Super squidgy platforming
Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes are the talented duo working under the Team Meat banner and have not only brought us one of the best 2D platformers ever made, but one of the best indie titles the industry has seen.
Here’s the thing, Super Meat Boy strips out many convoluted mechanics that have bogged down modern games and brought us a title that does the basics to perfection. Being over eight years late to the review party I can offer a hot take; Super Meat Boy still holds up today as one of the best 2D platformers ever developed.
Intrinsically designed levels
Super Meat Boy brings me back to a simpler time, a time where I would sit two feet from my TV in a dimly lit room surrounded by snacks and spending hours playing classics like Super Mario World on SNES, Donald Duck in Maui Mallard on SEGA Mega Drive or the original Rayman on PlayStation 1. I grew up playing platformers and have developed a massive love for the genre so naturally Team Meat’s latest outing piqued my interest. Oh yeah, if you have never heard of Donald Duck in Maui Mallard; stop what you are doing and go watch some gameplay right now.
Set in a world laden with disgusting and wacky characters, I mean, the antagonist is a fetus in a jar wearing a suit who is aptly named Dr. Fetus. When Bandage Girl, Super Meat Boy’s one true love is kidnapped by Dr. Fetus it is up to Meat Boy to progress through increasingly difficult levels set across seven themed worlds, which are all tied together by a cheeky, nostalgia-driven overarching story wrapped in cutesy cutscenes.
It is your job to navigate through the labyrinth of extremely clever obstacles which can be anything from rotating sawblades, lasers, homing missiles and ghosts to lava pits and teleporters – which are my personal favourite as they add a real puzzle element that was non-existent until this point and it made me question just how many more ways Super Meat Boy could surprise me. This slow burn introduction of new gameplay elements keeps the game fresh and ensured I was always on my toes.
The game eases you in with several overtly simplistic levels, which allowed me to focus on nailing down the simplistic yet difficult to master two button control scheme. You will begin flying through the first world and may find yourself questioning the games’ difficulty before reaching the second world and beyond. The way in which Team Meat has managed to squeeze everything out of a game that uses two buttons and a stick for movement is something to behold. The difficulty increase comes down to the masterfully designed levels that always challenged me and left me asking myself is that jump even possible?
Each level can be completed in mere seconds and Super Meat Boy challenges you to do just that as reaching the end of a level under par time will reward you with an A+ rating. These elite ratings unlock their Dark World counterparts which usually consist of a similar level layout with mo’ traps and mo’ problems. The addition of these extremely frustrating levels allowed for me to seek out further sadistic challenges to my heart’s content.
Every world is capped off by wildly differing boss fights that challenged me in ways other levels didn’t. I was outrunning a Dr. Eggman-esque contraption helmed by Dr. Fetus, partaking in anxiety inducing rising water levels where I am tragically brought back to my childhood memories of attempting to save Sonic from drowning or racing against something I can only describe as Super Faeces Boy.
However, I would like to have seen a one button level reset instead of needing to die or fail a level to restart. Super Meat Boy is already a fast paced game that expects you to fail. A lot. So when figuring out the correct lines to take it would be good to have the ability of an instant level reset without the need to jump in to an obstacle or throw my poor Meat Boy off the map.
Unlockables are a near-distant memory in modern gaming, however they are featured prominently in Super Meat Boy. Bandages are scattered throughout the seven worlds, usually in hidden or seemingly near impossible to reach places and serve as collectibles with a purpose. Collecting bandages unlocks a wide variety of characters which are mostly made up of playable characters from other indie titles. Each one controls differently and significantly changed my approach to certain levels.
There are also a plethora of hidden levels that can be accessed by jumping through a warp zone where I was instantly transported back in time to one of the many retro-inspired levels. These served as a great way to tug on those nostalgia-strings through their retro art styles, chiptune music and controller breaking difficulty.
Once the main “story” has reached its deathly conclusion the most extreme world is unlocked in the form of The Cotton Alley which sees you take part in a role reversal where Meat Boy is now the ‘damsel‘ in distress which presents the ability to play as Bandage Girl in the most extreme levels yet.
Whether it is hunting for bandages, perfecting level times or completing warp zones, there is always a reason to jump back in to one of Super Meat Boy’s worlds.
With incredibly tight controls that make playing the game an experience like no other, Super Meat Boy is one of the best platformers ever created and can sit proudly beside the best that the industry has to offer.
The gameplay is boiled down to the absolute minimum and it does everything it sets out to perfectly, including the squelchy, wet and disturbing sounds oozing from Meat Boy with every step.
This value for money package is wrapped in an outstanding soundtrack that fits the tone of the game to a tee.
I am only sad that there isn’t more levels to play.