|System: X360 (XBLA), Wii (WiiWare), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Team Meat||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Team Meat||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
Super Meat Boy will punch you in the gut. Not just once though. In fact, before the experience is over, Super Meat Boy will destroy you several thousand times. But don't let that scare you. Sure, Meat Boy is frustrating at times, but it's also a really great platformer with an amazing sense of humor.
Veterans of the classic flash game N (later ported to Xbox Live Arcade as N+) will find Super Meat Boy instantly familiar. If super difficult 2D shooters can be called bullet hell shooters, then Super Meat Boy could likely be called a saw hell platformer. Horrendous deaths and obstacles stand in Meat Boy's path everywhere he goes, but with a little luck and a heaping dose of dexterity there's nothing you can't help him accomplish.
The aforementioned saws are a signature obstacle throughout Super Meat Boy, and they lead to very quick, grim deaths. Just a single touch and these spinning blades will slice through Meat Boy, splattering his meaty chunks across the level. In a nice graphical touch, the blood from each of your deaths remains on the level even after you die. It's neat to see a level completely soaked in your blood after you've died 50+ times on a tough level.
And yes, no matter how skilled you are at platformers, you will absolutely die hundreds of times. This is simultaneously Super Meat Boy's most endearing quality and it's most frustrating fault. Sometimes your deaths are fun, even hysterical. Flying out of control into a saw blade is just plain funny (doing it fifty times is even funnier). But some of Super Meat Boy's levels aren't just difficult; they're practically impossible to complete without dying at least a half-dozen times. There are often tricks that you couldn't possibly know until they kill you. This kind of cheap difficulty is anathema to a fun platforming experience, and its (limited) presence in Super Meat Boy is most unwelcome.
But those types of levels aren't common. And when they rear their ugly head, it usually only results in a few unwelcome deaths and then you move on. The reason it's not such a big deal is because SMB has wonderfully fast load times. After you die, it only takes a matter of seconds before you are loaded back at the beginning of the level for another try. I can't understate how important it was for them to nail this aspect of the game, and luckily they did it perfectly. If the load times were long then dying would be maddening. Each death would be a punishment, and an exile back to the purgatory of load screens. Instead, each death is a learning experience and a chance to try again with fresh eyes.
SMB's greatest strength are its levels. Each location takes place in one of six distinct worlds with unique obstacles and challenges. There are over 100 levels just in the light world section of the game. Then the experience flips to the dark world, which features even more difficult versions of each level. It's not required, but if you're some kind of masochist you might enjoy trudging through the dark world.
Each level is lovingly rendered as an homage to the days of classic 2D platformers. The whole experience is pixelated just like old 16-bit games, but still looks great and possesses a lot of great detail. Between each new world, players are treated to short vignettes featuring a clash of the game's protagonist and antagonist, Super Meat Boy vs. Dr. Fetus. These scenes are more than just entertaining. They're absolutely hilarious. I've rarely said that about a video game before, but SMB is genuinely funny. In just about every one of these cutscenes I found myself laughing out loud. This sense of humor is crucial to the game since you'll likely feel like a depressed failure if you spend too long playing.