Bringing The Beef
There has been a recent trend rising amongst video games that could be perceived as a retreat to the ‘retro’ ages. Certainly, the current prosperity of the side-scrolling format invites an interesting concept that counters the industrial push for advanced 3D technology. The popularity of ‘retro’ allows indie developers to produce quality games that are appreciated by players rather than dismissed at the mention of the word ‘cheap’. Time and again indie developers have proven that great games can be created within a tiny budget.
Team Meat is one of those small indie companies that have been spotted through their self-earned popularity gained from their free, addictive web games. Super Meat Boy is their transition title from Internet game to full-packaged arcade title. Can Team Meat step up to the plate and continue their success on a paid platform?
Back To Basics
Super Meat Boy is a platformer that – as the title suggests - has you play as Super Meat Boy who is on a quest to rescue Bandage Girl from the evil Dr. Fetus. Yes, that’s right, the villain is a fetus! What’s more, this is a fetus in an incubating robot, wearing a suit, top hat and a monocle. Quirky! Although this does sound more like a fetish porno, the game actually closely resembles the classic platform titles of the eighties and early nineties. The difference is that it replaces pixels with a much smoother looking block-and-line style. Those classic platformers are rarely matched in quality, mainly due to their simple design and challenging gameplay. Super Meat Boy uses the same basic formula to provide a nostalgic return to form within the genre.
Following suit, the story is stripped-back but is told through a set of accompanying video sequences where communication is found through cute sound effects and body gestures. Don’t expect an emotional roller-coaster but the narrative has an appeal with its subtle humour and sees the unfolding of a naïve love story. Inevitably, the focus is on the gameplay, but the characters are iconic enough to stand alongside others worshipped by the gaming community.
A Slice Above The Rest
Although the controls simply consist of movement, jumping and sprinting, it does take a while to totally master piloting Meat Boy. Balancing his speed and height combined with timing mean the controls are more complex than is initially apparent but made easy by extremely accurate and reliable response times.
You will be climbing up walls and jumping to narrow ledges whilst avoiding the many death traps. Performing these tricky actions, you will realise that the game is one of the most precise platformers ever made. The work gone into this element really elevates the game: it is tight, fluid and a lot of fun. This fluidity is found also in the short load times and the almost instantaneous respawns after dying.
Smells Like Bacon
As Meat Boy is essentially a cube of raw meat, his squishy exterior is very vulnerable to the external world. The main story of the game is spaced across 5 different locations, each of which corresponds to a chapter in the game. Each location contains 20 levels filled with unique hazards and threats to Meat Boy’s fragile existence. The forest contains buzz saws, the hospital has syringes lying around and the salt factory is self-explanatory. The idea is to traverse each level in order to rescue Bandage Girl, but upon reaching her she is whisked away by Dr. Fetus once again.
If Meat Boy touches any of the hazards he is killed instantly and reset to the beginning of the level. This may sound frustrating and at times and of course it can be, especially since you will be dying a lot. Luckily the 20 levels in each chapter can be completed in any order so in a sense you will never be stuck on just one level.
Outstanding simplicity and sharpness combined with brilliant level design. Huge amount of content.
Some may find it too challenging at times.