I think I’m going to cry. I want to cry. I’m sitting with my hands over my face, looking through the fingers of despair at Super Meat Boy, from Team Meat and Headup Games. This game is cruel; cruel and hard. It will chew you up and spit you out. On a plus side, it’s also very, very addictive and despite the fist clenching anger that will Meat Boy will inevitably bring out in even the most placid of gamers, it will make you want to keep on playing.
You are the aforementioned Meat boy; your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, has been captured by Doctor Fetus, who doesn’t much like you. You now have to run, jump and climb your way through about a billion levels of insane, blood drenched, and limb rendering retro platforming hell. Did I mention that Super Meat Boy is probably the most frustrating game I have ever played? Did the wording come across that way?
The thought of having to play a platformer, at first, didn’t appeal, but I soon got back into the old 8/16 bit classic controls and totally loved the comedic, slapstick story line and cut scenes. I know, I said it was frustrating as hell, but the amount of relief and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you finally manage to complete a particularly hard level is well worth the agonies you endured and the countless death scenes you put poor Meat Boy through. And speaking of death scenes, there will be plenty.
Every level is basically a challenge of getting from point A to point B. Rather than the usual left to right or from bottom to top. You can also go from right to left, or top to bottom, or in a complete circle or… you get the picture. The levels are designed by sick individuals, who like nothing more than to watch gamers swear and throw their controllers down in a tantrum. Not only are they happy to put in huge chasms which need crossing, or stepping stone platforms with lava in between, but the developers saw it fit to introduce cogs, with sharpened teeth that make a mess of the surrounding area should you fall foul of them; or spikes that can impale you at any given moment and soak the platform in a couple of inches of blood. Yes, much blood and satisfyingly squelching noises are the order of the day.
On top of the many levels are hidden areas, which contain even more levels. However, these hidden levels can be as rewarding as the main game. Some throw you back into 8-bit territory, complete with chunky graphics and a beepy soundtrack; others are just the product of a diseased mind and fit in snugly with the bizarre and sadistic sense of humour that Super Meat Boy has running through it in rivers of blood.
Graphics are great, although small and platformer-esque, they have very detailed elements. Animated objects, that will undoubtedly turn Meat Boy into so much mince, great drops into fathomless pits, cute bunny rabbits that scamper out of the way when your semi dismembered corpse drops onto their lush green field. The sound is as equally fun. You will be amazed at just how many times a squelch can be used in a few seconds of play. Team Meat had loads of fun with the sound effects, I can assure you.
But Super Meat Boy isn’t just about the graphics, sounds or the level design; it’s about the sheer playability of it. Yes it will drive you mad. Yes it will make you clench your teeth and utter ungodly oaths. But, it will make you want to play that level, just one more time. Retro-esque designed games are making a wonderful come back. Added with the humour and tweakings from the indie fold of developers, they are quickly becoming the money making monsters of Steam, XBLA. PSN (when it works again) and the Android market.
Watch out AAA games, the retro platformers are coming.
Fun, annoying, difficult, fun, sick and fun. What more can you ask for?
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