Jump, dodge and platform your way to your girlfriend’s rescue.
PC Release: October 20, 2010
By Ian Coppock
Occasionally I find a video game of such outrageous properties that I promptly have to share it with everyone. This is true in the sense of bad games, like Brink and Binary Domain, but it’s also true of games that accomplish one trait or thing with impressive acumen. In today’s case, said trait and/or thing is exceptional platforming, in the game and/or good-natured swearfest Super Meat Boy.
Super Meat Boy‘s titular character is a cutesy little creature that is indeed made of meat. I often refer to Meat Boy as PG-13 Kirby because of the character’s tentative cuteness and the game’s dark, albeit comical outlook. The game is a side-scrolling platformer.
The game explains that Meat Boy and his loving girlfriend, Bandage Girl, are a match made in heaven. Seems so, until the evil Dr. Fetus beats the crap out of Meat Boy and spirits Bandage Girl away. No one likes Dr. Fetus, so he intends to make everyone else’s lives a living hell.
If you’re sensing that Super Meat Boy is a throwback to old-school platformers, you’re absolutely correct. Protagonist A must navigate levels B1-B1000 to retrieve significant other/favorite food item C.
Meat Boy gets himself together and chases Dr. Fetus across 6 chapters of platforming. The story is largely explained by cutscenes, in which body language rather than talking is the means of communication.
The plot is a chapter-for-chapter rehash of showdowns and attempted rescues. The cutscenes feature a black comedy motif, and most of Meat Boy and Dr. Fetus’s antics made me laugh out loud. There’s little to no other extrapolation to be done here, and though the story isn’t super-strong, the quality the game pulls off exceptionally well is platforming. I’m willing to make an exception for games that do something, even if it’s not story, exceptionally well, like I did with Minecraft for its building mechanics. The true star in Meat Boy is the platforming. The story, while not bad, takes a bit of a second seat to this.
Like I said, Super Meat Boy is divided into six main chapters, with numerous bonus levels. In each chapter’s 20 or so levels, Meat Boy must hop and dodge his way to Bandage Girl, being held hostage at the end. Most levels take about ten seconds to do, but don’t worry; there’s tons of them, and the difficulty ramps up.
Meat Boy is fast, and he can also bounce off walls and jump pretty far. All of this, combined with painfully precise timing, is necessary to complete the chapters ahead. Though the game’s traps are merciless, Super Meat Boy respawns your character instantly after death, which is great, because I think long loading times in a high-pressure environment would cause me to lose my patience.
The game also features a creative way to remember your screwups. Being made of meat, Meat Boy leaves a trail of blood wherever he goes. The blood remains even 300 tries later, until you beat the level. It’s handy for remembering what not to do, and serves as a grim reminder of your failures.
Super Meat Boy is the best platformer I’ve ever played. It’s difficult as hell; in fact, this is the hardest video game I’ve ever played in my life. But though the difficulty ramps up rapidly, Super Meat Boy does platforming so well that the difficulty is purely intended, and not a consequence of bad design. The controls are smooth and intuitive on both a console and a PC, and Meat Boy reacts to them immediately, giving you more control over timing and movements. The game’s framerate is also silky smooth; the developers left absolutely nothing to chance. The only thing guiding or hampering Meat Boy is your own skill. Well, that and the buzz saws.
The game is riddled with secret levels and collectibles. Meat Boy can collect bandages hidden in most levels, and access warp gates leading to old-style 8-bit levels that are exceptionally difficult. Meat Boy can also visit Teh Internets, a composite of fan-made maps and challenges. Some of these are even more difficult than the base game.
Super Meat Boy‘s artwork is detailed and colorful, combining the motifs of the old platforms with super-slick animations. Super Meat Boy‘s sound effects and cutscenes are deliberate throwbacks as well. The cutscene confrontations and battles are made with super-static-y sound effects, and some of them are pixelated. There’s one battle scene that I’m sure was a shoutout to Pokemon battles from back in the day, though Pokemon isn’t a platformer. The music is a curious blend of synth and drum overlays with heavy guitar, probably to go along with the visual element of buzz saws and other traps.
The animations are either tongue-in-cheek or outrageous. There’s a lot to be said for body language in this game, and the animations also make humorous use of awkward pauses and confusing situations between Meat Boy and Dr. Fetus. As characters, they adhere to the purely visual in terms of expression, but the animators succeeded in giving them firm if uncomplicated characters via this method.
I urge you to consider Super Meat Boy, if you’re at all into platformers. This game is, in my opinion, a great platformer, and it’s one of my favorite arcade games. Don’t be ashamed if you can’t beat it; I beat the final level after about 320 tries, and by then the routine was (and still is) ingrained in my muscles. The game is great because it collects the best elements of the old-school platformers and presents them in a format that fans new (such as myself) and old can enjoy. Go get her, hero!
You can buy Super Meat Boy here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.