Note: I know that Super Meat Boy is not “new” anymore, but I just felt like posting about it today.
Ever played a videogame so difficult that you die several times in the same place and decide to give up forever?
Well, I’m sure even that game was very easy compared to Super Meat Boy.
This is a game of utter frustration, maniacal level design and a complete disregard for how stressed you may get even if you slam your controller against the wall.
It’s a 2D platformer game in which you will inevitably die. A lot. Like thousands of times.
But you know what? The game doesn’t penalize you for dying. Nope. As soon as you die you respawn at the beginning of the level, no lives lost, no points taken, nothing. And taking into account that most levels can be finished in less than a minute (some in a matter of seconds if you are good enough) then the prospect of dying doesn’t seem so aggravating (mind you, it still IS frustrating).
So what makes this game so special so as to win great review scores and several awards and nominations?
First of all, as hard as the game gets, the gameplay is pure, unadulterated fun! Meat Boy, the main character, controls great, with extreme precision, and he is FAST! Run, jump, wall-jump… only three moves available, but executed with such expertise that when you die you only have yourself to blame, not the game. This is what keeps the player trying again and again at the same level. Never does the game make you feel cheated with cheap deaths, so the incentive of honing your reaction skills prevails.
The level design is amazingly simplistic, yet they pack traps everywhere you go. Fire, chainsaws, salt (yes, it kills you), needles, homing missile launchers, lasers… It will happen many times that you are struggling to get past a specific obstacle and when you finally make it you get killed by an enemy (but cute-looking) cloud that was lying at the other end.
Amusingly, once you finally beat the level, you get to see a mash-up of all the replays of Meat Boy attempting to beat that level. That means you will see dozens of Meat Boys getting killed across the screen while only one single survivor reaches the girl.
Because the girl, named Bandage Girl, is also part of what makes this game so great. You see, Super Meat Boy would be much less without its slick presentation.
It all starts with its humorous story: Meat Boy and Bandage Girl love each other. But Dr. Fetus (yes, you read right) hates Meat Boy and kidnaps Bandage Girl.
Sounds a lot like Mario, Princess Peach and Bowser, doesn’t it? Well, the game is called Super Meat Boy for a reason!
The game offers a full-blown throwback to the old-school games of the 90s. The intro screen for World 1 for example (pictured above), is a parody of the intro screen in Street Fighter II, Insert Coin letters included. And then you hear the “Dramatic Chipmunk” tune displaying the world’s name. Yes, this game is full of references. From Megaman to Super Mario. Even the hidden levels adopt an 8-bit style reminiscent of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) era.
As if that wasn’t enough the game also pays homage to a big bunch of indie (and not-so-indie) games by including their respective main characters as playable options. There’s the Headcrab from Half-Life (in the PC version only), Tim from Braid, the Wrench from Flywrench… Heck, even The Kid from “I wanna be the guy” (a freeware abusively difficult game) is a playable character! Each one with their own abilities usually taken straight from their own games. These are all introduced with hilarious cutscenes of their own.
And then there’s the music. Extremely catchy, appropiate and upbeat enough to prevent you from giving up on the game too early. You might even walk away from the game and still have a tune or two stuck in your head.
Finally, the game is all full of extras. Have you beat all the levels? Well, if you beat one with an A+ grade (given based on speed), you will have access to a “dark” version of it much harder than the original. There’s also the collectible bandages used to unlock some of the characters. And the developers at Team Meat have even added an extra world called “Teh Internets” which gets updated with free maps created by both the designers and other players.
Still not convinced? Then I suggest you watch the following trailer. If you liked the platform games of yore, then you certainly won’t be disappointed by Super Meat Boy!