There are certain Xbox 360 achievements that people should be proud to have. Mile High Club in Call of Duty 4, Way of the Master Ninja in Ninja Gaiden II, World Champion in GRAW, and countless others. However anyone who gets the achievement for 100% completion in Super Meat Boy should get a handshake from the president and their own robot because my god they have earned it.
You see, Super Meat Boy thinks you’re a bitch. In fact it’s positive that you are. It doesn’t think you can handle what its got. It thinks you’re going to puss out and give up before you can even finish the game. And you know what? Super Meat Boy is likely right.
Every review on the planet has opened with how hard the game is but it really is impossible not to lead with that.Super Meat Boy is one of the hardest games you are likely to encounter, not only this year, but during your entire existence. Maybe that’s stretching it, but this one is definitely a doozy that is not for the impatient.
Super Meat Boy appears to be a standard 2D platformer, and when you really look at it I suppose that it is. Meat Boy can run, jump and wall climb. Those are all of the moves in your arsenal. All you have to do is use them to get to the end of the level where your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, is waiting. Simple right?
Oh lord no. Super Meat Boy gives you a handful of levels to get used to the controls and then it officially stops pulling any punches. The difficulty ramps up right away and never lets up. There are points where you assume that this must be as hard as it gets, but that difficulty ramp refuses to let up and just keeps right on going.
I think I’ve got my point across that the game ain’t easy. So what is it about Super Meat Boy that makes it so good? Because although it’s ridiculously hard, it’s never frustrating.
First of all the controls are pitch perfect, which is crucial here. If even once you could blame a death on a control issue, the experience is ruined. You can’t do it here though, the controls are simply too good. Anyone who says they died because the character didn’t do what they said to do, is lying to you.
The level design is consistently unique, which is made all the more impressive by the sheer amount of levels in the game (literally hundreds). Considering the limited amount of moves at your disposal, the developers did an incredible job of constantly giving you new and inventive challenges to overcome.
You start off in the Light World, which contains well over a hundred levels. For each of the Light World levels where you earn a perfect rating, you will unlock the Dark World equivalent of that level. Now the Light World levels are immensely difficult, so you can probably imagine what the Dark World brings to the table. Even the first world is relentless. If someone approached you and said you would be killed unless you either successfully beat the first section of Dark World levels, or wrestle two hungry sharks into submission, you would have to think hard about which is the simpler task.
On top of the Light and Dark World levels, if you collect enough of the bandages that are scattered throughout the levels, there are secret stages to play through where you unlock additional characters, all from other Indie games. There’s Tim from Braid, Commander Video from the Bit Trip series, and many more, all of whom are playable and have a completely different feel from Meat Boy himself. Oh and those bandages you need to collect to get these characters? Yea good luck with a lot of those. This is the kind of game that is going to drive a completionist absolutely insane. I’m not ashamed to admit that I think I may have hit my wall with this game, and I’m sure it will happen to most other players as well.
Super Meat Boy actually does have some fun with its high level of difficulty. When you die during a level, the remnants of your meaty corpse will stay in that spot until eventually a level is just coated with bloody meat. When you do complete a level, you are treated to a replay showing all your attempts running at the same time. So you will start with dozens of Meat Boys and watch them all get killed off until eventually the remaining one comes out the victor. It’s a very nice touch. The game also rather sadistically keeps a running tab of each and every one of your deaths. I’m comfortably resting somewhere around 2,000 as of this writing, and that number is only going to keep on skyrocketing.
The game has a terrific sense of humour. The game’s main villain, Dr. Fetus, is true to his namesake as he is literally a fetus in a robot that is wearing a suit and a monocle. Each world opens up with an homage to a classic game and each one concludes with an always hilarious cut scene. The one following world 2 gave me one of the darker video game laughs I think I’ve ever had. It’s quite something when a game can strike such a good balance between making you smile and laugh, and making you want to eat the controller out of pure rage.
You will yell and curse at this game. You will often think about giving up and will no doubt yell “Fuck this game!” more than a handful of times. But you know what else you will do? You will keep playing. Because you know how good it’s going to feel when you finally conquer that level, only to begin the entire process over again when you start the next level.
Super Meat Boy is a game I think everyone can appreciate, but certainly not everyone will enjoy. Your best bet is to download the trial version and play through it. If halfway through it you think to yourself “This is insane, I can’t do this!” then stay far far away from the full product.