Review – Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy
Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Xbox Live Arcade
Platform: Xbox 360, Wii (Wiiware), PC, Mac
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: Out Now (Xbox 360), November 2010 (Wiiware, PC, Mac)

Super Meat Boy is, sadly, not a new SNES game. It is in fact the sequel to the 2008 flash game titled Meat Boy, which was released on Newgrounds, where pretty much every other flash game is released. If you’ve played Meat Boy then you know exactly what lies in store. Never played it? Then read on to find out just why you should.

A platformer needs some form of story to get it going. Super Meat Boy stars our cube shaped friend simply know as, umm, Meat Boy, who is trying to save his girlfriend, Bandage Girl. Bandage Girl has been kidnapped by a baby fetus wearing a top hat and a monocle. His name? Dr.Fetus. I know, it’s so original. It’s like Super Mario Bros but minus plumbers, princesses and giant turtles. Actually, it’s not Super Mario Bros at all is it? Never mind then.

It must be said. Super Meat Boy is a very challenging game. If you’ve ever played the DS and XBLA title N+ then you’ll be familiar with how this game works. The aim of the game is to navigate Meat Boy through several levels filled with walls and death traps. However, this requires sharp reflexes and good platforming skills. It’s terribly frustrating, but it’s never the games fault. That being said, you can’t help but feel a bit smug when you finish a level that’s been kicking your ass back to square 1 for over half an hour. It’s just so satisfying.

Throughout the course of the game, you’ll be exploring different worlds via a map system similar to Super Mario Bros 3. Each world consists of around 20 levels and a boss battle. On the subject of levels, each one has a record time for you to beat. If you successfully beat that time, you’ll unlock a counterpart level in the dark world. The dark world features the same levels but with the difficulty set to max. More death traps and less room for error is all you’ll find here. All I can say is good luck, you’re going to need it if you want to finish all the levels.

Visually, Super Meat Boy really stands out amongst other games released this year. It’s simple visual style is quickly thrown away for detailed backgrounds and objects. Grassy plains, abandoned hospitals and the depths of hell itself. Meat Boy sure does get around doesn’t he? The soundtrack is just fantastic, filled with more than a few tunes that you’ll find yourself whistling to. Want a little sample? Well here you go!

While the story is very thin and simple, the game does have quite a comedic take on how it all plays out. At the start/end of worlds and boss fights, you are treated to a short cinematic involving Meat Boy and Dr.Fetus as stuff happens. It’s cute and colourful style adds a bit of charm to it all but it shows its humour through actions. Just little things like NPCs having bricks thrown at them and finding Dr.Fetus sitting on a toilet. It’s all extremely silly but oh so enjoyable.

Certain levels in a world feature a few bonuses for you to find. You can find bandages placed in levels which you can collect to unlock, wait for it, more playable characters! The characters you can unlock with bandages are all cameos from indie titles. You’ll be seeing the likes of Tim from Braid, Commander Video from the Bit.Trip series and my favourite yellow creature of all time, Pikachu Alien Hominid. Most of the characters play differently too, some even have special abilities. It really adds some variety to the mix.

Also hidden in certain levels are warp zones, which consist of bonus levels done in a retro style that mimics games from the NES era. It even features a 3 lives system for added difficulty. You’ll unlock even more characters by finishing warp zones. All your hard work and frustration really does pay off in the end! Just have a few spare controllers handy incase you decide to toss one out your window.

As mentioned somewhere above in this review, you are thrown into a boss battle at the end of every world. Meat Boy actually can’t deal damage himself, so you have to use the environment around you to survive. The style of boss varies, but each one is unique and above all, fun! For some bosses you’ll be running away, dodging and avoiding obstacles where as in others you have to strategically plan where to go so that the boss damages itself. It’s quite clever and certainly a different take on boss battles. Nowadays in video games, boss battles consist of nothing more than hammering the attack button followed by a QTE.

Now, this may just be me, but one thing that I found extremely annoying was the fact that on the Xbox version, your vision is obscured by the pop up notices of someone signing in. I can’t count how many times it has led me to my death near the end of levels. So unless leaderboards mean a lot to you or you have no friends on Xbox Live, I would suggest not playing online. It could save Meat Boy’s life …

Super Meat Boy has impressed me. I played the original Meat Boy a while ago and it was really fun. This game reminded me why. I love stupidly difficult games this, I really do. Whether you do too or you’re just a general fan of platforming games, give Super Meat Boy a run. It’s no Super Mario Bros but it’s a damn fine platformer and one of the best in recent years. Heck, it was so difficult I didn’t actually manage to finish the game. I’ll finish the last level one day! Until then, I’ll keep looking back and remembering how awesome I felt when I unlocked Alien Hominid.

Oh and once you finish a level, it shows a replay featuring all of your Meat Boys that you used to finish it. Something about watching several meat boys running across the screen amuses me. Just thought I’d mention this before I close up.

Final Score – 9/10

Challenging. Satisfying. Super Meat Boy is the best Platformer in years. Packed with plenty of levels and multiple characters to play with, you’ll be busy for a while. It’s not quite ready to go head to head with Super Mario World but it’s close.

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