By NME 0 Comments
If Super Meat Boy existed a few year back, System of a Down would have sang about playing it every day instead of Russian Roulette. It is, without question, a man' s game.
It is not without flaws, which may come as a surprise if you take pretty much every review at face value. Nearly everyone who has reviewed the game has heaped praise on it for its tight controls and plentiful use of call backs to the games of our youth.
I can see why someone would like the latter. I get caught up in nostalgia myself. But at some point, a game should stand on its own merits. Super Meat Boy does, barely, despite its best efforts. The end result, for me, is that the games distinguishing characteristic is that it is absurdly difficult, which is only slightly above being boring in the hierarchy of characteristics that will make me run screaming from a game.
Sure, there is the call to all of the indie games that are tacitly associated with Super Meat Boy either through a connection to New Grounds or just because they're all in the same fox hole, waiting for the bombs of a disinterested community to be silenced, allowing them a chance to make a charge towards the objective of reaching a significant audience, relatively speaking. It is both a nice gesture and a means by which Super Meat Boy is able to make up for the fact that the lead character that they've chosen may is not particularly interesting, either visually or throughout the game's story, such as it is.
As for the controls, mistakes were made. It's true that there are times where the level of precision allows for the amazing feats required to complete a level to be accomplished. The problem is that at other times, the controls can be finicky. I recently heard a great explanation for this: the "run" button is, in fact, an accelerator. Hearing that was a clarifying moment for me as it helped me to explain so many of the otherwise unbelievable actions of Meat Boy when I feel my head and my hands are working in concert to achieve a vastly different result. While the accelerator explanation allows me to make sense of some of the more frustrating results, it doesn't allow me to see past the fact that Meat Boy controls as if each platform in each level is covered in a sheet of ice. This, in my experience, is not the case for other characters, whose improved control comes at the expense of the great speed enjoyed by Meat Boy. It's a concession worth making by and large, but not one to be made if the par time has not yet been met on a level.
The great thing about playing Super Meat Boy is that you can improve over time, and not just through pattern memorization. This does not excuse the game's need to lean on nostalgia and indie cred nor its hit or miss controls, but the fact that those things aren't deal-breakers speaks volumes for the games strong points, those being pacing and how it offers real sense of accomplishment. Getting an A+ rating on a level at long is wonderful. Getting an A+ rating on your first run through any of the later levels are cause for celebration. Beating the game and/or unlocking The Kid make you feel like the greatest gamer alive. Getting a full clear of the game, I can only imagine, would lead to hundreds of millions of people worshiping you and convincing their friends that evolution never happened because you created all that is and ever will be 6000 years ago.
I am of two minds when it comes to Super Meat Boy. Having beaten the light levels and unlocked the majority of the game's hidden characters, I still find myself incredibly frustrated the way Meat Boy handles and cursing the varying effects of maneuvers executed in nearly identical fashion. On the other hand, the sense of joy and accomplishment from completing each successive level below par time, without dying, are addictive. In that way, I feel as though I will be playing Super Meat Boy for years to come in the same way that I continue to go back to Braid. Then again, years from now after not having played Super Meat Boy for far too long, I will likely find myself cursing in frustration all over again. That I'm looking forward to that time is the highest praise I can give to any game.