Super Meat Boy Xbox 360 Review
Super Meat Boy is a game scattered with small moments of intense joy and elation strewn amid an absolute feast of sheer terror, deep anger, and a feeling you are near constantly being driven to madness every few seconds… And I love it.
Regardless of its zany content – a story about a boy made of meat looking to rescue a bandaged girl from a fetus wearing a monocle ensconced inside a robotic suit – the gameplay contained within remains solid. And it is this deceptively straightforward play style that Super Meat Boy is built upon, simply asking the player to get from Point A to Point B without meeting their end on and/or in the many obstacles that stand in their way.
As Meat Boy you can run at high speed, but come to a dead stop when needed – this is important. You’ll be jumping a lot too but you’ll always feel in control – also important. Wall jumping is there too – also vital to success. These are the game’s basic controls, and by the 5th level you will have been taught all of them. Meat Boy initially seems more floaty than expected – easily bounding from one side of the screen to the other – but after a few minutes it is easy to become accustomed the style. Then, in later levels appreciate the time the developers took to refine something that feels so erratic, yet still precise when needed.
From there, it is up to the game’s content to keep you entertained, and it does. As I said before, the base idea is simple, with each of the 300+ levels asking the same thing of you, but crucially the levels are not samey, so it is unlikely you’ll get bored playing. The main game is around 100 levels long, with the obstacles getting more intricate as you advance. Then there are “dark” versions of each of these levels available if you beat the normal version under a par time – usually very tight but possible with a clean run. These levels are harder versions of the originals, with more deviously placed obstacles in your way – although some turn the original layout on its head, making you start/finish in a different place or removing structure completely. On from this, there are “warp” levels, which have to be found inside the main levels to be opened on the main map– and found quickly as the warps vanish after a short period of time. The levels in these are a mixture of content, with some being an easy task, and others boasting the most difficult trials the game will ever ask of you.
A level in Super Meat Boy usually takes no more than thirty seconds to finish (usually less), but some could take thirty minutes, if not more, of sheer effort to beat. This bulky amount of trial and error gameplay may not be for all, but it works in Super Meat Boy because the game consistently remains fair. There is no difficulty level to select, which means no artificial way to make the game harder or easier for yourself. If you make a mistake, and you will constantly, you are put back at the start of a level to try again. This will happen many times, and sure, you will get annoyed, punch a nearby cushion, and constantly ask yourself “why did I do that?” but because of the bite-size nature of the game there is always an urge to some back for more.
In truth, there are 101 things that could have gone wrong with the game that would have easily caused annoyance. Long loadtimes between attempts could have dented the game’s “one more go” appeal, but instead loads are less than a second. Equally, hearing music constantly restart as you die two seconds into a level could be detrimental, but that is not the case, it just keeps playing in the background. There is no continue screen when you die either, and really nothing to truly get under you skin at all. The game expertly tiptoes along a razor thin edge of causing you annoyance, without pointing out how rubbish you are doing at a specific time, ensuring you always want to keep going. It’s like the old saying goes, “if you fall off your horse, get right back on,” and that is what Super Meat Boy is all about – even though that poor horse will probably be turned to glue long before you reach the end.
Overall, the game’s presentation is near immaculate. The cutscenes are cleverly done – feeling both effortlessly retro and funny – and the levels change up enough as to never feel stale – not only changing in content, but varying in graphic style too. Some can look particularly 8 or 16-bit in style – especially the warp stages. Others have just a silhouette of Meat Boy move against a vivid singular toned primary coloured backdrop. The music is great too, and has a nice retro feel – and yet it never descends into cheesiness. In truth, other than a few leaderboard niggles – such as not displaying your run-times in-game like Trials HD does to check your time against friends on-the-fly, along with no option to view replays of the best runs from the leaderboard – there is not much else to complain about.
There are guest characters to unlock as you advance too, with stars of other “indie” games – Commander Video from the Bit.Trip series and Tim from Braid – being the standouts. These characters control slightly differently from Meat Boy– some can jump a little bit higher, and float a little bit longer. Tim even has a limited rewind time ability. Meat Boy however seems to remain the go to guy to beat most of the levels – with the guests just a nice added extra to play about with. Like the rest of the game, getting access to these characters will not be an easy task, as a lot of them require you to collect bandages from levels as you play, then finish the level after you have collected the bandage – and to make things worse, all the bandages seem to be stuck in the most difficult to reach places possible.
It really is a cleverly put together game, one that asks a lot of the player, but also constantly rewards them for doing well. What you start the game with is what you finish it with. Meat Boy is still the same character on level 1 that he is on level 100. He learns no new skills as he goes – does not have access to speed shoes, fire flowers, mushrooms, or invincibility stars – but crucially he does not need them for his adventure. Instead it is you that learns, and in place of getting special-move style help from the developers to pass certain obstacles, it is the increasing skills of the player that will get Meat Boy to the end.
Of course, there are people who will not like Super Meat Boy. Simply put, if you do not like an almighty challenge, then do not play. If you need to 100% all your games, then avoid – to achieve this in Super Meat Boy is a near inhuman task. However, if you are willing to put up with constant punishment for a few seconds of glorious accomplishment, only to be again mercilessly knocked off that pedestal merely seconds later, then Super Meat Boy is the game for you.
No matter what Super Meat Boy puts you through you always want to come back for more, and when all is said and done that’s what makes the game so special.