By Marty Mulrooney
Super Meat Boy is an award-winning indie platform game developed by Team Meat (Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes). It was released on the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade in October 2010, and on PC in November 2010. In August 2011, publisher Lace Mamba Global released two retail versions of the game: the Ultra Edition (which includes a digital soundtrack, a 40 page comic/sketch book, a double-sided poster and secret bonus content) and the Ultra Rare Edition (which includes everything present in the Ultra Edition as well as an additional T-shirt!)
Super Meat Boy is a tough as nails platformer in which the player takes control of Meat Boy, a small, bloody, cube-shaped block of meat who is trying to save his girlfriend Bandage Girl from the evil Dr. Fetus. The game is split into separate chapters, which contain over 300 levels altogether. These levels are decidedly short, but by no means does this mean that you will complete them quickly. Super Meat Boy is tricky and difficult from the outset, and things only get tougher later on.
The aim of the game is to guide Meat Boy across a flat 2D plane in each level until he reaches Bandage Girl (who is then whisked off to the next level by her kidnapper Dr. Fetus). The controls are deceptively simple, with Meat Boy able to run, sprint and jump. However, these simple controls will need to be mastered for players to make any serious progression. Although the PC version supports keyboard controls, I highly recommend using a controller (I personally use an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller For Windows).
Each level is filled to the brim with dangerous obstacles – such as buzzsaws – that will cause Meat Boy to explode in a shower of blood and gore if he even so much as grazes them. At first some of the levels can appear impossible but the jump button will soon become your best friend. Meat Boy is slightly sticky – he even leaves a trail of blood throughout the level as you play. His raw meat body will momentarily stick to surfaces, allowing the player to jump further and further up walls, launch off them or even slide down them. Holding down the jump button allows Meat Boy to launch himself vast distances and the sprint button is vital for most of these leaps of faith.
The gameplay is demanding and punishing, with even the slightest mistake resulting in an instant death. Luckily, restarts are quick and lives infinite. Although this is a difficult game – probably one of the toughest ever made – it ultimately still feels fair. The controls are super-tight and any failure is 99% of the time the player’s fault rather than the developer’s. Some games become infuriating when they are too hard, but Super Meat Boy mostly gets the balance just right, offering the perfect example of a game where you just have to have one – last – try. And then another…
Levels can be skipped but all the levels of a chapter must be completed to continue to the next one. Completing a level within a certain time limit rewards the player with an A+ grade, which then unlocks a harder alternate version of the same level but this time within the ‘dark world’. Players can also find hidden portals in certain levels that unlock ‘warp zones’, bonus levels in the style of classic retro 2D platformers such as Super Mario. This is a game absolutely crammed with content.
The version of the game included in both the Ultra and Ultra Rare editions is the Steam version from last year, which includes Super Meat World, a full level portal that allows you to play custom made chapters and single levels designed by other users, other dev teams and Team Meat, potentially adding hundreds of new levels. There is also a level editor. However, although you could just buy the game from Steam directly, the new retail versions offer some serious value for money.
For starters, they include a 40 page booklet that is half comic, half sketchbook, featuring over 16 pages of development sketches. The disk itself is also crammed with extra goodies, including a digital soundtrack, wallpapers, cubecrafts, development photos and more! The Ultra Rare Edition includes all of this – its large pizza-style box actually contains the Ultra Edition – along with a lovely extra large T-shirt. The value for money offered by both retail versions makes them a no-brainer compared to simply downloading a digital copy. It would still be worth buying these editions even if you already owned the game!
Super Meat Boy is a shining example of indie gaming at its finest. Sure, it’s really difficult – it will be too difficult for some – but that’s what makes it so addictive. It won’t be for everyone and can undoubtedly become frustrating at times, but those who persevere will feel an immense sense of satisfaction every time they complete a level. Besides, the replay mode actually turns all of those deaths into a form of reward anyway, with all of your previous attempts shown at once to hilarious effect! Super Meat Boy – Ultra Rare Edition is a highly recommended purchase for hardcore 2D platformer fans. In short, be sure to check it out, especially if you missed out on the digital release last year!
9 OUT OF 10