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Review: Super Meat Boy

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: Platformer
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2010
Review Published On: January 1st, 2020
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Your progress is saved when you clear a level. If you need a quick breather, either return to the level map or pause the game by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

This is an extremely hard game; hard enough that it might be too difficult for some players. That said, the major issue with this game is the large amount of gore and dark humor.

Screenshots

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The floor is literally lava

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Warp zones get weird in this game

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Leap of faith



Game Overview

Although this game came out nearly a decade ago, it's managed to remain pretty popular over the years. The upcoming release of its sequel has also helped bring the game back into the limelight, as people are going back and replaying this classic platformer.

Super Meat Boy stars a sentient block of meat, ie, the titular Meat Boy. The story itself is incredibly simple: much like a certain Nintendo mascot, Meat Boy must rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the clutches of the evil Dr. Fetus.

...and that last line also highlights the biggest issue with this game: it's heavily reliant on dark and sometimes outright offensive subject matter. This tends to be a trend with earlier indie games, but whether or not it's a deal breaker is a matter of opinion.

Gameplay-wise, this game is basically your normal platformer if it was made by a sadist. Meat Boy is a one-hit wonder and has no attacks of his own. Thus, you need to scramble around the environment in order to reach Bandage Girl as quickly as possible without coming into contact with any of the lethal traps or dangerous enemies scattered about. It's notoriously hard, and oddly enough, the high difficulty is one of the main selling points. In a way, it's sort of refreshing to be challenged by a game like this.

This game clearly isn't one for the younger crowd, but teens and adults who can handle the impossible gameplay and graphic content will probably enjoy it.

Points of Interest

Do or Die gameplay
It's no secret that Super Meat Boy was designed to be a very challenging game; it's easily one of the hardest platformers on the market. However, this high difficulty is balanced enough that it doesn't feel unfair. Every level can be beaten with enough time and patience. The trick is to observe, plan, and move quickly once you've worked out the pattern.

Of course, you will die. A lot. Fortunately, death is just a tap on the wrist: whenever you fail a level, it simply resets and you can immediately try it again.
Lots of optional content
There are numerous hidden levels in this game. Most are unlocked by completing a normal level with a high rating, but some are only found by jumping into hard to find warp zones. Levels also typically have a bandage hidden in them somewhere, and it's a good idea to try and collect a few. The reason for this is that you can play as characters other than Meat Boy himself; you just need to unlock them first. Some of these new characters are unlocked by completing hidden levels, but others are purchased using the bandages you've collected.

That said, Meat Boy is clearly the best character in the game. Other characters are apparently there for novelty value, as they all have a unique mechanic of some sort. More often than not, these new mechanics get in the way rather than help, so don't expect things to get any easier when playing as them.
Custom levels
Players can create their own levels and share them online via the Super Meat Boy Editor. You'll find this on your Steam account, under "tools". Even if you don't want to make the levels yourself, you can play levels created by fans whenever you want by choosing them from within the main game.
Steam Community Features
Like nearly all Steam games, there are some achievements available. Unlike most Steam games, earning these achievements is harder than hard, so unless you're some sort of gaming prodigy, don't expect to reach 100% completion for this game.

There are also some Steam trading cards to earn, and doing that is going to be far, far easier than earning the achievements.
Super high difficulty
Every level can be cleared with enough practice, but this isn't a game for beginners by a long shot. Often, making one slight mistake results in your character being killed by a hazard. Sure, you have infinite lives and can retry a level instantly, but many of the levels are intentionally brutal and require more skill than a casual gamer typically has. If you're not a fan of being challenged by games, this is definitely not the game for you. On the plus side, you don't need to clear every level to progress, and there are a great many levels that are completely optional.

Concerns and Issues

Blood and gore everywhere
Considering that the protagonist is literally a lump of raw meat, it's not terribly surprising to discover that he leaves a trail behind him as he moves around the level. Anything he touches gets smeared with meat and blood, and it's only cleaned up when you return to the map. Some of the traps, such as spikes or saw blades, become coated in his juices when you inadvertently collide with them. Since you'll probably need to try a level a few times before you'll clear it, these levels can become rather icky after a while.
Graphic cutscenes
Cutscenes are shown when entering a World as well as before and after defeating the World's boss. The former tend to be homages to famous NES games, and therefore aren't much of a concern. On the other hand, the cutscenes that play after the boss' defeat usually involve something (typically wildlife) being killed in a graphic manner. Perhaps the most extreme example is the cutscene shown after defeating World 2's boss; Meat Boy finishes it off by taking out a pillow and smothering it as a mercy kill.
Clearly offensive content
Since this game's story revolves around a living slab of meat running after an evil fetus, you can tell right off the bat that dark humor and less than wholesome subjects are going to be a running theme in this title. It's pretty omnipresent, so you're not going to get away from it.

In addition to things like Dr. Fetus, many of the levels are named after religious subjects, especially profane ones. Worlds 4 and 5 are "Hell" and "Rapture", for example. Another example of how normal gaming concepts are given a darker spin is one of the obstacles found later in the game. Many, if not most, platformers feature instakill spikes at some point. Here, they aren't spikes -- they are piles of used hypodermic needles.