Super Meat Boy – Review

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Super Meat Boy is an 2d platformer designed by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, it was developed by Team Meat as a successor to the 2008 Flash game Meat Boy. Super Meat Boy was one of the first big indie hits when it was released on the Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360 in October 2010. In the years since then it has also been released on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. In October 2015 the game was made available for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita and was one of the free games which came with a PlayStation Plus subscription. This is a review for the Vita version of Super Meat Boy, which (due to licensing issues) also features a newly recorded soundtrack.

The game gives you control of Meat Boy, a bloody cube of meat who is trying to rescue Bandage Girl from the game’s villain Dr. Fetus. The game requires immaculate timing and precision to complete, as you make your way through over 300 levels while avoiding spike pits, flamethrowers and various other dangers.

Bandage Girl

Bandage Girl is the finish point for every level, rescue her from Dr Fetus!

Super Meat Boy has always been lauded for responsive controls, and I can definitely agree with the general consensus on this point. Once you get the feel for moving and jumping, you always feel like every little movement you make translates to what you see Meat Boy doing on the screen. I was initially worried that the Vita controls wouldn’t be as accurate or comfortable as a controller, but I found them to be perfectly responsive and a fine substitute for a Xbox or PlayStation controller.

One of the best features of the game is the way it instantly puts you back into the action after death, it’s a mechanic which games like Hotline Miami and VVVVVV have since used to great effect. In a game where dying is such an integral part of the core gameplay loop, these near instantaneous respawns allow you to quickly try many different ways of tackling each level. You can easily rack up dozens of deaths per level, and having to wait even 5 seconds between attempts would be a huge turnoff for many players.

Gameplay

One of the early levels of the game

After you manage to reach Bandage Girl and complete a level, Super Meat Boy gives you a replay of all of your attempts superimposed ontop of each other. This is a really cool feature, watching dozens of little Meat Boys slowly succumbing to the dangers of the level while your one successful run emerges victorious never gets old.

The replay at the end of a tough level is great to watch afterwards

The replay at the end of a tough level is great to watch afterwards

The game is notoriously difficult, but I found that (with the exception of a few levels) the it was never unfair. The game ramps up in difficulty as you progress through each world, so as you get more and more in tune with controlling Meat Boy you are able to tackle harder and harder challenges.

Super Meat Boy also only requires you to complete 17 levels per world before it opens up the boss battle. Giving the player the opportunity to skip 3 levels is a welcome feature which prevents the frustration of not being able to do anything else until you’ve completed a specific level. I’ve found that it’s actually helpful to try out a couple of other levels before returning to the one you are stuck on. Too often these kinds of games rigidly stick to their linear progression model, and as soon as the player hits a wall they put the game down and never pick it back up again.

Levels

The level select screen for one of the 6 chapters of the game

So far I have only completed four of the five main chapters, but there does seem to be a good amount of content even beyond the main levels of the game. I have found several ‘Warp Zone’ wormholes scattered throughout the game, which consist of three separate levels that you have to beat with a limited number of bandages (lives).

After looking into the game a bit more while writing this review, I also learnt that each level of the game has a corresponding ‘Dark World’ version of it which is harder than the original. So there is definitely no chance of running out of content too quickly, further research seems to indicate that there are a total of 307 levels in Super Meat Boy.

Dark World

Dark Worlds provide a huge number of alternate levels to play through

The Soundtrack has been redone for the PS4 and Vita versions of the game due to a licensing issue. The music is upbeat and reflective of the theme of each world, although I don’t tend to actively listen to the soundtrack in games, I found myself quite enjoying this one. Granted, I never played Super Meat Boy on any other platform so I can’t compare the new music to the original soundtrack.

Pythagean

Pythagean

Head Designer at The Video Game Forum

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Summary
  • Gameplay
  • Presentation
  • Story
  • Audio

Summary

Yes, Super Meat Boy is a hard game. It's punishing and brutal at points, and requires you to throw yourself at it again and again. It's such a simple premise and the controls make it easy to pick up. But it takes many hours to start to fully appreciate how brilliant this game is.

It's definitely not going to be a game for everyone, but if enjoy a challenge and accept the fact that you are going to die (a lot), then you will probably find something to love about this game.

4.5