Review by Wolfvie
"One of the meatiest experiences the XBLA has to offer (no pun intended)"
Super Meat Boy is the sequel to popular indie flash game Meat Boy, recognized as something of a prototype by the team in regard to their latest meatier reboot. Only this time developers Team Meat have opted for a fully fledged Arcade release rather than the flash format of its predecessor. But is Super Meat Boy enough game to warrant this full release or is it just an overly extravagant flash game? Read more and find out...
Super Meat Boy stars the eponymous meatbag himself as he attempts to rescue his beloved Bandage Girl who has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fetus (who is quite literally a fetus in a mech suit). It's simple but effective with the story playing out through cutscenes during key moments of the game (i.e. at the start of a chapter/before and after a boss fight).
It's the humor though that really sets it apart from most other indie platformers with similar concepts and stories. Whether it be the sometimes hilarity inducing references to the 8-bit games of old (with a twist) or just the game's variety of comedic death sequences (which trust me there are many), if one thing's for sure, Super Meat Boy definitely has quite a broad sense of humor.
From a graphically technical standpoint, Super Meat Boy is hardly a showstopper of sorts. But does it have really to be when it sports such delightfully charming art design. Sure, while it doesn't quite reach the high-calibre standards of titles like Braid and Limbo, the overly colorful and vibrant locales combined with the zany and over-the-top character designs really give the game it's charm and character that really separates it from the two previously aforementioned platformers (among many, many others).
The cut scenes while undeniably hilarious, have retained some of the flash-like aesthetics of it's predecessor and often come off as more than bit underwhelming at times. Regardless it goes to show that you don't need graphical powerhouse or a ridiculous amount of tech to make an aesthetically attractive game; just a few creative minds should do the trick, at least in SMB's case.
The game's soundtrack while extremely catchy at first, is limited to only a few level specific tracks so on a music front, repetition is definitely not uncommon during extended playtimes. The sound effects are pretty much spot on, in terms to their overall relation to the game's slightly dark sense of humour. There's no real voice-work to speak of, which is probably for the best when in regard to how this may benefit the game's show-don't-tell take on it's narrative.
Super Meat Boy is a 2D platformer that takes many of its ques from various other recent indie platformers that part is certain. You can definitely see elements of titles like N+, Splosion Man and even Spelunky! that have been almost been recycled here. Not to say that there is anything wrong with this, a little bit of inspiration can go a long way and this is evidential with Super Meat Boy.
Most of the levels in the game (with that exception being the boss fights) have but one objective. To traverse the hazard-filled environments to hopefully save Bandage Girl who then proceeds to be captured once again by the ever so persistent Dr. Fetus, forcing you to proceed to the next level and repeat the same process once again (which in premise is almost straight out of Donkey Kong).
In regard to how the game plays out it's very bare-bones, even for a platformer. Everything plays out on a simple two button control scheme; one jumps and the other can be held for a quick dash. Approach a wall and Meat Boy can quickly bound up or off it with successive button presses. There's no combat in any shape or form featured in SMB so instead the game relies on your wits to overcome the treacherous environments that await you.
Super Meat Boy is all about evasion, each level is ridiculed with buzzsaws, meat cleavers and dangerous sharp and pointy objects of that nature. Every environment is a puzzle. While this may not be evidential very early on with levels simply requiring you to jump over obstacles that lie in your path, later on you'll have to really put some thought into doing the same thing only with deadly precision (if you don't want to end up as mince meat of course).
The game itself is broken up into several different worlds, each with their own set of twenty or short levels. On top of that, each level features an alternative dark world counterpart that often switches up and sometimes even changes up a level entirely from its former self (increasing in difficulty rapidly and almost doubling the overall level count). There are also bonus levels that come in the form of Warp Zones little retro throwbacks that feature their own unique art styles and often changing gameplay mechanics. Many of these bonus levels are actually based around recent indie titles even going as far as to feature their starring role for a brief few sections. Speaking of characters, Meat Boy is not the only character featured that is playable this time around.
In every world the game features twenty bandages hidden throughout it's levels, often in the most ludicrous and hard to reach places. As an added incentive for the collecting of these, every milestone reached (every ten or so bandages) unlocks a new character with their own varying strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Thankfully, no shameless reskins are to be found here. For example Commander Video from Bit. Trip fame, can hover in the air for a brief period of time whereas Tim (Braid) can use his powers to rewind time three seconds (which is a particularly useful ability to have in a game where one mistake can cost you your life). Each character has their own unique weight and feel so in regard to which one is the best, it's all comes down to personal preference.
