There’s a belief that it’s better to produce something outrageously, uproariously bad than it is to be dull. With so much content out there – thousands of movies, TV series and games pouring forth every year – being ambitious and failing has more value than squatting in the middle of the road and producing something mediocre.
You couldn’t accuse The end is nahual: If I may say so of being middle-of-the-road. It is clearly and abundantly someone’s passion project, slaved over for years. It has been created with so much care, a monument of worldbuilding, performance art and puzzles, and we’re still thinking about it days after finishing it.
But there’s no doubt in us that it’s bad. Not awful, just misguided in many critical ways. We think that’s a better outcome than being mediocre.
We’re not even sure where to pigeonhole The end is nahual: If I may say so. It’s most reminiscent of a point-and-click adventure. For large portions of the running time (and it’s a significant eight-hour running time), you are walking through 2.5D levels, talking to people and collecting items. Those items can be used to resolve situations in the world, and you are ever progressing onward, which is the basic shape of a graphic adventure.
But The end is nahual: If I may say so is ambitious, and it fiddles with that formula in inventive ways. Rather than rummage through an infinite backpack, you are given something called a ‘Molcajete’ (there is a brilliant and unusual South American flavour running throughout). This item is a crucible where you can combine elements alchemically, creating something new. You have limited space for items in your Molcajete, which expands over the course of the game, so you will have remarkably few items to tinker with.
We should put ‘items’ in inverted commas, as not everything is an item. The end is nahual: If I may say so has the cunning ploy of letting you put ‘concepts’ in your Molcajete. Talk to someone with a fiery disposition, and a Fiery Disposition might appear in your quasi-inventory. Now you can use that fire to explode TNT attached to a wall, gaining you access to somewhere new. It’s like Doodle God, writ large to become The Secret of Monkey Island.
There’s a tutorial to teach you all of this but – and this is a first for us – it decides to not bother and teach you a different game entirely. A pun-based battle opens the game, but it doesn’t really bear relation to the puzzles that follow. The end is nahual: If I may say so is so overconfident in its own ability that it makes its tutorial a punchline.
The result is that the point-and-clickery is uncommonly abstract. There is the odd item combination that makes sense and could have wandered out from Ron Gilbert’s mind, but the largest proportion are confusing as hell. Luckily, you have a limited inventory, so you can spend time trying every possible permutation, but after eight hours of game, that got trying. Logic is an uncommon commodity here.
We’d hazard a guess that the point-and-click stuff makes up about fifty percent of The end is nahual: If I may say so. The rest is jazz. Not literally jazz, but a kind of freeform approach to game design and storytelling that approximates jazz. It’s hard to explain, and we’d almost go so far to say that you need to experience it yourself.
At one end of the sliding scale, it’s pure LSD. Or performance art. Distortions make the screen into a kaleidoscope. Disembodied voices talk to each other, without much of a clue to who they are. Sometimes these sections become interactive, as you are suddenly playing on an anthropomorphised piano, even though there was no piano in the room moments ago. It’s deliberately, confusingly bizarre.
Pull the sliding scale in further, and you get to a Deadpool-esque love for breaking the fourth wall. There’s constant references to the developers and the designers of the game, and what feelings they’re trying to generate from the player. Characters turn up who may well be the designers of the game. Fingers are pointed at the player, the characters, the designers, and everyone laughs and wonders what the hell is going on.
Pull the sliding scale closer to normalcy, and you get a weird Wario Ware-like approach to minigames. The end is nahual: If I may say so loves to present a bizarre minigame with no rules to speak of, and then see if you can work it out. In one example, you run towards the back of the screen, where three doors reside with skulls spinning in them. Change lanes and aim for a door, and the skull will change its expression. Work out which skull-expression means safety, and you’re halfway to completing the minigame.
Tastes are going to differ on The end is nahual: If I may say so. There is a perfectly viable perspective that its gonzo approach to gaming, where it barely ever sits still, throwing memorable image after image at you, is refreshing. When we’re spoonfed sequels that don’t try anything remotely new, here is a game that doesn’t do anything that you might expect.
But call us philistines: The end is nahual: If I may say so tries our patience. Playing a nine-hour long version of Wario Ware isn’t as fun as it sounds. Sometimes, you want at least some solid foundations to stand on, and the relentless wackiness, fourth-wall breaking and pretentious showboating made us jump out of the armchair and scream “enough!”. It was like being winked at by David Lynch for three evenings straight.
It’s also sabotaged by its own writing. Clearly coming from the pen of someone who doesn’t have English as a first language, it is in dire need of an edit. There are countless typos, the syntax is all over the shop, and generally we found it very hard to understand. Clarity is incredibly important when your game is a backhistory-filled art installation, and it’s not at all clear here. There is undoubtedly some Tolkien-like worldbuilding here, and there are even moments when it approaches lucidity. But the majority of time, it’s like picking up the shredded notes of a famous author and trying to glean a novel from them.
There is no doubt in our minds that there is a fantastic game within The end is nahual: If I may say so. It comes and goes in flashes. But the abiding feeling is of a game that’s been overthought. It’s so eager to cram in more minigames, more backstory and more memorable moments that it neglects the important stuff, like clarity.
Give an editor a machete and the opportunity to carve out vast chunks of The end is nahual: If I may say so, and you might have a good game. As it stands, this is a fascinating, unruly mess.
You can buy The end is nahual: If I may say so from the Xbox Store
- Impressive worldbuilding
- Never once sits still
- Some fantastic ideas, particularly in the graphic adventuring
- Far too abstract for its own good
- Poorly written and unclear
- Minigames can be opaque
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Third World Productions
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 9 September 2022
- Launch price from - £8.39