Forged from somewhere in the bowels of hell comes a game that is relentless and unforgiving, testing not only your skill, but your patience. Here there are tons to do and discover, but it comes at a price. If you’re a bad enough dude, maybe you can stand proud and hold your controller high, for there are three hundred levels you’ll need to conquer and an evil fetus to vanquish. By a couple of dudes at Team Meat, welcome to the world of Super Meat Boy. Enjoy your stay, but it may take a few years off your life expectancy.
Meat Boy, the cute squishy little cube you fill the role of, must venture through a number of worlds, suffering through grueling levels chock-full of deadly devices in order to rescue your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the clutches of the villainous Dr. Fetus. The story’s narrative is thinly veiled and the premise is a simple one because it doesn’t really need anything more to Meat Boy’s frantic adventure. It seems Dr. Fetus’s abandonment issues cause him to be jealous at what you and Bandage Girl have, so he kidnaps her. All of this you learn right in the introduction following booting the game.
The objective of each stage is to navigate the treacherous obstacle course to reach Bandage Girl. However, even if you prove successful in that task, Dr. Fetus will promptly sweep in, nabbing Bandage Girl and heading off to the next stage. If you can complete a level under its specified par time, you unlock a harder version of that stage, or the dark world version as it’s called. Each world is comprised of forty levels, twenty light world and twenty dark world.
Where the game’s difficulty stems from is how utterly easy it is to die. Trap filled levels will cause poor Meat Boy’s molecular structure to disperse at a moment’s touch via the many saw blades, lava, spikes, pools of salt, syringes and so on. Though despite this, the game design has been tailored to be addicting as hell. When you die, you immediately respawn in the matter of a mere second so you can dive right back in. Some levels will have you dying potentially hundreds of times before you can nail it with finesse. Imagine if there was a time you found yourself glued to a difficult flash game for hours trying to beat it. If this is a concept you don’t see yourself acclimating to, you know who you are, otherwise the challenge and addictive nature makes it loads of fun. The developers knew what kind of game they set out to make and it’s not necessarily for everyone.
This is a bit of a throwback game in terms of its retro appearance and its constant homages to games of the past, but it retains the look and feel of a modernized indie game. The artwork has a strong grasp on the use of color and detail, resulting in an atmospheric experience. Each world has a drastically different look, modifying the gameplay and level design in subtle ways ensuring variety, all while the frame rate runs at a constant smooth pace.
For the kind of game that Super Meat Boy is, it has a very responsive control scheme to boot. What’s important to note is that you have a lot of freedom in how you move. You can gap large distances, wall jump to scale tall cliff edges, and a lot of control in moving while falling. Meat Boy also has some momentum to him, sliding along surfaces to a halt which makes control a little tricky. This freedom is the foundation for some of the crazy level design you’ll experience later in the game.
There is a replay system, but it feels like a novelty that wears off quickly. How it works is once you complete a level, if you choose to save the replay, it shows your successful attempt along with the ghosts of the many failed ones, but they don’t do anything to distinguish the two. They’re all the same color resulting in a giant messy horde of Meat Boys stampeding across the level and it doesn’t capture your successful attempt in a way that’s meaningful. It looks cool, but it’s probably something you won’t use a whole lot.
What else can be said thus far with a game this solid? The final staple, what amends it all together, is the audio. For as long as you may find yourself playing this game, the sounds never seem to grind on your nerves. From the pitter-patter of Meat Boy’s tiny feet, to the splat when you slam into a spike. Like a delicious burrito, it’s neatly wrapped in the game’s amazing soundtrack composed by Danny Baranowsky, which is comprised of not particularly long loops, but like the music of those retro games that you never seem to get tired of, this recaptures that feeling.
The game isn’t without flaws. In my experience with the game, I ran across several bugs on the Xbox. If you’re not careful, you might not notice the game stopped automatically saving. If you pick up a bandage and complete the level, the bandage is supposed to disappear should you choose to replay. If your game broke, the bandage will remain in the level and you’ll need to reset the game before progressing further. You’ll lose your progress from when the bug occurred. Developers are aware however, and are working up a patch. It is just one programmer after all.
When the day is done, Super Meat Boy is a good game—no, a great game—and if you purchased it in the first month on Xbox Live Arcade, you got it for $10 USD or 800 points instead of the proposed $15 USD price tag, making it a great value, too. Steam users saw the same deal for those who pre-purchased. While the game is clearly worth the full retail price tag, they were able to drop the price as an early Christmas gift for supporters which is admirable.
With the enormous volume of levels to devour and the many Easter eggs littered about, its 2D charm, atmosphere and solidly addicting gameplay will ensure that you’ll enjoy just about everything Super Meat Boy has to offer. While its difficulty can serve as a put off for casual gamers, if you enjoy or think you’ll enjoy a super fast paced side-scroller and have a thirst for challenge, this is an easy game to recommend.