Super Meat Boy
Ooooohhhh... Who's in a hard platformer for all to see? SUPER MEAT BOY! Fleshy and red and daring is he! SU-PER MEAT BOY! If you like challenge and things that go "squish!", then Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes have what you wish! SU-PER MEAT BOY! SU-PER MEAT BOY! SUUUUPEEER... MEAT BOOOOY!
That's right, kiddies, everyone's favourite blob of the red stuff is back in this quirky, tricky follow up to 2008's original. Fans want to know; is it worth your time and cash? Short answer? Yes. Long answer? Awwwww yissssssss.
The story in Super Meat Boy is pretty simple. You have Meat Boy, and his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, who loves him. You also have Dr Fetus, who nobody loves, and decides to abscond with Bandage Girl. As Meat Boy, you'll do anything to get your adhesive beloved back, and you set out to rescue her... no matter how many times you're reduced to a pile of gory chunks in the process. Which will be a great many times, since the level design in Super Meat Boy tends to be, as a rule, spite made manifest.
The game offers you both keyboard and gamepad control options, and both I and the game recommend the latter. Frankly, if you can manage to beat the game with a keyboard, you're a better person than I am, Charlie Brown. The game is divided up into themed worlds comprised of short but fiendish levels, and the goal at each (except the boss stages) is always to rescue Bandage Girl, wherever she may be. Just be careful since a single hit for Meat Boy from either foe or hazardous environment will kill him and force you to restart the level. You'll need to run, leap, wall-jump and bravely dash your way through every obstacle, and at the end of each stage you get to see a video of all your level attempts trying (and probably failing) at once.
Of course, Bandage Girl doesn't have to be your only goal. As you squish your way through the game's 300+ levels you'll find warp zones that'll take you to other games, bandages you can collect to help unlock new characters with special abilities, and once you've beaten a level you may want to check out its more challenging Dark World counterpart... if you can find it. Buckle up, buttercup; we're in this for the long haul.
Analysis: Let's be honest; you can't make a platformer that the average gamer is going to fail approximately one billion times at without also making it inventive and charming. People would be lined up outside your door with torches and pitchforks otherwise. Super Meat Boy isn't just punishingly difficult, it's extremely imaginative. Each level constantly throws new twists at you, such as forcing you to play a level entirely in silhouette. It's a great incentive to keep playing and see what it comes up with next. The visuals are simple but clean and appealing, and the soundtrack is fantastic. It's also funny, in a way that manages to be both dark and completely absurd. It's the sort of thing you know you should probably feel bad about for laughing at, but can't quite help yourself.
A frequent response each time a new level loads is probably going to be, "How in the world do they expect me to do that?" At first contact, most stages of Super Meat Boy tend to resemble a haphazard fever dream of buzzsaws and other dangers. But sit a moment and observe your surroundings and one of Super Meat Boy's best features will start to shine; there is always a method to the madness, and once you figure out how to approach a particular stage running through it is usually very fun. Level design isn't just clever; it's downright Machiavellian. Dance, meaty puppet, dance!
Of course, if you're not into the sort of relentlessly aggressive, split-second-twitch gaming Super Meat Boy offers, this probably isn't the game for you, since that's mostly all it offers. There are very few levels in the game where standing still for more than a split second is ever a good idea, and it's fairly easy to work yourself into a jittery lather. Frankly, I was rarely sure if I was ever too caffeinated to play, or not caffeinated enough; there were absolutely times when I needed a time out. These are times when Meat Boy's tendency to explode if he's within a hair's breadth of a hazard are really grating, coupled with how springy he is. There were instances where I literally thought, "There's just no way. I absolutely cannot pull that off." (Though of course I eventually did.)
Admittedly, Super Meat Boy isn't going to be for everyone, and to be honest, it isn't trying to be. Fans of high-difficulty games will love the challenge, and anyone can appreciate the sheer amount of effort that's gone into making this game with its no-room-for-error stages and signature cheek. Super Meat Boy is absolutely insane, frantic, disgusting (but cute!), and at times incredibly frustrating... and personally, I loved every second of it. If the idea of a fetus in a giant robotic tuxedo and monocle flipping you off before the opening cinematics are over doesn't scandalise you, you might want to give this one a try.
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