Microsoft’s Game Feast continues this week with one of the most obscure and addictive titles currently on the system. Super Meat Boy is a puzzle game of sorts that presents you with micro-levels that you must traverse with your square-shaped hero. The premise is simple, but the charm of the design and the addictive “just one more level” mentality make it a perfect candidate for the service. You will die, a lot, but you will always be coming back for more. Every once in a while a title comes along that defines the idea of bite-sized perfection, and Super Meat Boy is this year’s perfect contender.
One of the first things you will notice when you get into the game is the 8-bit presentation. From the music to the static cut scenes, this game has some nostalgic charm. You play as Meat Boy, you are close with Bandage Girl, but Dr. Fetus hates everyone, especially you. So in turn he kidnaps Bandage Girl (after punching her in the face) and it is up to you to save her. Everything about the way the game is presented will put a smile on your face. The music feels like it was composed for the NES and the menus and level select are perfectly designed.
The game is broken down into various worlds, each one containing a collection of levels that Meat Boy must traverse in order to save his beloved. These become increasingly more difficult the further you get, to the point of complete insanity. The difficulty is likely to have you yanking out your hair while at the same time begging for more. It is this balance of risk versus reward that makes the game so utterly addicting. You will be smashed, chopped up, batted against walls and fall to your death over and over just to come back for more. The idea is to find the quickest route through each obstacle while being able to avoid the death traps in your path.
Amazingly the formula never gets old, and the short nature of each level means that you don’t have to memorize entire segments before having a chance to complete it. This is achieved also in part to the pitch-perfect control scheme that allows you to make those seemingly impossible jumps. Meat Boy can only jump, run and wall slide, but when you combine these together you can really pull off some incredible runs.
To show off these runs you can save replays of your accomplishments. Of course it also shows off all of your failed attempts so you can get an idea of just how many times it took to master that particular run. This is a game of patience and persistence, but if it wasn’t executed with such aptness, it definitely wouldn’t be this much fun. You can also unlock warp zones that offer up other challenges that can unlock more characters to use. The cool part is that most of these characters are from other popular independent games such as Bit.Trip and Alien Hominid. These bonus characters all have their own characteristics that will help you in some areas, but none of them make this game a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination.
There is little to pick at when it comes to the game, but one note everyone should take into consideration before buying. If you don’t like the first few levels, chances are you are not going to get the full value out of the game. This is a very challenging game that is designed for players to play the same levels over and over to get faster times. If that is not your cup of tea, then this game is not for you. This is also a game of skill. Deaths are not earned at the hands of cheap tactics. When you die in this game, it is entirely your fault. Of course when you manage to pass that incredibly difficult boss or make an impossibly outlandish jump, everything is completely worth it. For that the best example I can give to this game is this: this is 2010’s Trials HD, and anyone who knows me can attest that comment should not be taken lightly.
Visually the game may look simple on the surface but there are several underlying touches that truly stand out here. For example when Meat Boy gets plastered on a saw, pay close attention to the animation. Everything is painstakingly detailed to deliver a visceral impact and when you respawn the saw blade is still covered with Meat Boy’s remains. The minute details go a long way in creating the charm that is Super Meat Boy. Sound is equally impressive with classic tunes that had me humming and tapping along at the title screen. Sound effects are brutal at times and overall this package is just crammed with charm. It is hard not to fall in love with Meat Boy right from the start.
Super Meat Boy is a fantastic addition to the XBLA library and one of the most addictive games I have played all year. If you like this type of game of trial and error, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. Yes the price point may seem steep on the surface, but I guarantee you will get that and more out of it. The value here is justified with replayability and the fact that I will likely be playing this title well into the new year trying to best my top times and earn an A+ on all the levels (like that will ever happen). I highly recommend giving this charming little title a whirl. I guarantee you cannot help but smile the first time you see him get grinded into oblivion, or the 1000th time for that matter.
Review copy provided by publisher.