okay, what the f-
"Tu-tu-tu-tu-tah. Now find an NPC whose face you particularly don't like and you'd like to go away. Feed it the entire contents of your fridge and they'll go off and run your farm for you. There, you see? Now you got free milk coming out of the farm whenever you want it."
And what the fuck am I supposed do with-
"Look, if you like directions so much, maybe we can get you a fucking kaleidoscope!"
As far as I can tell, Yonder is a game about becoming the island's random crap baron on the offchance that some of the random crap will be required for one of the many fetch quests or crafting recipes, thus resulting in you having even more random crap. You can't even sell the random crap 'cos the shop will only exchange it for different random crap! It's like dealing in fucking Bitcoins!
Honestly though, Yonder's main fault is a failure to commit. Either do the free exploration scavenger hunt or the farming sim because they don't mix well. One is about constantly moving on, and the other sitting in one place, behind a cow, elbow-deep in colon like the sorter at a punctuation factory.
- The end of this video is nigh: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Of course not every Newgrounds Flash game is about blood or poo, some of them have tits as well
- Funny how no one talks about 'I Wanna Be That Guy' anymore