Are you man enough to be a meat boy?
Probably the one review I was not looking forward to. Not the game itself which I'll get to but rather my opinion of it. Just like Braid and Limbo, Super Meat Boy's review have been through the roof with people outright loving the game, putting it on their GOTY lists and even putting it with the platformer heavy hitters of Mario and Sonic but after playing it and my opinion of the game started to set in, I started to think "uh oh, don't know if anyone will agree with it". Granted, reviews are supposed to be one's opinion which lets people determine if the game's worth their cash but when a game is praised this much, kind of makes the one review stick out. So how am I going to review the game? Highly detailed HD graphics? Story? Gameplay? Well since those are either rock-solid or not important (like the story), I'm going for overall which I can only describe in one sentence: it's fine, impeccably well thought out and put together...but in the words of Austin Powers, this ain't my bag, baby.
The basics of Super Meat Boy is this: you play Meat Boy, who is in love with Bandage Girl who loves him back. But competing for her affections is Dr Fetus who keeps kidnapping her from Meat Boy but ever so determined, Meat Boy will go literally to Hell and back to get her back and he's one that will die for love (and repeatedly do so). That's pretty much the entire setup so not a whole lot new for platformers. One keeps kidnapping a princess forcing a plumber to rescue her from a castle while another keeps wanting emeralds for some weird reason forcing a rodent to smack him around. In Super Meat Boy's case, it's dying over and over as he makes his way to Dr Fetus and rescue his woman.
I'm not going to get into the story since there's not really much to talk about but we come down to the meat of it (groans from audience) which is the gameplay. The formula for the game is quite simple: small-sized stages you can clear in seconds but they're so downright hard but respawn time is ridiculously low so it's easier to get back into the action. Like N+ or even I Wanna Be the Guy, SMB is all about the "perfect run": getting through a level mistake free and I'll admit, it was kind of fun for awhile: graducally getting used to how the character's control, using the character's abilities for beating the stages and doing it as fast as you can is somewhat addicting. But then after awhile, I just got tired of it. Some puzzles stump you until the "eureka!" moment where you finally get the answer but in this game's case, doesn't matter if you know what to do, if the controls or the character can't do it then tough, do it again. When a stage stumps you for so long, the thrilling moment upon beating it gets somewhat deflated when you realize a good 40 or so stages await, and that's not even counting the hard versions of each stage.
Not sure if it's just my controller or how the game was programmed but I have an issue with the controls. Having never played the Xbox Live version, I can't tell the difference but playing the PC version, I find controlling the characters a bit...off. The jump isn't as responsive as I would've liked, sometimes you have to time your jumps before you intend to actually jump and other occasions he doesn't jump at all, with some odd replays having Meat Boy fall into death cause of lack of jumping. Not to mention the arrow keys for movement and having the shift-space keys being your run-jump buttons respectively makes it rather awkward. Why WASD was not used instead of the arrow keys, I don't know but when the NES days has always had your left hand for movement, right hand for buttons, going backwards feels...well, backwards.
I know it sounds like I'm bagging on the game and it's not really my intention. The level designs tend to be well put together, the different character abilities makes for some cool experimention and the leaderboards and very nature of the game gives it that "one more try" addictive quality it needs. The soundtrack is absolutely spot-on with some great NES-era music and sound effects to more full-on rock and dramatic tracks and even though graphically it's extremely minimal, it does have a sense of style. But like a music band or another video game genre, some things are just not your type. I can recognize the talent, thought and sheer love the developers have for their creations, but in this case, Super Meat Boy is just not my type of game. As somebody who appreciated the more "puzzle"-y quality of Braid, the constant retrying of levels till you get it just right is not my idea of fun. Super Meat Boy feels designed so that you would hate it, but why you hated it tends to change. Some love the challenge and perfection-driven design, some can't stand it. Like I said, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Super Meat Boy, it just didn't do anything for me...other than make me rage.