January 19th, 2011 | By Mike Gnade
Super Meat Boy is a challenging platformer that emulates and pays homage to the challenging games of yesteryear while maintaining the “indie spirit”
Super Meat Boy it a tribute to the games of the 80s and 90s. For those that don’t know, Super Meat Boy is a platforming game where you control a cube of meat while he attempts to save his girlfriend from the evil Dr. Fetus. The game gave me a smile before I even played the first level when the opening cinematic perfectly emulated the opening to the original Street Fighter II arcade machine. It is no coincidence that Super Meat Boy shares the same initials as Super Mario Bros. – Super Meat Boy is a challenging platformer that celebrates all the classic retro gaming of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.
Let’s get the few criticisms of SMB out of the way. Super Meat Boy is not for everyone. It’s difficulty will scare away a lot of casual and less skilled players…but screw those no0bs! While the difficulty can be frustrating, the game’s short levels and tight controls mean that death is always your fault and that success is only minutes away. It helps that the game records all of your attempts and replays them all as a reward when you finally complete the level….love that. Some of the boss levels can be particularly frustrating. So what else is there to complain about? The crude cinematics make you aware that the game was made by only 2 people and the humor and characters aren’t for everyone (Dr. Fetus can’t sit well with the Right Wing). Some of the story sequences simplistic art style and lack of polish detract from the overall package. Despite these few complaints, the gameplay is spot-on and incredibly fun.
In fact the only complaint anyone can really make about the gameplay is that it is challenging. The slightest mistake results in Meat Boy’s bloody death and restarting the level. Super Meat Boy is outright hard, but it always stays fair. Meat Boy’s controls are exceptional and simplistic. The game could be played with an old Nintendo Gamepad. Players move Meat Boy with the D-pad or Left Joystick, hold a button for run, and press a button to jump; that’s all there is to it. The tight controls keep the fault with the player and reduce frustrations.
SMB’s platforming gameplay is the deepest around. The game sports over 300 levels, free DLC chapters are on the way, and there’s a ton of unlockable indie characters with their own unique abilities and nuances. On your first playthrough you’ll be focused on just beating the level, but beating the level quickly unlocks the “dark world” version of that level. The Dark World is basically a much more difficult version of all the main levels in the game. There are also warp zones to find and bandages to acquire along with boss stages that serve as finales of each world. These additional challenges, unlockable content, and secrets mean that you’ll be playing Super Meat Boy months from now. The content in this game is immense and far exceeds the XBLA standard.
The graphics in Super Meat Boy are not the most technically impressive around, but they are a substantial upgrade from the game’s humble beginnings in Flash. More importantly, the pixel-art graphics fit the game well and reference the retro games that inspired SMB in the first place. I especially appreciated the warp zones where the graphics change to emulate the green hues of the original Gameboy or become pixelated to remind us of the old 8-bit generation. The pixel art is great and there’s a lot of attention to detail to admire. As Meat Boy runs around a level, he leaves a splash of blood on any level tiles he touches and if he meets his demise to a spinning saw blade, the blade will stay bloodied for the remainder of the level. The only real complaint about the graphics are the cutscenes mentioned earlier.
The sound and music of SMB continue to take players down memory lane. Chip tunes accompany Meat Boy on his retro adventure. The sound effects (unless you’re in a warp zone) are more modern. I particularly love the patter of Meat Boy’s feet running along a bloody tile. The roar of “Suuuper Meat Boy” and the accompanying title screen theme is memorable. The game does an excellent job mimicking and approximating tunes from Zelda, Street Fighter, Mega Man and other classics while still introducing its own memorable tunes.
Super Meat Boy is the best indie platformer and one of the best values on Xbox Live. The game may lack online (and local) multiplayer, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun passing around the controller with your friends – old school style. The game is tough and unforgiving, but it’s also fun and rewarding. The old NES classics of the 80s and 90s were a lot more challenging and simpler than games like Gears of War. Super Meat Boy pays homage to their legacy while still carving out its own place among them. Super Meat Boy is an indie masterpiece.