Instead of reviewing Super Meat Boy, Iíve decided to review you. Graphics. Hmm, could be a bit better but they'll do. Lasting appeal. Largely depends on how well the graphics hold up later on. Gameplay, you like to think youíre pretty good, donít you? Youíve completed Call of Halo 9 on Vetendary, and killed over 9,000 12 year old American boys, after all. Youíre wrong though, youíre rubbish at games and Super Meat Boy is here to prove it.
Overall, I award you a 1980s videogame magazine style review score of 45.213%. Good to be specific.
Super Meat Boy is hard, and thatís very much the point. If youíve followed its development at all and are still interested enough in the game to be reading this review, hard is probably what youíre after. Youíll be happy. Itís hard, literally to the point of being painful. When you play Super Meat Boy, you wonít notice it happening, but your entire body reacts to it. It tightens, your grip on the controller is so tight that you can barely let go of it when you stop as your hand has become claw-like and it hurts to move it. When you do wrest it away, youíll notice the bruise that the controllerís left behind in your palm. Thatís not even the worst of it.
At one point, I died (again) and my body relaxed, only then did I realise that for that entire level I hadnít been breathing, such was my intense concentration on getting through the level. Thereís no other game on Xbox LIVE Arcade that causes such an insane reaction, and while itís mildly worrying that youíre forgetting to breathe, itís also brilliant that in 2010, as a grown-up, games can still take you over like this and become the most important thing in your world while you're playing them.
The best thing about the difficulty? Super Meat Boy manages to be hard without ever being unfair. The controls are so perfect, the movement and momentum of Meat Boy and friends so natural feeling, that even from the very first level you can be sure that any mistake you make is your own fault. Youíre expected to make them, as well. Not only does the game (amusingly) track a death count that will easily exceed 10,000 by the time youíre finished, but upon completing a level it shows you a replay of your successful run Ė alongside every single one of your deaths. This is hilarious, but also quite useful in a way as it allows you to see where you may have lost time.
Getting through Super Meat Boyís levels is hard enough, getting through them in the best possible time and topping the leaderboards is harder. Itís not like the game needed to be any harder, but then it gets harder still. After completing a level, pressing X on the map changes the light world to the dark world. The levels are basically the same but with more spikes, more buzzsaws, just more of all the stuff that can kill you. Which is a lot of stuff. Getting through those levels in the best possible time and topping the leaderboards, well, manage it and then you deserve to think youíre pretty good at games.
Itís a fairly clichť sentiment, but Super Meat Boy is a love letter to gaming. Firstly through its cast which, aside from Meat Boy, features a multitude of characters from other indie games, all with their own special abilities that allow for certain bandages to be collected. Bandages are placed in the most dangerous (of course) places in certain levels, and collecting enough of them (and finishing the levels theyíre in) unlocks more of the playable characters.
Then, warp zones. Also in certain levels a purple vortex will be visible for a short amount of time. If you make it there quick enough youíll be transported into a warp zone. These control the same as the normal game, and have similar traps, but are presented in a number of different retro styles for some really old school gaming. It doesnít end with the sound and visuals, either. There are no lives in the main game, but in warp zones youíll often have three lives to complete a level, or itís Ďgame overí and youíll be kicked out back to the map.
The smallest thing, but just another sign that this is a game full of love, full of humour, full of the smallest touches that just elevate it beyond other games. Check your friends list when someoneís playing Super Meat Boy, and it tells you not only the level theyíre on, but also how many times theyíve died on it. Sit and watch it tick up, laugh at your friends, beautiful.
There are over 300 levels available when the game launches, but a bonus chapter, ĎThe Internetsí is designed to allow Team Meat to add free new levels whenever they feel like it, in batches of 20. These will be designed by Team Meat themselves, or will feature the best levels created in the level editor that will be available for the PC version in the future. If you finish the game and find itís still not hard enough, thereís always the chance itíll get harder still, something of a theme.
Itís rare that a game lives up to its hype so perfectly. It was meant to be a game that controlled perfectly, looked great, had a wonderful sense of humour, and most importantly, a level of difficulty that most games are scared to implement. Itís all of those things and more. Itís the best game on Xbox LIVE Arcade and is unlikely to be bettered any time soon.