The Stickman Reviews : Super Meat Boy.
At first glance, Super Meat Boy may seem rather simple visually, but when you actually get into playing it you realise that the graphics are one of the most appealing aspects of the game whilst playing and whilst watching the cut-scenes. Renowned indie personality Edmund McMillen has a unique, often disturbing art-style which fits perfectly with the demented world of Super Meat Boy, where a skinless boy tries to rescue a girl made of plasters from a fetus in a top hat and monocle. It could be argued that such an...odd concept for a game wouldn't have been nearly as appealing had it not been for McMillens artistic talents which ooze from every menu and cut-scene, whilst the retro styled blocky graphics of the game itself complement this perfectly. All in all, simple? Yes. Brilliant? Damn right! Super Meat Boy wouldn't be half the game it is without it.
The aim of each level in Super Meat Boy is pretty straight forward, navigate yourself through a series of increasingly complicated obstacles from one end of the map to the other, where you'll find Bandage Girl and the level will end. It's a tried and true blueprint that's put to great use in this game. For the main bulk of the game you only really have four buttons to worry about, left and right, jump and sprint (Some additional moves are thrown in for unlockable levels and characters but it's still the same basic setup), it's this bare bones system that makes this game so addictive even when it is kicking your ass. Mixing the best of simple retro gameplay and modern pick up and play styles means that you can dip in and out of Super Meat Boy whenver you please without worrying about losing your progress. Complete a level? It's saved and done and you can quite right there and then. Will you want to? Well, that depends on how long it took you to complete it, but probably, yeah. The simple but fun gameplay really adds to the replay value because you'll want to play through levels again, even if they do bring you to tears all over again. Super Meat Boy is a ton a fun no matter how long you play it for.
When making a game that is so heavily based around the concept of being stupidly difficult, it's important that you make the controls as tight as humanly possible, otherwise for us the players it won't feel like we're at fault when we keep dying. Thankfully (Although bad news for anyone who likes to point the blame from themselves) Super Meat Boy's controls are precision platforming at its best, even when playing it on the keyboard, something the game itself tells you not to do every time you boot it up (It would probably be even better with a controller, but still). All your jumps and bounces and runs need to be prefectly timed in order to suceed, so it's a damn good thing that the game is as responsive and smooth as it is. Like the best of ultra-hard games, it very rarely feels like the game itself has let you down when you die, because Meat Boy's control is entirely in your hands. It's a breath of fresh air in this day and age of scripted events and QTE's to see a game where every move is your own, even if it does resultingly leave you a puddle of blood on the flood. Not only are the controls spot on, but the way in which the game warps you back to the start of the level almost instantly upon dying means you forgoe the horrific loading screens that have infuriated gamers from the dawn of the medium right up to modern times (Far Cry 3 being a most recent offender). These lightning fast load times and precision controls means you can't help but continue to have fun despite being oh so very infuriated...at least for longer than you normally would in a more traditional game.
You're going to be hearing the music in Super Meat Boy a lot thanks to the length of time it takes to beat most of the levels and worlds in the game, so it's a good thing that the soundtrack is as kickass as it is. A seeming mixture of heavy metal and retro sounds, the music in Meat Boy is catchy, engrossing and perfectly suited to the tone and visual style of the game. Personal favourites include the above Boss theme, and the World 2 theme which I heard A LOT whilst trying to beat it without having a heart attack, you can hear that one here (Since it saves me fiddling around with video embedding again). Those are my two personal favourites (That I've heard so far) but, honestly? They're all pretty damn badass. Again, it takes me back to the days of those retro games with the catchy tunes you still remember to this day, even if that's because they loop over constantly until you complete the level you're on. The music in Super Meat Boy makes you not mind constantly dying and failing because it means you get to listen to the badass soundtrack some more!
