Oh you cute little cube of meat, you cause me so much pain. I never got a chance to play Super Meat Boy when it released on Xbox Live Arcade and PC over five years ago, taking a glance and quickly coming to the conclusion it would wind me up the same way The World’s Hardest Game did. With its release hitting the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita this month I decided to put on my big boy pants and give the Team Meat developed 2-D game a swing.
The apparent difficulty you meet on the first level might set the tone that Super Meat Boy is all business, but amazingly it does have a plot that’s delivered in a very light-heartened way. Meat Boy has quite the crush on Bandage Girl, but things take a turn for the worse when the fiercely hated Dr. Fetus – yes an actual fetus – kidnaps Meat Boy’s girlfriend, leaving you to jump your way through traps and monsters to save her. The art direction and cute faces might scream PG but there’s dark humor lying underneath that shouts back vulgarism, making the game from a narrative point very endearing.
There’s very little room for error when traversing the trap-laden levels Super Meat Boy has to offer. A saving grace is the lack of controls needed to control Meat Boy, simply pressing X to jump and R1 to run faster is all you need. The sensitivity of these buttons is what will test your mantle, with even the slightest flick of the analog throwing you into the nearest buzzsaw, or holding the X button for too long as you try jumping over a lava pit. Some instances call on you to hold the run button to reach places you can’t by simply pressing the jump button, making an already impossible task even harder. These call for moments of brilliance as stopping to contemplate your next move is non-existent, and failure will bring you back to the start of the level.
Super Meat Boy is divided into different zones consisting of different environments. These range from the less frightening Forest area to the more inhospitable zones such as Hell and Rapture. Once you reach the end of every zone a boss battle will ensue, in which you must continuously move to avoid death as it closes in on you. These levels are unforgivable and you may feel overly punished when you get dragged back to the very start but as Super Meat Boy tries to point out very clearly, you must go through the crap to get to the gold.
While the main objective of each level is to get from point A to B, there’s optional objectives one can complete. These include bandages that can be collected if you have enough skill to traverse harder areas of one level, or the Dark Worlds that deliver a more menacing versions of levels you’ve already played. Team Meat even threw in some retro-themed levels for the oldies, some of which turn out to be the most difficult levels on offer.
As for looks Super Meat Boy certainly isn’t bland and offers plenty of color that complements the type of zone your playing, and leaves a lasting mark. For example, Meat Boy will smear his meat juices on ever surface he touches, including any traps that you fail to avoid. These come to use as markers and reminders of your failed attempts, almost shouting at you “DO NOT JUMP HERE, YOU WILL DIE”.
Haven’t played the original Super Meat Boy I can’t really determine if the newly added musical score out-trumps the work of composer Danny Baranowsky, but Team Meat certainly gave it a lash. The banjo and metal-riffs heard throughout fit the billing and make the experience of dying over and over less traumatizing and at some points drove me into a trance like state – but that could have been the lack of sleep.
How much one can love Super Meat Boy is down to their level of patience. At first you might be tempted to switch it off for a more forgiving title that doesn’t offer death at every misstep, but the beauty of the game is that one you feel the success that comes with beating a level, you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away.
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