Review: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is described as "tough as nails" by its developers. And boy, they aren't kidding. Ready to be put through the grinder?

Super Meat Boy is a 2D platformer in the vein of hard retro games like Namco's Quest of Ki. The plot is simple: Dr. Fetus kidnapped Bandage Girl, and it's up to Super Meat Boy to save her. The goal of each stage is to reach Bandage Girl by jumping between spinning saw blades, over salt mines and hypodermic needles, all the while avoiding lava and spikes. After each rescue of Bandage Girl, Dr. Fetus drags her off to another stage. Cute, funny cut-scenes separate the chapters and move the story along.

Ideal Player

Super Meat Boy isn't for the faint of heart. This is a hard game, so if you don't like playing through tough spots over and over until you get it right, please look elsewhere.

Why You Should Care

We've gone soft. Modern games have various difficulty settings, turning many titles into "rides." If anything, Super Meat Boy runs in the opposite direction, making gameplay as challenging as possible.



So that means this Super Meat Boy is hard? Yes, it is. The layout alone of certain stages is daunting, and the game wears the moniker "hardcore" as a badge of honor. Precision is a requisite for many of the stages — especially the later ones. The difference between life and death can be a single pixel. However, to ease the pain, players only have to clear 17 of the 20 stages of each chapter to get to the boss fight. Super Meat Boy does not aim to frustrate players. It aims to challenge them.

Geez, this game doesn't sound very fun. On the contrary! I am personally not a fan of difficult platformers, but I am a fan of Super Meat Boy. The game is not mean-spirited or sadistic, it's just challenging. The controls are tight — some of the most precise I've ever played — and the success of the player rides on that. Super Meat Boy might be difficult, but it's not unfair.

Review: Super Meat Boy
This little guy looks familiar. Bit.Trip Runner's Commander Video is just one of Super Meat Boy's in-game cameos!

If the game is hard, you probably die a bunch, right? You'll die thousands of time during this game. But death is not a punishment, but a learning experience. After perishing, your character instantly respawns, putting you right back in the action. Since the stages are so short, it's possible to pinpoint where you went wrong and attempt to improve that — over and over and over again. Optional warp zones offer a brief reprieve from death, giving players only three lives. When players do clear a stage, they get to view all the times they died in Replay Mode. It ends up a bloody mess with a sole Meat Boy making his way to Bandage Girl.

Bloody? Is this a violent game? Well, everything is cute. And Super Meat Boy is made of meat, and all. But the blood isn't blood for the sake of blood. The game has one of the most innovative uses of it. Meat Boy leaves a trail of blood on whatever he touches. This is helpful for providing clues on where you have been, making it easier to replicate tricky jumps. It also can serve as a warning as to where you've died.

You said the stages were short. Is the game short? The stages might be short, but there are hundreds of them. For those players especially skilled at platformers, Super Meat Boy also has alternative "Dark World" versions of levels that are even more challenging. There are also collectible bandages dotted through select stages that can be traded in for different characters. Snagging those bandages can be as difficult (if not, more) than clearing the stage itself! Additionally, there are bonus warp zones that transport players to worlds with different gameplay and art style, including worlds with monochromatic, Game Boy-inspired graphics.

Super Meat Boy In Action

View gallery »

The Bottom Line

Going into Super Meat Boy, I was apprehensive. But as I played, the game never felt frustrating. Hard, sure, but not frustrating. Super Meat Boy walks that delicate line of taking players to the edge, but never shoving them over it. It gives players precision tools and creates an environment for them to test their abilities. And it does it brilliantly. This is one fantastic platformer. Hard, but fantastic.

Super Meat Boy was developed and published by Team Meat for the Xbox 360, released on October 20. A version for Wii, PC and Mac is due in November. Currently priced at 800 Microsoft Points, regularly priced at 1200 Microsoft Points. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed 90 levels, but didn't beat it. Super Meat Boy beat me.