Super Meat Boy Review: A Dastardly Devious and Deceitful Platformer
by Ford James
Super Meat Boy is aptly named for Edmund McMillen's first masterpiece. You quite literally play as a 'Meat Boy,' the protagonist who is just a cube of flesh with red, squishy arms and legs. The 'Super' aspect comes from his ability to traverse the environment in such a nimble fashion; it's necessary, really, as everything in the Super Meat Boy universe is out to kill him and ultimately stop him from reaching his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, who has been kidnapped by the unique antagonist Dr. Fetus.
I sent our flesh filled friend to his death 3000 times over the duration of my Super Meat Boy journey, which is around 200 levels, so the game clearly isn't a breeze. Even though the controls allow you to be so precise, your experience with the game will consist of replaying each level over and over, progressing a tiny bit further each time until you reach Bandage Girl. Then Dr. Fetus swoops in at the last second, and you begin the journey again with a different path of obstacles to manoeuvre.
Art of Perfection
To rub it in even further, at the end of each level you're able to see every single attempt you had at that specific stage replayed simultaneously. It's like a small army of Meat Boys that you know will all fail and plunge horribly to their death, except for one. So as you can see, it's not a particularly forgiving game. There are no checkpoints, there aren't many safe zones, you'll struggle to find an area in which you can actually take a breather.
For the majority of the levels, you'll need to from one end to the other without stopping. This is where the art of perfection comes in, trying it over and over till you can narrowly dodge that last moving spike wheel or evade the missile that kept killing you.
Enjoyable with Friends
Even though there isn't a multiplayer mode in the game, it's still an enjoyable experience with friends. If you're playing it on console/with a controller, it's the perfect game to just pass the controller around so everyone can enjoy each other's failures.
The game does recommend that it be played with an Xbox 360 pad, however, I managed to cope okay using a keyboard. I can't comment on the difference between the two as I haven't tried it with a pad, but if you just have a keyboard, don't be put off by the warning at the beginning of the start-up screen which mentions using a pad.
If you do only have a keyboard, you can still enjoy Super Meat Boy with friends, as you're able to create your own levels. You can then upload them to the Super Meat Boy community where anyone can download them, so you can swap levels around with your friends and see just how difficult you can make life for them.
There is also a lot of depth in the game; Meat Boy isn't the only character you can play as. It's possible to collect bandages on each level, and the more bandages you collect, the more characters you unlock. You can then switch to whichever unlocked character you like whenever you like, except for during a boss level.
It's worth noting though that these bandages are located in incredibly hard to reach spots, which require you to go out of your way by quite a bit to retrieve them, then still come back and complete the rest of the level without dying. So if you are a completionist, then prepare to spend a lot of time collecting the bandages.
The other collectibles in the game are called Warp Zones. These are more similar to easter eggs than collectibles, however, as when you go through a warp zone you're taken to a level in 8bit style graphics where you're only granted 3 lives to complete it. Once these 3 lives are up, you're back to the start of the normal level. You're also given a timer to complete these by, which means that you have to speed through each level to reach them, often being more careless than usual as you have to move faster than usual.
Danny Baranowsky has done a fantastic job with the soundtrack for Super Meat Boy; most of the tracks are upbeat, buoyant electronic tunes, very appropriate to the style of play in the game. However, after repeating a level for the hundredth time, one specific song will start to become a little repetitive. It'd be nice to have some variation with each level, maybe a rotation of tracks for each level.
Hilarious and Referential Cutscenes
The cutscenes are filled with hilarity and references too, obviously showing where Edmund McMillen and co.'s influences came from. You'll see references to Donkey Kong, Ninja Gaiden, Megaman and more within the cut scenes and the game.
However, one disappointing but expected aspect to the cut scenes is that they're not brilliantly made; it's obvious this game was a two person job, as it sometimes does look a lot like flash animations. The humour and wit within it definitely make up for that however, and Super Meat Boy definitely isn't a game you'd play for the story.
Nine out of Ten
Edmund McMillen has created a winner here for sure. It's fun, it's challenging, it's cute and it's addictive. It takes skill to complete and there is a ton of depth when you include all the community levels, too. It's not cheap for an indie game, as the asking price is £11.99 on Steam, however for a platformer enthusiast that's a fair price to pay.
For anyone who can't afford to fork out that much for a game you're not sure you'll enjoy, just wait for a sale or a bundle. It regularly goes to 75% off, which makes it a definite purchase in my opinion. I give Super Meat Boy a 9/10; a challenging platformer with classic aspects and elements that you'd be a fool to not take a look at.