The level design while simplistic has been fined-tuned to a ridiculous degree, it is clear the time the game has spent in incubation has adopted a level of polish unprecedented by the vast majority of indie titles on the market (and even rivals that of the majority of full retail titles). To think that this originally started off as a flash game adds even more to the credibility of the overall design. The boss fights are incredibly inventive in the way that they don't mess around with the game's fundamental mechanics but instead just think of new ways to use the environment to your advantage in order to achieve victory over your often towering and colossal opponents.
Staying true to its retro-modern design choices the game is relentlessly brutal in its difficulty. Heck the learning curve after the initial tutorial stages is enough to scare away most casual gamers. Super Meat Boy is hard and doesn't take long before it attempts to drive this point across with force. Not the broken design-ridden or cheap kind of hard too, the hard that has you thinking that it is your fault when you die, not the games. The proper kind of hard. Make no mistake the difficulty does not by any means diminish Super Meat Boy, but if you're what many would classify as a lesser experienced gamer, you may really want to consider this one a rethink.
Otherwise retro gamers rejoice, here is a game that will truly test your skills (and also your patience) in arguably one of the hardest 2D platformers since the 16-bit era. The trial and error nature of the gameplay ensures that you'll find yourself repeating the same stage at least a dozen times (if not a dozen more). Going into Super Meat Boy make sure you get ready to die- a lot. It doesn't help that our flesh-rotten friend can be downed in a single hit either, sending him back to the beginning of the stage. If it hadn't been for the inclusion of infinite continues, I would still be playing the game right now.
Speaking of which, if there was only one thing beneficial about the game's insane difficulty it would be how it perfectly complements the game's playability in ways that will have you constantly addicted to its simple yet hard to master nature of design. Super Meat Boy is one of those just one last try kind of games that ensures to keep you busy until well after the credits have rolled.
As an added bonus the game embraces your lack of skill (or alternatively ownage) complete with a montage of all your different attempts in a replay that follows completion of a level. It is endlessly entertaining indeed to see a mob of Meat Boys traversing a level whilst slowly getting shaven down to a mere two-three battling it out in a race to see who can reach their beloved bandage girl first and emerge victorious.
That's where the competitive nature of the game comes in with the time trial aspect. Each level has a set time (seemingly recorded by the developers themselves) that has to be beaten in order to place on the online leaderboard that allows you track your results in comparison to friends as well as on a world-wide scale. This further adds to the games replay value as you'll often find yourself coming back to levels you have previously beaten as you attempt to shave several precious seconds off your initial results.
It is difficult to put an exact length on Super Meat Boy (when considering different skill levels) but I can tell you that it's definitely not a short game (as vague as that may sound). There are approximately 307 levels on offer (with more to be added but I'll get to that later), each lasting about a minute in length. Add on the numerous attempts (which will often escalate to hundreds) that you'll inevitably have to take in order to beat them and you do the maths. If one things for sure though, Super Meat Boy will never fail to supply you with hours upon hours of good old-fashioned fun.
Team Meat have also goes as far as to include a free unlockable DLC world exclusive to the 360 version of the game, which is said to be regularly updated by the developers to feature new levels and content on a weekly-monthly basis. At the time of writing there are already twenty levels that have been made available for the downloading and playing of, so for those worried about developer support of this feature, worry not because Team Meat has got your back.
Countless hours more await for a 100% completion, so for your money, Super Meat Boy is definitely one of the best bang-for-your-buck titles available on the XBLA bar none. Not only that, it also happens to be one of the best platformers in years.
The controls, while they may seem a tad lose at first (considering meat boy has a fair bit of weight behind him); will wear into you very quickly. Especially when the difficulty really starts to ramp up and the learning curve loses all (if any it had in the first place) of its credibility as a learning curve. Regardless control-wise the game is fine.
Now for a quick revision
+ Great fun, especially when played in short bursts.
+ Gameplay while simplistic still has a layer of depth that really separates it from the vast majority of other platformers.
+ Amazing level designs.
+ The distinct art style, memorably chirpy music and just the fact that it has a generally intresting concept really makes the game stand out as it's own. Hilarity is ensured.
+ Fans of 8-16 bit platformers will appreciate the tough as nails difficulty.
- Brutal learning curve.
- A few minor glitches present here and there, but thankfully nothing game breaking.
Super Meat Boy is one of the meatiest (no pun intended) experiences that the Xbox Live Arcade has to offer (later on Wiiware and PC). The amount of content on offer here is absolutely staggering especially for the price point. Go pick it up, I urge you. You could definitely do a lot worse with 800 points ($10), or when the game's launch promotion ends, 1200 points ($15). This of course makes for all the more reason to buy the game right now. One of the best platformers this generation of consoles has seen yet.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/28/10
Game Release: Super Meat Boy (US, 10/20/10)
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