Games have just gotten too easy. It’s a fact. Back in the NES days, players were given limited health alongside limited lives in an effort to have players spend more time playing levels over and over again due to the limited amount of space available on the game cartridges.
Now, gamers seem to be all about instant gratification. They want to race through levels in record time so they can move on to the next game. Super Meat Boy bucks that trend by providing one of the most challenging and entertaining games to come to the XBox Live Arcade since N+ or Braid.
When talking about Super Meat Boy, it is impossible to mention it without discussing the game’s unusually high level of difficulty. In many games, it could be said that difficult stages or areas are unfairly created to hinder a player’s progress, such as the trials during Dante’s Inferno that required unrealistic combo scores and other such tasks. Super Meat Boy on the other hand is a rewardingly challenging experience.
Literally only being able to run and jump, players must traverse levels as Super Meat Boy (or various other unlockable indy characters) to reach their girlfriend Band-Aid Girl. When playing Super Meat Boy, you will die. A lot. There is no health and one wrong move on your part spells splattered meat being rained across the level. It is just how the game is designed. Luckily, most levels can be beaten with a perfect run through in roughly thirty seconds. So while it may take ten minutes to make it through a level, the levels themselves are not long at all.
The controls are basic but very right. Holding jump longer makes Meat Boy jump further while adding in a run first extends the distance even more. Meat Boy can slide down walls and wall jump due to his sticky composition. But our squishy friend has no natural defenses to the buzzsaws, lava, jelly-like creatures or walls of salt and hypodermic needles that cover the maps. One touch and he’s gone. But the way the game controls, it never feels like it isn’t your fault when you die.
A player knows they are to blame for their own demise and as a result, completion of these levels feels increasingly rewarding instead of cripplingly painful. Even more rewarding is watching a replay of all your little Meat Boys traversing the level after completing one letting you see just what mistakes you made during your play through and seeing just what your perfect run looked like.
Along the way, players can also find warps that lead to mini levels using other indy characters which they can beat to unlock. They can also unlock various characters by snagging band-aids left behind levels from Meat Boy’s girlfriend to purchase these other characters who have varying speeds and jumping abilities as well.
Since most of Super Meat Boy is an homage to the 8-Bit era, it is no surprise that the story is an update on the classic Super Mario Bros. tale. Our hero, Meat Boy, is with his girlfriend, Band-Aid girl and the classic big bad, Dr. Fetus, shows up to kidnap Band-Aid Girl. Each level puts our hapless heroine just out of reach of Super Meat Boy as the Fetus in a robotic suit who has an affinity for flipping the bird swoops in and brings her to the next level.
As simple a formula as it is, it works. There is something to be said for taking a classic concept, adding a 2010 sense of humor, vulgarity and violence towards women and making it work still so addicting. It’s almost a shame Bowser never game a pimp slap to Princess back in the day. There are some great moments within the cutscenes that range from hilarious like the homage to the classic scene of the crying Native American to downright creepy and uncomfortable as a boss you have just kicked in the face still wants to snag a kiss from you.
Presented in an HD “8-Bit” style, Super Meat Boy looks great. With heavily stylized thick black character outlines and fluid animation, Super Meat Boy is an impressive feat that pays homage to the classics of the past. The cutscenes are done in the same style and beautifully animate the humor of the game as well.
The sound works great alongside the visuals as many of the music and sound effects feel like they could have been ripped right from the NES, Sega Masters or even Atari 2600. They are simple but perfect at the same time.
Super Meat Boy is a must purchase for the XBox Live Arcade. For only $15.00 it provides much more entertainment and challenge than many of its full price retail counterparts. The humor is great and the gameplay is incredibly rewarding upon completion. Anyone who even gives the trial a shot should be instantly aware of what a great title they have their hands on. The guys over at Team Meat have a new classic on their hands and should be proud of it.
XBox Live Arcade (Comings soon to PC, Mac and WiiWare)
Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15.00)