If there's one complaint I find with a lot of Indie Games, is that they're all rather light on content, great as many of them are. It's understandable given the average size of an indie studio sometimes being as low as 2 core developers but still, often you feel that you aren't getting a huge amount of bang for your buck, even if what you get is awesome (Sword and Sorcery EP for instance). Super Meat Boy was primarily made by two people so you really can't expect a huge amount of content...right? Wrong...AGAIN, jeez, you guys just aren't on the ball today, are you? Super Meat Boy has 6 main worlds, all with 20 main levels, a boss and at least one warp zone, each warp zone generally has 3 levels to itself, each with a unique retro visual style and generally a new unlockable character. Then you've got the dark worlds, which are the 6 worlds and 20 levels made even harder, as well as the mysterious minus worlds that pop up on occasion and make you go WHAT THE FUUUUUCCKK JUST HAPPENED. So you've got 12 Worlds, each with roughly 24 levels each, tons of replay value in order to unlock characters and get higher rankings/quicker times on each level and what do you have? Your moneys worth, that's for sure.
Going into Super Meat Boy I knew it was going to be challenging, I mean, the game is practically known for its insane difficulty...but there's always a part of you that thinks "Oh, it can't be THAT hard, right? I'm a pretty good gaming guy...IT AIN'T NOTHIN", and even when playing through World 1 (Which is basically the well disguised tutorial of the game), yeah it's pretty hard but not impossible...maybe this won't be so hard, right? WROOOONGG AGAIN BLOG READERS. The second you get to World 2 you realise that this game will be the death of you. Even if it does take longer for you to do so than the average hard game thanks to good gameplay and quick respawn times, you will get pissed, you will slam your desk and YOU WILL SWEAR...A LOT. FUCK. So why is this a bad thing exactly? Well....as stupid as it sounds...it's often just far too tricky and infuriating, particularly in the later worlds. So I'm saying a game known for being hard is too hard, am I? Yes. Does that make me a moron? Probably, but this is MY REVIEW, BITCH, I'LL SAY WHAT I WANT. The reason why I haven't finished this game despite getting so far is simply because that well defined balance between fun and frustrating was rapidly devolving into pure rage. It often feels like there's no graspable way to complete a level, no matter how precise your controlling is, there's not even the slightest hint at a solution, it's not that you can't manage it, it's just that you can't find it at all. That's when I got fed up frankly, fun as the game is, you need to toss me a fucking bone sometimes otherwise I just won't carry on playing! Sure, I may one day finally defeat 'The Rapture' but what ungodly horrors await me in the final World? You can only assume it'll be even harder, and that's something I really don't know if I want to experience.
Now this? This got on my tits big time. A lot of the more complicated levels in Super Meat Boy require you to learn a pattern in order to pass through them alive...okay...that's fine, it might take a while but it's still satisfying to get past them. The problem though lies in the fact that once you've spent forever slowly getting your way through one bit, you'll suceed, only to end up in yet another batshit crazy system of saws and jumps that you have to learn an entirely new pattern to get past, as well as not only remembering the previous one but also getting through it each time you die in order to try the next part. So that's pretty fucking annoying...and THEN...when you've FINALLY got yourself past that FUCKING thing...when you've succeeded in navigating two insanely complicated platforming sections, you think it's all over...and then...THERE'S ANOTHER FUCKING ONE TO GET TO THE END...HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO THESE WITHOUT DYING ABOUT 50 BILLION TIMES? SURE IT'S GREAT THAT YOU SPAWN SO QUICKLY BUT YOU DO SO AT THE START OF THE FUCKING LEVEL, EVERY TIME. FUUUUUCKK...GOD....SHIT....*Ahem*, so yeah...not a big fan of that style of gameplay, it really does feel like your accomplishments of getting past tricky parts of the game are being spat on and crammed up your ass, the game's almost talking to you, saying "OH...YOU THINK YOU DID GOOD? NO YOU FUCKING DIDN'T, HERE'S ANOTHER FUCKING NIGHTMARISH PLATFORMING SECTION, HAVE FUN WITH THAT, BITCH" and kicks you around on the floor like a helpless puppy. And you don't kick a puppy...right? Well, I do but that's because I'm a shit.
Just a minor pet peeve of mine so I'll keep it brief. As much as I love the visuals of this game, I do sometimes feel like the cut-scenes needed a bit more time before being added to the game. Don't get me wrong, they're funny and often perfectly fine, but the simple cartoony visuals often make the cut-scenes look...unfinished. I know this is an indie game and not some big budget Disney film but...I dunno, they just look a little off sometimes, y'know? I would make a comment about sound issues, but I think that's more my computer than the game itself, which is why you should never review PC games people!