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Super Meat Boy (PC) artwork

Super Meat Boy (PC) review

"Like all good stories involving giant saw blades, exploding pieces of sentient meat, and evil fetuses, this one is about a girl. "

Like all good stories involving giant saw blades, exploding pieces of sentient meat, and evil fetuses, this one is about a girl.

This girl, to be exact: Bandage Girl. She's bright, loves nature and has a passion for life. It's only a shame she's caught in a bitter love triangle.

You see, Bandage Girl one day hooked up with a strapping young lad named Meat Boy, bonded with him instantly, and the two of them fell slab over heels for each other. It seemed like a picture perfect relationship with an inevitable marriage and cute adhesive-meat children.

Until Dr. Fetus came into the picture.

Dr. Fetus is an unloved soul who hates Meat Boy, presumably because Meat Boy has what the doctor never could: a companion. Fetus learned from evil masters like Bowser and Ganon the age old art, one that was thought to be lost: the art of being a 2D maiden-stealing assface. With his wily wits and cocky countenance, he kidnapped the fair Bandage Girl and absconded with her into the forest where she and Meat Boy spend their time. His plans: to be an evil bastard and to rid the world of Meat Boy, using his beloved as bait.

It is you who must guide Meat Boy through a world filled with tons of references to older 8-bit games like Super Mario Bros, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man II, and even Adventures of Lolo, all shown through comical cut scenes. This is a throwback to the side scrollers of old, the platformers that infuriate you so much that you want to punch old ladies, yet are so trying and addictive that you cannot stop playing. Super Meat Boy is a back to basics powerhouse that involves thumb skill, thinking, planning, timing, and reflexes to guide its eponymous protagonist through level after level of dodging flesh-slicing blades, cascades of salt, piles of giant maggots, and oodles of missiles, demons and mutants all for one ultimate prize: Bandage Girl.

Meat Boy doesn't have a gun or arm cannon, or a legendary katana handed down in his family, or the ability to turn enemies into eggs. Neither does he have illogical plumber legs with which to crush his opponents. The only chance Meat Boy has is to out run, out jump, and out think his opponents, bouncing from platform to platform, even using the walls to his advantage by sliding down them or jumping back and forth off them in the hopes of gaining access to higher plateaus.

The very first level is a gimme. Bandage Girl sits on a platform in the middle of a basic valley with no enemies or obstacles. A simple leap off the nearby wall will launch Meat Boy onto the platform to his beloved. Upon reaching her, Dr. Fetus teleports in, grabbing her and taking her to the next stage. As you advance, you'll see more resistance with well-placed saw blades buzzing all about, contraptions firing smaller blades at you, and the classic disintegrating blocks. It's here you have to use your platforming expertise, timing your jumps, planning your course carefully, jumping at the proper angle so as not to fly into a giant, keening blade.

Levels start out almost laughably easy, like the game is just going to lay down and let you have your way with it, but after you complete the forest and head to the dilapidated hospital loaded with medical waste, you start to see a shift in difficulty. Soon the blades are everywhere, giving you little space to jump. Quite a few levels have you sliding down a wall only to leap off it and through a narrow berth between two massive blades in the hopes of landing on a tiny platform. Jump at the wrong time or angle and it's into the blades you go, exploding into gory bits. Don't jump far or hard enough and you'll plummet to your death. Many others may be tiny in size, but feature convoluted winding pathways and drops, forcing you to weave in and out of tight quarters while dodging life-ending traps and jumping over pit after pit of dirty syringes.

More and more obstacles will pop up, and the surprises never seem to end: Meaty clones come at you in a rancorous rage, hoping to pummel you to bloody pulp; rifts in time and space summon demons that fly at you and then explode into scores of smaller minions; giant, rotting severed heads chase you about like the masks in Super Mario Bros. 2; rocket launchers send heat-seeking missiles hoping to blow you into bloody burger meat (but plan effectively and you can use those missiles to destroy certain walls and advance through levels). Seems Dr. Fetus is a very crafty guy. His obstacles courses are built so much as weaved. Each one is so intricate and well thought-out, planned and calculated like any quasi-mastermind from the 8- and 16-bit eras might, and in some ways better.

You won't just screw up now and then and maybe have to restart. You will die a thousand deaths and mutter several four-letter words for each. Super Meat Boy is much like its elders in that it's a difficulty task, one that sometimes makes very strong and ambitious demands. Unlike games like Ninja Gaiden, Super Meat Boy doesn't have a “6-2.” Even though you will die a lot, you will find that the game rarely screws you over and that it doesn't make ridiculous demands. They're all difficult as hell, but definitely doable. It helps that the challenge is balanced and progressively builds, only giving you an inch of toughness with each new level, and that the controls are tight and very responsive. Having infinite lives helps, too.

This still does not diminish the frustration factor. You'll lose track of how many times didn't time your jump properly and wound up flying into a blade, or couldn't avoid the surge of giant maggots in one stage in world 5, or how many times you accidentally jumped into the pits filled with used syringes in the hospital. This game does not lay down and let you have a victory, it beats the ever-loving bejesus out of you, but still extends a hand to help you back up.

By the time the challenge becomes extreme, you should be well under the game's spell. The fast-paced action, thrill of danger, intricate levels, and sensation of triumph every time you succeed keep you from shelfing the game, keep you wanting “just one more level” before going to bed.

It helps that Meat Boy is not alone on his mission. Even when trepidation and dejection set in, he still finds solace in friends and little reminders left by Bandage Girl. Finding Warp Zones and bandages gives him access to allies like the headcrab from Half-Life or Commander Video from the Bit.Trip games with distinct playing styles and abilities. The headcrab, for instance, can cling tenaciously to the walls. Video can temporarily float in the air, giving you advantages in tricky spots where Meat Boy might not be quite as viable.

But if you really want a challenge, try beating all of the levels within the the projected time. Do so and you'll get an A+ rating along with access to a “Dark Side” version of the level with added challenge. By “added challenge,” I really mean “put your gamepad through your monitor” challenge. Only, however, if you want your ass kicked horribly or you want the special ending should you attempt Dark Side levels.

Despite the high frustration factor, the game is loaded with great platforming situations the likes of which haven't been seen in years, ridiculous humor, and old school game tropes galore. Early levels might be a bore, but later levels are expertly planned and crafted, making them dangerous and exciting. It never cheats you with things like endlessly spawning enemies, erratically flying birds, irritating medusa heads, or any unforeseeable hazards or obstacles. It's up to you to use the wit and skill to get yourself to Bandage Girl. Even when you've beaten it, you haven't conquered it, what with there being tons of unlockable levels and characters, bandages to collect, Warp Zones to complete, and even alternate endings. Super Meat Boy really is a blast.

Closing note: Thanks to Nick141292 of YouTube for allowing me to use his video.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (February 07, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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I'm sure all five people interested in this game will be thrilled to know it isn't terrible.


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Masters posted February 17, 2011:

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JoeTheDestroyer posted February 17, 2011:

Thanks, Marc. :D
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Ninjamohawk posted February 20, 2011:

Very very good review.

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