Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: Super Meat Boy [Nintendo Switch eShop]


The game’s name has become somewhat the stuff of legend at this point, infamous for delivering one of the most difficult and yet addictive experiences in gaming. It’s somewhat the Dark Souls of platforming, forcing you to to grit your teeth and try “just one more time” until you finally complete certain levels. It is Super Meat Boy, and if you consider yourself a hardcore gamer but haven’t at least played it yet you can turn in your membership card until you do.


For the uninitiated Super Meat Boy is pretty well the originator of the hardcore platforming genre that now has added numerous titles to its ranks after it showed the way. Part of why the game can be so hard, and yet still be widely revered, is that its controls are simple, consistent, and exacting. You run, you jump, you wall jump, you wall slide. You certainly will need to get used to the nuances of his acceleration, the specifics of how he jumps and stops, and the amount he will stick to a wall when he slides down it, but once you do it’s all about applying that knowledge to conquer what may at first seem like insane or impossible levels. With the more difficult levels what you’ll find is that you form a sort of muscle memory through repetition and that’s a big part of its formula. What can be entertaining is to then watch a replay when you’ve succeeded after a long string of failures to see all of your various runs played back at once as your screen runs red with all of the versions of Meat Boy who didn’t make it, it’s a fabulous touch.


If the name of the game was simply making your way through some levels and then calling it a day that would be nice, but the other dimension that Super Meat Boy absolutely shines in has to do with all of its added content. There’s so much hidden in the game its insane. First, if you thought the normal levels were challenging be sure to complete them quickly enough and you’ll get an A+ rating. If you really want to feel intimidated you’ll then have the ability to play the Dark World variant of that level, just be ready for your jaw to drop. You’ll also see bandages either carefully hidden or in some cases in plain sight near certain death. That’s where the other wonderful addition to the game comes in, the hidden and unlockable characters. Some characters you’ll be able to unlock using bandages but others you’ll have to get by finding their warp zones which only stay open for a set amount of time. Once there you’ll be challenged to complete stages inspired by that character’s game and if you can get through those levels you’ll then be able to play any level as them. Finding and unlocking Captain Video from the Runner series early on can really help you out if you’d prefer being a little more floaty and these variations in style all working on the same levels so well is a testament to the strength of the design… aside from really adding greatly to the fun.


In terms of caveats there’s no other way to say it than the game is notorious for a reason, it will absolutely make you want to do terrible things when you’ve splattered Meat Boy for the umpteenth time on the same buzzsaw. That said, finally getting past such obstacles is then all the more rewarding so if you’re interested in pushing your comfort zone it’s a great game to expand your skill set with. About my only other issue is that some of the levels are a bit dark on my Switch in handheld mode at my normal brightness level but that was easily compensated for.


As someone who originally played Super Meat Boy years ago, and has played games that have iterated on it since, I can say there’s still nothing that quite captures everything it does right. It feels fabulous on the Switch, it’s still as tough as ever, and the rewarding feeling when you conquer a tough-as-balls level never fails to put a smile on my face. If you’ve never indulged this may be the best platform to play it on as you can take it anywhere, and if you’ve played it before it’s well worth taking a return trip to Paintown, population: You.

Score: 8.5

Pro:
  • Even all these years later it is still the best overall challenging platformer out there
  • Dark World variants take the original and crank up the difficulty further
  • Controls that are easy to pick up paired with levels that will demand their mastery
  • Hidden characters and levels let you change things up a little and add greatly to variety and motivation

Cons:
  • This is absolutely not a game for people who anger easily
  • Some levels are a bit dark in handheld mode, though you obviously can adjust your brightness


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