One of the best indie platformers ever made makes a victory lap on the Switch, with a brand new two-player mode.
Super Meat Boy may be the least relaxing video game ever made. And considering it was first released on PC in 2010 it also has one of the most dragged out release schedules we’ve ever seen. No wonder the sequel is called Super Meat Boy Forever. Given there is now a follow-up on the way we assume this will be the last time the game is released on a new format, which means it’s your last chance to get one of the best indie platformers ever made. Best, but also most infuriating.
If you manage to get through even the first few levels without wrenching off your own head in annoyance then you might just have a mild enough temperament to deal with Super Meat Boy. There’s nothing else to call it but a 2D platformer, but although there are plenty of nods and homages to Super Mario Bros. it has more in common with more puzzle-orientated games such as fellow indie hit N++.
You’re cast as the eponymous cube of meat, who must rescue his girlfriend Bandage Girl from the evil Dr Foetus. There are some amusing cut scenes along the way but apart from the fact that your hero trails a pool of blood after him he could be anything from a plumber to a hedgehog, for all the difference it makes.
The controls are certainly straight out of Mario’s earliest adventures: you get a run and a jump button and that’s it. But rather than expansive horizontal levels to explore most stages in Super Meat Boy are just a few screens in size. The goal is simply to get to Bandage Girl, who naturally stands in the most in accessible spot in the level.
Opposing your rescue plans are some fiendishly designed platforms which often favour wall-jumping vertically up the screen. Although one of the more complex techniques to master in other games, here you very quickly get the hang of it. As a result, the major difficultly comes from the fact that almost everything, from static obstacles to moving enemies, will kill you instantly as soon as you touch it.
From very early on just working out how you’re supposed to beat a level, let alone actually doing it, becomes extremely difficult. And so your initial forays are transformed into trial and error scouting missions, rather than serious attempts to complete the stage. This combined with the danger of instant failure with every misstep (well, mis-slither really) is what is going to be responsible for the most broken joypads and smashed TVs.
Luckily there’s never anyone to curse for your failure other than yourself (and the sadists that designed the game), since the controls are always perfectly responsive and there’s almost no random factor to blame on bad luck.
Given these issues it’s a testament to the sheer addictive joy of the game that you keep coming back for more. But without the earlier failures the feeling of pure euphoria at finally beating a level just wouldn’t be the same, in what is essentially the platforming equivalent of Dark Souls.
To reward the steadfast player there is a very generous weight of content here, with not just hundreds of standard levels but also the even more difficult Dark World stages. There’s also a brand new feature for the Switch version: a two-player split-screen mode which works perfectly with a Joy-Con each.
Unfortunately, because of licensing issues the game still has to use the new soundtrack created for the PlayStation 4 version, but it’s still a good one. The only real flaw in the whole game is the tiresome boss battles, which inspire a frustration that is not as easily forgiven as in the rest of the game.
Even without them though we’re not sure we could unequivocally recommend this game to anyone with high blood pressure or a generally short fuse. But if you want to play something that feels like more than just an interactive cut scene this is gaming at its rawest and most satisfying.
Super Meat Boy
In Short: Indie gaming at its retro-loving best, with some of the most cunningly-designed and purposefully infuriating 2D gameplay ever seen.
Pros: Pixel perfect controls and a near endless range of cleverly-designed stages. The new soundtrack is actually really good. New two-player mode is very welcome.
Cons: It might be purposeful but at some point everyone’s patience is going to snap with the ultra high difficultly. The basic concept isn’t really that original.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii U, PlayStation 4, PC, and PS Vita
Developer: Team Meat
Release Date: 11th January 2018
Age Rating: 12
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