Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Super Meat Boy review

Super Meat Boy is indie developer Team Meat's sequel to the popular flash game Meat Boy. This wild and wacky arcade game puts you in the shoes of Meat Boy, a humble square piece of animated meat on a mission to save his kidnapped girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil and devious Dr. Fetus, a suit-wearing-jar-clad Fetus and possibly the most unlikely villain you will ever come across. To complicate matters, between you and your girlfriend who is located at the end of each level, is all manner of hellish obstacles (rotating saw-blades, spikes ... salt) which must be navigated using a combination of Meat Boy's wall-clinging, jumping and sprinting abilities.

Eagerly expected, this already award winning title is the gaming equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie: humorous, daring, unafraid to be graphic and a love letter to the medium it adores. It's packed full of gaming clichés, 16-bit inspired graphics and music, and features an array of unlockable characters from other indie games.

Don't be under any illusions that this is just any platformer. Hidden under the facade of quirk and humour is a serious game, and it's hard. In the first few levels you're lulled into a false sense of security as you breeze through what appears to be a game with the difficulty of Super Mario Bros., but reality hits fast and hard half-way through the first 'world' and from there on in you're regularly presented with increasingly insurmountable odds to overcome, to the point that wanting to throw your controller across the room is not an unfamiliar feeling. This frustration is only further amplified by the knowledge that the game is fair. Every obstacle is obvious, the levels are completable and on average take less than twenty seconds but, for some reason you've died again. The whole experience should be enough to make you quit, but it doesn't. The perfectly styled visuals, the retro feel and the gaming clichés are enough to make you want to improve, and you do.

While the main game is more than enough of a challenge for your average gamer, if you manage to complete a level within a set time limit you're awarded an 'A+', your ticket into the dark world, an alternate version of the level. These alternate versions are harder and contain more than their fair share of spikes, saws and rockets.

Seperate from the main game and it's alternate dark world counterpart are warp zones, small purple vortexes which can be found scattered through levels in the game. These zones disappear after a few seconds, but if reached in time send the player to retro styled bonus levels, usually with only limited number of lives to survive before it's 'Game Over'.

Lives or no lives during this game you'll die a lot; chain-saws, spikes, bio-hazard waste, anything you touch will kill you. It's inevitable, expected and integrated beautifully into the game. To Super Meat Boy, every failure is simply an opportunity to put you in your place. Not only does it keep a record of your all-time death count, a figure that'll be well into the tens of thousands by the time you've completed all three hundred and fifty levels, but at the end of every level it also shows you a replay of your successful run – overlain with Meat Boys from every other failed attempt, which all meet their maker until only your one successful Meat Boy remains. Not only is this feature a humorous addition, but it is also serves as a testament to your efforts and spurs you on.

While the indie roots of the game are more than apparent in the game's style and appearance, the near-perfect gameplay would suggest nothing of the sort. It's fast, addictive, and well designed and while the levels maybe themed, they manage to maintain a variety that avoids making progressing through the game feel repetitive, while still providing increasingly difficult and new challenges.

This game is undoubtedly one of the most solid titles available from the arcade store and with the promise of more free quality content for a game oozing with replayability and hidden content at the price of 1200 Microsoft Points it is most certainly a worthy addition to any gamer’s library.

9/10

Words by Arran France

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