Review by Big Bob
"A love letter to the platforming genre."
As a self-proclaimed "Hardcore Gamer", I'm no stranger to difficult games. If I love a game enough, I'll do whatever it takes to master it. Super Meat Boy came out of the blue for me, and after watching a single online video I was convinced this was the game for me. Turns out, I was dead-on. Super Meat Boy is one of the most well-designed, energetic games of 2010, and anyone who likes a challenge owes it to themselves to pick it up.
Upon starting the game, you're introduced to the game's very basic story. You play as Meat Boy, whose girlfriend Bandage Girl has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fetus. It's your job to progress through the game's 7+ worlds to rescue her. While the story is pretty cut and dry, the game still goes out of its way to entertain you. Each world intro is inspired by classic video games such as Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and Pokemon. The boss fights at the end of each world also tell a story, filled with humor and style that's outright hilarious. Even if you aren't playing the game, the developer's design blog loves to pick fanart that fills out the game even more. It's bright, colorful, cartoony, and very gory.
Like the story, the gameplay is also very simple. You have a run button and a jump button, and you can wall jump. As Meat Boy, that's the extent of your abilities. However, Meat Boy moves incredibly fast, both on the ground and in the air, and he can wall jump up the same wall repeatedly. The controls are incredibly tight, so if you die, it's your own fault. That, or you're playing one of the game's ridiculously challenging later levels. While the first couple of worlds are easy enough, all bets are off once you reach world 3. Meat Boy may be incredibly nimble, but when you have to worry about moving buzzsaws, walls covered in salt, homing rockets, buttons that open doors, and more, the game is far from easy. Fortunately, the difficulty curve is incredibly steady, and even if you get to a level that you're stuck on, the game will let you skip it. You don't need to beat every level in a world to clear it, but you will have to beat each boss fight. The best part is that you have unlimited lives. Every time you die, you pop back in at the start of the level, with not even a load screen. Some of the longer levels may piss you off, but for the most part the game does an excellent job at keeping the player engaged.
What's really impressive about Super Meat Boy is the ridiculous amount of content in the game. For example, every level has a record time for you to pass. If you beat it, you can hit a button and go to that level's dark world, which has the same layout but with extra traps. Several levels also have hidden Bandages, which you can collect to unlock hidden characters from other Indie titles, like Gish (from Gish), Tim from Braid, or The Kid, from I Wanna Be The Guy. Each character has their own unique spin to the game's mechanics. Tim can rewind time, The Kid has a double jump, and Gish can stick to walls. In addition to bandages, several levels in the game have "Warp Zones" that take you to retro-style levels. These levels have to be completed three at a time, with a limited number of lives thanks to their retro feel. In order to unlock certain characters, you have to hunt down these warp zones and complete them with the required character. Most characters are simple to unlock, though you'll likely tear your hair out trying to beat The Kid's set of levels, inspired by his unfairly hard flash game.
In addition to some of the best platforming gameplay I've ever seen, Super Meat Boy has an awesome soundtrack. There are dozens of tracks in this game, and they're all well-composed, doing a great job of getting your blood pumping for the challenges ahead. Some tracks stand out especially well, in particular the Cotton Alley music, whose sweet and chipper tunes provide a huge contrast to the insane difficulty of its levels.
All in all, you need to buy Super Meat Boy. It's no longer on sale for $10 like when the game was first released, but even at the $15 mark it's well worth your money. SMB's the best downloadable game on Xbox Live, and provides a ton of value for its dollar. It's fun, it's energetic, it's well-designed, and it'll keep you coming back for more, even when you're reduced to curling up on the floor sucking your thumb thanks to its difficulty level. The question is whether to get it for Xbox or PC. The game plays much easier with a control pad as opposed to a keyboard, but the PC version will soon have a level editor, and it's updated a lot more often.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/16/11, Updated 04/06/11
Game Release: Super Meat Boy (US, 10/20/10)
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