another_silent_antagonist's Super Meat Boy (Steam) (PC) review

Fun, Challenging and Infinitely Rewarding

For a while now I’ve been worrying more and more about the movement of the games industry towards the casual market. The existence of this trend is pretty much indisputable nowadays, with the introduction of the Kinect and the Move lending themselves all too well to that family-friendly genre of “casual” games. Gone are the days when games were too difficult, too inaccessible to merit a broad appeal. For a growing number of gamers, the opposite is in fact the case: games are becoming too easy.

It’s perhaps as a direct result of this phenomenon that I instantly loved Super Meat Boy. Compared with the current norms of playability and  accessibility, SMB stands alone as a tremendously, brilliantly, sublimely hard game. There’s no hand-holding, no “auto-steer”, no checkpoints and definitely no Kinect support; there’s just you, the controller and a whole load of excellently-designed platforming levels to play through.

Super Meat Boy’s premise is a simple one: you play as the lovable-though-slightly-grotesque Meat Boy, as he tries to rescue his girlfriend Bandage Girl (who, as the game’s own blurb helpfully describes, happens to be made of bandages). Her kidnapper is the nefarious Dr Fetus, a character for whom the word “prick” was undoubtedly invented. The game sees Meat Boy navigating through levels filled with rotating blades, homing missile launchers, plenty of lava and many unidentifiable monsters. The levels are short, and you can expect to die many, many times before finishing some of the tougher ones. Despite its difficulty, the game is fun, satisfying and above all completely fair. 

  The game’s graphics are basic. Its cutscenes are low on animation, but still succeed in conveying both hilarious and touching moments with ease. It should be clear by now, but this is a game that depends more on its pure gameplay than flashy visuals or beautifully rendered cutscenes. At times, Super Meat Boy apes the visual style of retro platforms, and this it does perfectly.

Super Meat Boy’s soundtrack is particularly noteworthy. Each world is distinctly themed, and the in-game music plays an integral role in shaping this theme. The music is a brilliantly intense mix of metal, funk, rock and some retro midi stuff. I’d almost say the game is worth buying for the soundtrack alone, with such tracks as the forest boss theme and the cotton alley theme adding so much to an already well-realised game world.

The core conceit of SMB’s gameplay mechanic lives or dies by its controls. In order for a game to rely so heavily on pinpoint-accurate jumps and moment-perfect timing, it needs to have a control scheme that is both intuitive and tighter than tight. Luckily, Super Meat Boy delivers both in spades. I died literally thousands of times playing this game, and not once did I ever feel that my death was the “game’s fault”. The controls are among the best I’ve ever encountered.

As a whole, the gameplay is devilishly addictive. All levels must be completed in a single life, and after you die you’re instantly brought back to the start of the level for another go. When you eventually do complete a level, you’re presented with a replay of all of your attempts played together at once. This 
 
 The game boasts a huge level of replayability, with “dark world” versions of each level adding an even more difficult challenge to those who complete the main story. User-created levels are being added to both the PC and Xbox versions as time goes on, and owners of the PC version will soon be able to create and share their own levels with the new level creator and portal. Add to this the many unlockable characters (each with their own unique abilities) as well as the collectable bandages hidden across the game world, and you’re left with a game that wont get old any time soon.
So maybe Super Meat Boy isn’t for everyone. The game requires a level of dexterity (not to mention patience) that probably wont be found in plentiful supply in casual gamers. Let’s be honest though, they were never the target market here. If you’re looking for a family-friendly, pick-up-and-play, “hey grandma you should try this” type of game, avoid SMB at all costs. However, if you’re looking for a fun, funny, challenging and infinitely rewarding experience, look no further than Super Meat Boy. is a nice touch that only adds to the immense rush of satisfaction gained from completing any of the games toughest levels.   
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