A very popular trend within post retro-era games is to include some sort of “retro minigame” within the package. But more often than not, that’s usually what the inclusion ends up being: nothing more than a miniature part of the overall experience. Some titles even try to model old school graphical styles completely, such as VVVVVV, and greatly succeed in pleasing old school fans, but at the cost of alienating new age gamers. However, it’s very rare to see a combination of both in one package: enter Super Meat Boy.
Super Meat Boy is the retro homage of our generation: yet, most of it feels completely new. With numerous references sequences involving 8-bit graphics, and even monochrome Gameboy colors, developer Team Meat is able to bring that classic oldschool gameplay feel back from the dead, while keeping the overall feel fresh, and worthy of the current generation.
The “Super” moniker is the fleshed out sequel to Meat Boy – the insanely popular New Grounds flash platformer. The concept is fairly similar: your task is to guide Meatboy through various chasms, pitfalls, and traps to reach his captured girlfriend. Similar to N+, the only tools at your disposal are the ability to run, jump, and wall-jump your way to the goal. Thankfully, the controls and physics in SMB have been fine-tuned, and are a lot more forgiving than its flash counter-part.
Instead of jumping through the same backdrop, just like any good Super Mario game, every single world retains its own unique feel – and has its own fully animated intro video. All of the intros look and feel like something out of a legitimate Saturday morning cartoon, with decent humor to boot.
The music is also worth mentioning as a standout selling point. Plain and simple, Team Meat has created the greatest chiptune-esque soundtrack since Ducktales NES – any fans of 8-bit style music owe it to themselves to at least attempt to listen to the quality tunes of Super Meat Boy. Thankfully, SMB not only excels with its presentation, but with its ability to charm hardcore gamers and casual fans alike.
One huge bonus for fans of Indie Games in particular is the inclusion of various characters from other successful indie titles such as Alien Hominid, Braid and the Bit.trip series. Each character has their own statline and special abilities, and each one greatly changes your entire approach to each level. In fact, you could easily replay the entire game as a new character, and each time it would retain a distinctly different feel.
As an additional bonus for hardcore fans, each level has an alternate “dark” version, which is accessible at any time from the world map. You’ll find these levels much more challenging, and most require pinpoint pixel-precise movement that will challenge even the most hardened of gamers.
Fortunately, these dark levels are optional, and it is possible to beat the game normally. While the difficulty is above average, it’s not as impossible as some N+ levels for example: especially if you use some of the beginner friendly secret characters. The fact that it never truly feels impossible attests to Meat Boy’s charm – outside of the dark levels, the difficulty doesn’t feel fake, like a number of other titles. To add to your enjoyment, you’ll also find little nuanced gems such as the ability to see all your deaths simultaneously in a replay (which looks awesome), which helps add to the total package.
The only real gripe I had with Super Meat Boy is the overall lack of boss battle excitement. While a few encounters are pretty fun experiences, there are a handful that are indirect “races”, where the boss just feels like an extended obstacle in the level. It’s unfortunate that more mechanics weren’t implemented in these fights, such as pushing levers to drop debris for instance, but the level variety more than makes up for this shortcoming.
All in all, Super Meat Boy is a must-buy for all platformer fans, and succeeds in just about every goal it sets out to accomplish. It really gives VVVVVV a run for its money in terms of the best 2-D platformer of this generation, and that’s no small feat.
Editor’s Note: for a limited time, Super Meat Boy has been marked down to 800 MSP ($10)
Meat Boy could host his own cartoon - the humor and charm radiate excellence.
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While a few mechanics could have been expanded on, the difficulty is a perfect balance of one set of challenging levels, and one set of uber hardcore ones - what's not to like?
You'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive retro-esque soundtrack, and the sound effects fit the game quite well.
There's tons of extra content packed in here: there's enough extra levels, characters, and challenges to keep you going for a while.
Super Meat Boy is a strong contender for the best platformer this generation. While it does have some fairly difficult moments, all of them are a product of solid, legitimately challenging design.