Back in October, Team Meat’s 2D platforming affair Super Meat Boy was released to critical acclaim when it released as an Xbox LIVE Arcade title. Which made me sad, because there wasn’t any PC version for me to check out — but now there is, and it’s available from Steam, so let’s take a look at the PC version of Super Meat Boy.
For those unaware, the game is akin to your typical platformer — and is built upon those same fundamental game mechanics of running, jumping and charging along a two-dimensional plain to reach the end of a level. Bandage Girl will be awaiting Meat Boy at that point, but you can be certain that the game’s enemy Dr. Fetus will snatch her away immediately giving the perfect reason for the little cube of red meat to move to the next level.
A legged cube of meat aims to rescue a girl made of bandages from an enemy that is simply a fetus in a jar — I know it sounds totally off the wall, but it provided a rather wacky excuse for Team Meat to make what is undoubtedly the best platformer of 2010. The game draws on those retro classics in every aspect; the 8-bit music mixes with the polished but still pixelated art style to make something that feels both new and nostalgic at the same time. But, where those memories of past titles really come back to haunt you, is with the difficulty. Many people complain that the difficulty of games has decreased recently, but Super Meat Boy means business. The huge number of short but sweet levels require the perfect combination of precision jumping, landing and timing that is often laid out so well that you’ll be praising the work that’s gone into the level design from the very start.
What I would say about this fact, though, is that when playing on a PC you’ll most definitely want to be using a gamepad — which the game kindly warns you off upon booting it. Getting through these levels is tough enough as it is, but it’ll be near impossible with a keyboard. There’s no way you’ll get past those heavily pressured, speedy boss battles — which are once again a huge credit to the games designers. You’ll find yourself gritting your teeth and gripping the gamepad evermore tightly as Meat Boy splats against hazardous objects over and over. It’s a case of memorising the paths you’ll need to take in the first instance, to then actually attempt to traverse them and realise it’s nowhere near as simple as it looks. Chances are there’ll be lengthened sighs and low pitched growls directed toward the monitor as you just miss that final ledge — but the frustration cannot overcome the addiction. “I know I can do it, just one more try!”
This is really the essence of Super Meat Boy; knowing exactly what is required of your thumbs, but ever struggling to actually make it happen. The developers have taken the most basic of game mechanics, graphical styles and soundtracks, and used them in a way that just goes to show that quick but simple gameplay can shine through amongst the triple A titles with hugely detailed narrative and elaborate cutscenes. It’s one of those real gems that appears every now and again from the world of indie games, delivering a huge amount of frustratingly fun gameplay. Tons of levels and the added pleasure of beating your friends in online leaderboards make Super Meat Boy a very worthy purchase indeed — you’d be hard pushed to play this one and not have fun. Recommended to all.