I’m unsure of what I have done to warrant this sort of extreme hate from Super Meat Boy. No other game has looked so cuddly and cute on the surface only to pull back the curtain and reveal such a crushing, relentless sort of difficulty. Super Meat Boy may share the same acronym as Super Mario Bros., but they are indeed polarizing takes on their respective genre of platforming. Super Meat Boy is definitely the hardest game I’ve ever played and I’m pretty sure it racist against all humans, but that didn’t stop me from coming back for more.
As if stealing initials from Mario’s game wasn’t enough, Meat Boy has a mission to save his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the nefarious and middle finger-flipping Dr. Fetus. That name isn’t just for show, he literally is a baby in a robot suit and a top hat. In case that didn’t foreshadow anything, Super Meat Boy has an incredibly silly tone topped with hilarious moments left and right. Everything is so absurd and well animated that it doesn’t need any dialogue to convey its zany tone. The classic retro themes that kick off every world further drive this point home, as they are familiar, but include a Meat Boy injection in the name of style and humor.
Although you won’t always be laughing. Most of your time will probably be spent swearing and falling into saw blades. Or pits. Or salt. Or worms. In fact, just about everything tries its best to kill you at every turn. Meat Boy is a platformer at its core, but it takes that idea and makes it more reflex and trial based than its contemporaries. Jumping, sprinting, and wall jumping fall into Meat Boy’s repertoire but he uses them faster than any that have come before him. It actually begins to transcend the mere label of platformer and starts morphing into a game that is a speed test in muscle memory.
Despite sounding negative, this is actually Super Meat Boy‘s biggest selling point. The controls are responsive enough to keep up with the break neck speeds and allow for this intense trial-and-error gameplay so it doesn’t become always become too frustrating when a level seems impossible. You died because you didn’t jump or react fast enough. It’s as simple as that. You really can’t pin it on anything else and the fact that Meat Boy nearly instantly respawns chokes off most potential anger and the fail montage is always a treat. A temper can still arise out of some, but since blame can be put all on the player, it becomes a moot point.
Level design deserves its time in the light because of the brilliance behind it. Levels are wonderfully constructed due to the timing patterns and placement of certain hazards and platforms. It may not become immediately apparent, but the patterns are so expertly crafted that it allows speed runs for the pros possible. Granted you have the skill, some levels can be sprinted through without stopping due to this carefully executed timing, but this nuance is for people far beyond my skill level. However, I have the utmost respect that it is present in this game because that kind of care proves that this was a well crafted project.
Super Meat Boy is hard game, I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear, but sometimes it oversteps its boundary and falls into red-faced frustration. In the last world and part of the penultimate world, levels become so difficult to a point where it grinds the game to a screeching halt and dabbles in tedium that SMB doesn’t otherwise show. Even though it is really a platformer, jumping from platform to platform doesn’t work as well as other games due to SMB‘s intense twitchy movement. More often than not, you’ll overshoot or undershoot your trajectory. The troublesome worlds mentioned make this the bulk of the gameplay and add in a new monster to destroy you at random intervals. Elements like these detract from what makes Super Meat Boy so incredible and feel slightly out of place.
A small fraction of the levels are frustrating, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t ruin the whole crop. Not by a long shot. There is an intimidating amount of levels and things check off your to-do list, something that more than justifies its price tag. There are six core worlds (each with twenty levels and a harder, dark version of each), a seventh incredibly challenging chapter (with forty levels), user-generated content, bandages to collect, hidden warp zones to find, and more unlockable characters that each function differently. Novices like myself and most likely a huge chunk of the user base will never even experience a majority of the content, but it ensures that you will come back and have something to do each time. That is, as long as you can withstand the punishment the game will happily dish out.
Platformers of this ilk tend to have an impressionable aesthetic and SMB follows closely to this trend. The simple, colorful art style goes a long way because how clean and vibrant it is. No matter what, it always looks great when standing still or in motion. Musical tunes match this mood by evoking a retro style, but also adding a newer feel to it. The catchy bleeps and bloops infect your ears as you fall into an almost trance-like state that comes from the focus that the gameplay requires. Danny Baranowsky, the composer, did a fantastic job of converting the visual style into audio and the result makes some good music that will undoubtedly get stuck in everyone’s head. Sadly, the music does loop a little too often but that is a small nitpick.
If you loathe someone and want to see them suffer, buy them Super Meat Boy. If you love someone and want to see them test their skills in a quality platformer, buy them Super Meat Boy. This game has such a unique relationship with the player that both of these statements ring true. Super Meat Boy is filled to the brim with supremely difficult levels, brilliant music, and content that it makes it hard to refuse even with the punishment level as high as it is. I’ve sworn at Super Meat Boy and sworn to never play it again, but alas, I keep finding myself coming back to it time and time again.
+Immensely challenging, rewarding, and fast platforming
+Plenty of levels and collectibles
-The challenge can sometimes overstep the step the boundary to frustration
-Music, while great, can loop for a little too long
Final Score: 9/10