Super Meat Boy will make you angry. It will make you yell and curse. At times it will even make you feel hopeless, like you can do nothing right. That’s because it’s such a challenging 2D platformer, filled with some of the most devilish levels ever designed, that it will push all but the best gamers in the world to their limit. But it will also be one of the best time you ever had, for when you finally clear a seemingly impossible stage you feel truly thankful for Super Meat Boy making you really work for that win. And then it’s on to the next daunting stage.
Super Meat Boy began as a flash game on the popular Newgrounds, and went on to be one of the most popular games on the site, which eventually led to it becoming a full game. It harkens back to the days of classic 8 and 16-bit games, like Ghost ‘n’ Goblins, Castlevania, and Super Mario, when 2D platformers were expected to be very challenging but in a rewarding way. Super Meat Boy’s biggest influence seems to be Donkey Kong for the Game Boy, in both the set-up of Meat Boy constantly saving his girlfriend Bandage Girl from the mega-a$$hole Dr. Fetus, and in how the levels are presented to you.
Each level is a new problem you're dropped into. Most times you can see the goal (your girlfriend) and then you try your best to figure out how you are going to run and jump to get over to the fair lady. Once you finally traverse the perilous area and get to Bandage Girl, Dr. Fetus shows up and takes her to the next stage, and the process is repeated, say, 100 times. Seems simple enough right?
Above: Some stages do cool stuff like this silhouette look
Wrong. Super Meat Boy throws in so many different tricks along the way that it never gets stale and is always testing you. It may throw in a fan that lifts you up, or an enemy that won’t stop chasing you, or disappearing platforms. It always feels fresh, which keeps you coming back again and again. Even if you get stuck on a stage for 20 minutes, once you finally beat it you’ll want to see just how difficult the next stage is.
That’s one of SMB’s best qualities, is that while it’s always tough and demanding, it never feels cheap, or like the game is cheating you. Mainly that’s because the controls and physics are so locked down and perfect, feeling as precise as the best platformers of old. You know if you missed some jump, it’s due to you timing it wrong, not because the game missed something. I never came across a level where I felt like it was insurmountable because it was broken, I just knew I hadn’t figured out the exact path to take… yet.
And you will die a lot looking for that path, but trial and error is a huge part of the game. Looking at my death count in the stats page, I died about 3000 times total beating the 110 levels in the main game. And probably a third of that was in the insanely, desperately hard final six stages. But since the time between death and respawn is about one second, you never have to wallow in your failure. Most deaths go like this: jump, fall, killed on saw blade, “god damn it,” immediate respawn, “alright, this time I’ve got it.” And when you finally beat a stage they show a replay of all your attempts at once, making for a pretty entertaining montage.
This game is also one of the best bangs for your buck on XBLA. If you buy it in the first 30 days it’s only 800 MS points ($10) and for that you get at least 8-10 hours of play, which is more you get from some $60 games (and considerably more than Sonic 4 Episode I gives you for $15). And after you beat the main game, the truly crazy/awesome can take on the Dark World challenges, search for the hidden warp zones, or collect items to unlock badass hidden characters like a Castle Crasher and Tim from Braid. Furthermore, there’s the free DLC titled Teh Internets that’s coming down the line. It’s the best deal in gaming since the Orange Box.
So after this glowing review why isn’t it a 10? Mainly because Super Meat Boy may turn off some players who aren’t looking to be tested, even if I believe that the quality of the SMB earns it the right to be that difficult. Though I’m not saying, “people who suck at games shouldn’t bother,” (because I’d never describe myself as an advanced player) it’s just that a few out there may genuinely not enjoy how far this game goes in challenging you. But if you love platformers and were dying to play one till your hands hurt, one with personality that comically recognizes its retro influences without cashing in on nostalgia to be fun, that’s tough but fair, and that will make you feel like you really earned the Achievement when you finally beat it, get Super Meat Boy. You won’t regret it.
Oct 20, 2010