The Art of “Simplicity” is Very Much Alive in Gaming; Team Meat Delivers.
Following a fleshed down black and white intro of our characters, raging guitars and pounding drums,Super Meat Boy the game immediately greets us to our bloody crusader – Super Meat Boy! Instantly, the TV projects a brightly colored red screen, where every hand drawn animation is surrounded with dark borders. The character’s beady eyes stare you down as the ever pumping beat compels you to press start! Your heart is churning and pumping as the rhythm gets inside you. Just press start! Until finally you let off a twitch of your eye and press the damn button. As the screen flashes over to our menu, a mighty voice rains down, “SUPER MEAT BOY!” There’s a tone in the announcers voice that will stick with you. You’ll try to imitate it in the shower one day, but you will never get it quite right. The game looks like a big ol’ handful of shiny candy. But, you know, made out of meat.
The goal of the game is to run and jump your way through linear/vertical level designs while avoiding obstacles and bouncing off walls trying to reach Meat Boy’s gal, Bandage girl. If you die, it’s cool. With the press of a button you will instantly reappear at the beginning of the level, your completion timer reset and ticking away. A trail of blood marks your previous path, cleverly showing you what did and did not work during previous attempts.
For a game that sounds easy, it becomes extremely challenging. I have seen many criticize the difficulty; I say bring it on! Old school difficulty is hard to come by in games today. This one is so challenging at some points that you may want to slam your head against the wall! Team Meat realizes this and finds ways to ease that frustration. For starters they implemented a hilarious replay system after defeating a level. Many time trial type games show us a ghost character of ourselves playing through the game after completing a stage. The boys at Team Meat go a step further and show you every single attempt play out at the same time. The result is not only a huge comedic sigh of relief, but it melts off any frustrations collected over the hundreds of failed attempts you will endure. This makes every failure so much sweeter. It is simply one of the most delightful ways I’ve seen to mellow out a player after a challenging level.
The game play is as pure as it gets. Super Meat Boy does not rely on power-ups, suits, or weapon enhancements. Rather, you are constantly perfecting your mastery over the game’s control scheme, as the levels evolve around you. The result produces a touch and response dreamboat. If you are bummed about having a fixed character, fret no more! Team Meat has it covered. There are a slew of characters you can unlock, with numerous abilities. Double jumping, sticking to walls, and plasma blasters await the skilled player able to collect enough of the scattered Band-Aids throughout the land. It’s brilliant. Meat Boy stays pure, and the option for change is present, if you so desire.
If you are looking for something that reminds you of the good ol’ days, Super Meat Boy is dripping with nostalgia. The developers put that nostalgic feeling right into the gameplay, and that is an accomplishment on its own. I missed having Jedi-like reflexes, where I understood the moves before the screen panned. It brought me back to my early days with the Super Mario Bros.
The levels are divided up into chapters. You can complete the levels in any order, which is neat, but you need to complete a certain number of levels to unlock the boss stage. This final, extended, level usually has some giant monstrosity chasing you through a forest or some other flaming apocalypse. Achieving this will unlock the next chapter. To mix things up, and further bring you back to your glory days, there are warp zones scattered throughout the levels. These levels imitate the art style of classic titles, or other indie games. Within the warp zones there are three levels each, and you get three lives to burn through. Failure results in you restarting from the beginning. If that’s not enough, there is also a light/dark side of the game. The light world is the world you begin the game in, while the dark side is a more challenging version of each level. The dark worlds open up after completing the light version with a score of A+, for being so awesome. It’s fantastic.
Super Meat Boy, the game, is a rare experience which I highly suggest taking a bite out of. It’s one of those games where “the love of the game” is clear. The developers knew this was their baby, and left their fingerprints all over it. They set out to accomplish every goal they put in place, and did it with style and finesse. It responds beautifully, looks gorgeous, and surprises with subtle brilliance. The art of “simplicity” is very much alive in gaming, and Team Meat delivers.