EarthNight is more than an endless runner. Developed by the Philly-based Cleaversoft, the creators have been at work on this hand-painted, glorious, tough beast of a game for five years.

It shows. Every moment is intense and layered with intricacy, from the look of the game to the glorious soundtrack, its premise and how it controls.

We’ll start there. The motion of most runners is typically that of jumping, ducking and perhaps sliding or punching. Here, EarthNight demands players jump, float with the left stick pointed up, dive with the left stick pointed down and, if you go with the tougher of the two characters, dashing and double-jumping. It’s a lot to take in, and I’ll admit that the initial feeling of EarthNight is overwhelming.

As for the two characters? You have the balding photojournalist named Stanley and the young Sydney. Sydney offers the more dynamic controls, and she’s the harder of the two characters to play. Dragons have taken over the world, humans become refugees in space and Sydney and Stanley are out to murder some beasts and reclaim the Earth.

It’s hard and heavy, and the game demands skill beyond what I had to offer during my first session. As I ran along the spine of a massive dragon, leaping to new heights, bouncing on monsters’ heads and jamming to the music, I found myself falling into a rhythm. The game started to bend a bit to my will as I maneuvered between obstacles.

…and then I died. I bit it, hard, and hung my head in shame before I looked at Cleaversoft Owner and Founder Rich Siegel and asked for one more go.

“We wanted to make a game, and I’m not kidding here, where you upgrade your heart.” Siegel told me that as he explained how demanding EarthNight can be. Runners, and there are wonderful ones out there, have this stigma of feeling easy to make or bound for mobile. Cleaversoft is looking to make a runner that’s challenging, rewarding and, ultimately, very good. You’ll have to straight up get better in order to play better, and that feeling of accomplishment is what they’re after.

The game will only take like 30 to 40 minutes to beat. But! That’ll only come once you’re good enough to make it all in one run. This game? Permadeath. Getting health back? Through skill and building combos. Right, it’s hard. Mastery is required to beat it, so get ready.

What they have now ticks those boxes wonderfully. I left my short appointment wanting more, and that’s something I find myself thinking less and less as years of conventions roll by. Here? I’m in, they have my attention.

EarthNight is set to launch exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita when it’s ready, though the developer is aiming for Q4 of this year. It’ll hit the PC and Mac platforms at a later date.