majormitch's Super Meat Boy (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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The fair challenge

I’ve always enjoyed a good platformer. It’s one of my favorite genres, and I seem to find myself wishing there were more good ones year after year. That’s why I love it when a game like Super Meat Boy rolls around. This is a brilliantly crafted, tough as nails platformer that has a lot to offer. It’s certainly not for everyone, but Super Meat Boy is a real treat for those who appreciate a fun, challenging 2D platformer.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that some of the best 2D platformers in recent years have come in small downloadable (and often independent) packages. After all, this is a genre that’s at its best when delivering tight controls and a stiff challenge, which can occasionally be difficult to stomach for extended periods of time. Super Meat Boy follows this blueprint to a tee. The level of control here is amazing- games in general would do well to be anywhere near this responsive. It just does wonders for a game to control so smoothly, and is perhaps the main reason that running and jumping around each stage is as fun as it is. The levels are also designed extremely well. You start out performing the simplest of tasks, and the game ramps up in complexity at a snappy pace to keep things fresh and exciting throughout. The puzzles and obstacles cover a wide variety of scenarios, and are deftly crafted to make the best possible use of the tools available to you. It just never loses steam, maintaining the highest quality from start to finish.

When you have controls and level design this solid, it allows a game to test your skill as much as it wants to. And while I generally shy away from describing games as “hard”, Super Meat Boy definitely provides a sturdy challenge. Be prepared to die hundreds, if not thousands of times just to complete the main game- not to mention the slew of bonus levels that are even harder. Deaths also happen rapidly, thanks to the short and intense nature of each of the game’s many hundred levels. I can see where this would be off-putting to some, and may cause them to avoid a game like this at all costs. But Super Meat Boy, like any other well made game, is consistently fair in the demands it makes, and is highly rewarding as a result. It lays out obstacles in a straightforward, unambiguous manner, and never relies on cheap tricks or frustrating design to impede your progress. In a way, this makes it a "gamer’s" game. It’s about testing your skill against a fair, well designed challenge, and being duly rewarded when you come out on top. That's a big part of what video games are about, and Super Meat Boy nails it on the head.

Throw in a smorgasbord of unlockable characters and levels under a $15 price tag (or $10 if you snagged it quickly), and Super Meat Boy becomes a pretty darn amazing package. Sure, it may not push the bill in any significant way, and may be too hot for some to handle. But Super Meat Boy’s stellar controls and fantastic design lend themselves to a wholly satisfying 2D platformer that any fan of the genre should enjoy.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.

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