Review – Super Meat Boy (XBLA/PC)

Way back in the time region of something, two Flash game developers (Edmund McMillen and Jonathan McEntee) gave away a lot of their own blood clots, sweat drops and tear mops to create a wildly successful flash game for Newgrounds. This flash game was called Meat Boy, a god-send of a flash game involving an undigested cube of meat sprinting around in order to save his law-defying girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from an evil foetus in a jar. Now, with enough money from Newgrounds to advance with their ideas and please the stalkers once more, the dynamic coding duo have now took Meat Boy in to new, untold heights. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to (yet) another one of those Newgrounds-turned-big-time software titles, that decides to go about its business with a different style. A style, coloured red.

Super Meat Boy is a game that, surprisingly, has only just come to form. It launched on the twee XBLA service in October, and on the PC a month later. Despite the game’s independent roots, it’s gained and grounded up a fan base larger than that of Pringle’s – which is pleasingly surprising, considering that most of Xbox LIVE in particular is made up of FPS addicts. In my opinion, the game earns that incredible fanbase, and then some, as you’re about to see down further towards the surface. Let me just give an insight to you now that, against all odds, I can proudly recommend this game to you, even at the seemingly hefty sum of 1200MSP (or £12 in real-o-bucks).

The asking price that the lovable meat wad demands may seem unjustifiable, but in reality, most people who delve in to Super Meat Boy come out of the experience, proudly admitting that they would have bought the game for 1600MSP. First thing to note – Super Meat Boy offers a helluva’ load of bang for your wallet. The game has almost four hundred levels neatly crammed within it’s 109MB slice, with each one designed intricately, originally, and with enough charm to the extent that each level actually feels like an entire level of the game’s acronym-linked brother. Yes, that’s right. That mustache just got rinsed.

Right from “Hello, World!”, the game oozes more charm than a jewelery shop the size of the Metro Centre. The art style is a sort-of mushy mix between a modern-day game and a 16-bit game, which combine together to produce a 1980s-style chunk of eye candy that will make you grin with glee at the sight of each level. Meat Boy himself looks dishwasher-sparkly, and so do the vast array of characters you’ll meet along its diverse story path – even a block made of faeces will look downright appetizing after coming out of The Salt Factory, so be prepared to end up in A&E if you ever do get completely absorbed in to Meat Boy’s vast world. Be careful, my boy.

Alongside the eyes, the oral sectors of a gamer’s body are in for a royal treat here. The sound effects are absolutely flawless in matching the game’s unique art style – that being over-the-top, ‘cartoony’ and ruddy gruesome. The buzz-saw is often overly dramatized within this game, and the screeching sound effect is there to accompany it.

As demonstrated by many modern-day games today, however, graphics doesn’t necessarily make a good game whole.  The main point of playing games today is to soak up rich, intense gameplay – and thankfully, Super Meat Boy acts like warm water in this bathroom. Every level (disregarding the Dark World variations completely) is entirely original and different, with every stage having conjured up ways to torture and spank the heck out of streaks of meat that are completely dissimilar to the last level’s methods. Each level is also humanly possible, thanks to Super Meat Boy’s finely tuned physics engine and hella’-tight* controls, so you can never assume your downfall is the game’s fault and throw ‘Sonic Adventure’ fits when you’re beautifully splattered by a steaming missile.

Talking of being “splattered”, so to speak, the difficulty levels of this game can go further than ‘insane’ at times. Playing through the game on the Light World shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as the earlier levels give the chance for the player to ground up their skills for the stuff past Chapter Three. That said, however, most people reading this article who are going to attempt to 100% the game REALLY don’t know what’s at stake for them. If one completes a level under a certain time limit, they ‘A+’ the stage and unlock a ‘Dark World’ edition of that same level. Dark World levels require an A+ grade to count towards one’s progress percentage, and unluckily for many, those levels are officially harder than a frozen rock that holds Chuck Norris within it. Only elitist ‘MegaMan gamers’ would probably be able to make a good effort on the Dark World levels, and even for them, there would probably be areas where they’d falter. Tragically. It’s a good thing that (bar the Warp Zone stages) Super Meat Boy doesn’t use a life system, or else it would be nigh-on impossible to complete areas like the Cotton Alley’s Dark World of ‘The Guy’ Warp Zone. Say goodbye to Meat boy #1167…

Even with the extreme difficulty on half of the game’s levels, Super Meat Boy still manages to retain that same formula found in games like N+, in bearing that ‘one-more-go’ magic potion that makes seemingly impossible things stay fun. While the game may not be for everyone, I’d still recommend it to most gamers out there, purely because  it manages to retain the enjoyment factor along side bucket-loads of difficulty. Once you manage to beat a level that you had previously died on for the nine-thousandth time, you’re infused with an unparalleled feeling that will stick with you for the rest of the day. That’s the magic of Super Meat Boy – and one of the main reasons, alongside others, why I love it to chunks.

Verdict

Super Meat Boy isn’t a game for everyone. It’s over-the-top difficulty will definitely put off many potential buyers, but thankfully, the gameplay’s turned up to eleven in favour of those who can endure the difficulty, which saves SMB’s main downfall. If you can indulge in Super Meat Boy’s meaty magic, you’ll find that the game is pure sugar for the eyes, the ears, and definitely for the thumbs. So much, in fact, that you’ll always be craving more, much like sugar itself, even if your character is hastily splattered in to chunks for hours on end because of one particular damning level. If you consider yourself a gamer, go and slice this one to bits.

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