Anyone that has been gaming over ten years now will have seen the gradual change in video game difficulty. In the early era of video games there were no such thing as saves let alone checkpoints that are encountered every few steps. Enemies weren’t coded to look intelligent but act dumb, in order to give you a sense of skill when really it didn’t exist. Games were tough and they alienated the hell out of the widespread market we have playing video games today. Super Meat Boy is here to bring back some of that gaming brutality and is happily prepared to alienate the softer gamers out there.
To anyone that has played the likes of N+, they will already know very much of what to expect. The game’s concept is very simple indeed. Playing as Meat Boy you must traverse small levels with the sole goal of coming into contact (and therefore saving) Bandage Girl from the evil Dr. Fetus (a floating fetus housed inside of a mechanical body). As Meat Boy you will be able to run, jump and stick to walls (with a lovely squelch sound effect). Using these few and straightforward abilities you will need to avoid dangerous traps and traverse difficulty landscapes in order to reach Bandage Girl.
The games presentation is especially superb, reminiscent of gaming heritage using blocky 8bit graphics where appropriate and catchy chiptunes that I miss from modern video games. The games story cutscenes are particularly great, often recreating scenes from popular cult movies and classic video games that are easily recognisable whilst also providing speechless humour that, with the conclusion of the second boss fight in particular, had me in stitches. Fans of gore will also be pleased that being a ball of meat (okay fine a block) blood gushes and spews out of every crevice along with the smears of blood/meat/god-only-knows that you leave behind when sloshing along the walls.
Such a simple game concept comes to life thanks to the controls being tweaked to perfection. You are in complete control of Meat Boy, able to (if patient and calm enough) land pixel perfect jumps in order to survive – and oh the game will require you to be pixel perfect at times. Chances are that you will be pushed to your breaking point time and time again as the amount of deaths (accessible by a counter in the statistics screen) will toll up into the thousands. Super Meat Boy is not for the faint hearted and only the most patient will ever see the game’s conclusion.
For anyone who sees themselves as super gamers you will be provided with ‘Dark World’ variants of every level, upping the danger and difficulty to obscene heights. Along with these ‘hard’ modes of each level you will also have par times to aim towards (which will stamp your progress on the level with an A+) and the possibility of hidden items to obtain which come in the form of twenty bandages, spread over the forty levels found in each chapter. I spent the first four hours playing Super Meat Boy working over every level, playing up to four times in order to complete each task… I had only finished eighty of the games three hundred and fifty levels. The levels that followed surpassed even my wildest expectations in pad throwing difficulty, making N+’s hard stages look like a walk in the park.
As a bonus throughout the game’s chapters you will encounter ‘warp zones’ which will take out of the current level and place you into crazy side worlds, typically reminiscent of retro gaming classics that filled me with nostalgia. Each time I saw one in the distance it was a rush to get inside and see what next the developers have in store for me. Even better, upon finishing several you will unlock characters which you can swap Meat Boy out for and have unique control styles. For example there is CommanderVideo who can float in the air for an extra few seconds or Gish, the lovable sticky ball of gunk that can hold onto walls for a few seconds. Along with characters that are unlocked during play, you will unlock others by collecting a certain amount of bandages. I’ll leave most as a surprise but at least confirm that Alien Hominid, Tim (Braid) and a Castle Crasher join the line-up.
With the sheer amount of levels available, the difficulty doing its best to slow you down and endless replayability, due to online time trial leaderboards for every level, there is more than enough to warrant the price tag. As if all of this wasn’t enough the developers have somehow found a loophole that will allow them to provide additional levels in a chapter called ‘Teh Internets’, with potential plans to incorporate select user-made levels (using the PC versions level editor, unfortunately not present on consoles).
Super Meat Boy will easily now be a favourite of mine in the XBLA line-up and regardless of your gaming tastes demonstrates a slickness that other titles can only dream of. If precision perfect brick wall challenging platforming is your idea of a night well spent, or in simple N+ tickled your fancies, Super Meat Boy is sure to deliver and should be checked out right away.