I can’t take it any more. I’ve been beaten, cut, smashed, dropped and pulped. My controller lies in pieces on the floor and the walls are red with my blood. I’m playing Super Meat Boy and I think I need a hug.
Super Meat Boy is the most punishing gaming experience this side of Mega Man. Team Meat have meticulously crafted a world designed to knock even the most proficient gamers down a peg or two. The premise is simple enough – get Meat Boy to his beloved Bandage Girl and rescue her from the dastardly Dr Fetus. Unfortunately for our squishy hero, there is always a perilous series of platforms, saw blades, lasers, lava, monsters…the list goes on. Life’s not easy when you’re a fragile lump of uncooked steak.
The game can often seem cruel to the observer, but upon picking up the controller it all becomes clear – its not the game that’s failing, it’s the player. Meat Boy’s controls are tight and responsive, allowing for split-second timing and pixel-perfect placement every time. He may be fast and slippery but you know he’s going to go exactly where you point him every time. The same can be said for the myriad secondary characters that are unlocked as you collect bandages scattered throughout the stages. Rather than simple re-skins, each have their own unique traits and physics. The most charming aspect of these bonus characters, however, is the fact that they are all well known and loved faces from the indie gaming scene including Gish (who can stick to walls), floaty Commander Video of the Bit.Trip series and the double-jumping Kid from I Want To Be The Guy. This last addition is sure to have the strongest following as unlocking him is a truly Herculean task and the stage where I most feared for my sanity.
It’s clear once you leave the brief tutorial stages that death is a huge part of Super Meat Boy. While you don’t have to die in order to figure out how to complete every level, you invariably will find yourself splattered against the walls a few hundred times in every play through. While this has huge potential to frustrate and provoke across the board rage quitting, Team Meat clearly appreciate that players are okay with failing as long as they get another chance as quickly as possible. Reloads between attempts take a split second (a welcome acknowledgement considering many levels take fewer than ten seconds to complete) and you’re further rewarded at the end of each stage by a fantastic replay showing all of your attempts in one go. This means that persevering on a challenging level pays off in the form of a hilarious cartoon gore-fest as you get to watch each of your painful defeats unfold until there is only one Meat Boy left to get the girl.
Satisfying as it is to finally ace a stage, the real treat is in Super Meat Boy’s presentation. A stylish HD update to the original Flash game, the world is filled with charm and animations are wonderfully slick, ensuring you never miss a crucial moment. The music deserves its own special mention as well, spanning every console generation with a range of chiptunes, guitar riffs and drum ‘n’ bass loops that stay fresh throughout the game.
Super Meat Boy is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. It highlighted my failings, mocked my willingness to keep on trying, teased me constantly with rewards just out of my reach and, just when I thought it was over, threw me back in to complete the whole range of alternate “dark” levels before I could put it to bed. With a fantastic sense of humour and a timeless story of love, loss, betrayal and princesses in other castles, Super Meat Boy is the essential platformer of this generation. As perfect as this type of game can get.
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