Review by BlizzardandBlaz
"A good game ruined by terrible controls."
Super meat boy is a side scrolling action platform game with gameplay similar to games such as Super Mario Brothers, Sonic The Hedgehog, and I Want to Be The Guy. It is "tough as nails" and is aimed toward the retro crowd that enjoyed Nintendo hard platformers of old.
There isn't much to the plot, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In Super Meat boy you play a piece of meat who's girlfriend was captured by some evil man in a robot costume, so you set off to rescue her. That's pretty much it. Even though the story is simple it is well told with cut scenes that give both the protagonist and the villain character. The story brings out emotions in the player when it needs to but never takes itself too seriously.
At first the gameplay seems alright. Each world has its own theme and gameplay focus. For instance, the third world focuses on wall jumps and the fourth world has seemingly simple traps that are an absolute pain to navigate. Further, each level has a slightly different mechanic that prevents the game as a whole from becoming too redundant. The replay value is good as there are optional items to collect, hidden levels to find, and unlockable characters to unlock.
Further, the collision detection is well done so you will die only when you actually collide with something that will kill you, and there's a lot of stuff that will kill you. Whether it's needles, piles of salt, or the ever present saw blades, the obstacles have a great deal of variety that also keeps the game keeps the game from becoming too stagnate. The levels start out easy but get much harder as you progress, and the difficulty is nothing more than you would expect of a 2-D Nintendo hard platformer of the highest caliber.
But when you get to those harder levels you will wish you had better controls. The game does not have a control scheme that matches its quality content. Your character moves like a fully loaded semi truck with shuttle rockets strapped to its backside, that is it accelerates fine but can't stop if it wanted to. Jumping 20 foot gaps in the floor are no problem, but trying to land on a 4 foot island in the sky is a nearly impossible task that takes more luck than skill.
The problem is worsened by the wall jump mechanic. Your character can wall jump with such style and grace that it would put most other 2-D side scrolling protagonists to shame. But, once you hit a wall you will stick and can't let go, and this forces you to either jump off the wall or slide down the entire wall instead. Later levels feature corridors so narrow that jumping off is not an option and walls laden with death traps so you can't slide down the wall either. This means that hitting the wrong wall will cause a death that could have been prevented with a better controls.
Overall the aesthetics are good. The most of the game's art style is consistent. The characters are all drawn in a "chibi" art style. The levels mostly use pastel color pallets, occasionally adding a strong dose of color to indicate obstacles such as lava. The game also pays attention to the background of each level, adding nice touches as light rays pricing though crumbling walls and sparks flying from saw blades.
The music sounds like 8-bit chiptune music that's been upgraded with twenty first century attitude. Instruments like 8-bit synths and electric guitars mingle and create an aggressive modern day soundtrack that pays homage to the 2-D platformer games of old. In my opinion, the soundtrack is the best part of the game. It's well worth at least a listen if not a purchase.
My only complaint here is the main menu screen. It's drawn in a very strong red and has nothing but electric guitars in the background. This creates a menu that is a little more in-your-face then the rest of the game, and is quite jarring every time you see it. It's a minor complaint considering how well the rest of the game is made, but the difference is noticeable and affects the quality of the game slightly.
Super Meat Boy has a lot going for it. It has a well told story, good graphics, good sound, good level design, and a high replay value. Can one flaw make an otherwise great game terrible? In this case, yes. I tried to like this game. But, this is a game built around gameplay, and there is no excuse for bad controls here. It doesn't matter how well everything else is put together. When 80% of your deaths occur because the controls killed you when you clearly didn't mean for that to happen, then that's poor game design. I do not recommend buying this game. Give the soundtrack a listen, but don't buy the game.
Overall score: 5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 01/11/12
Game Release: Super Meat Boy (US, 11/30/10)
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