Super Meat Boy is almost 8 years old in this newly started 2018. Developers Team Meat has decided that a port to the Nintendo Switch was in order, so that’s what we got. But there’s more to this port than just a repolished handheld and TV experience. The new Race Mode is an added mode that arrives on Nintendo Switch first and gives the game a whole other dimension to explore. Is the game worth another visit? How does it hold up almost a decade later and should it be picked up by newcomers?
Meet the Meat
You are Meat Boy. Your girlfriend is Bandage Girl. Your violent, vulgar, and generally unhappy nemesis is Dr. Fetus (I’m not joking).
Add a Super Mario Bros.-esque plot for the characters to dance around in and you’ve got a story with more nemesis-on-damsel violence than in Mario. The story doesn’t really matter because it’s not a focus, but you are made to watch a number of mute cutscenes with awkward gestures and strange, sloppy graphics that seem out of place. The attempted humor is even less effective than I remember, so I just ended up skipping most of the scenes. They’re probably the only weak part of the game, so I’m glad they’re not integral to enjoying this meaty experience.
The Meat of the Game
This game is known to be one of the harder modern platformers out there. The difficulty becomes insane, but you never feel like you were cheated when you plummet into a whirling saw, run into a laser, or slip into a pit of fire.
The gameplay is just as solid and just as challenging as it was 8 years ago when I first played Super Meat Boy. The game does a brilliant job of easing you into the increasing difficulty without overwhelming you too early. The first few levels teach you the simple mechanics, and then you’re tossed into the fire to survive. Expect to die dozens of times, even in the earliest levels.
Depending on what type of gamer you are, you may find yourself yelling at the game in frustration. Again, it’s not because the game is unfair, but because you make a stupid or unexpected mistake and because the game expects you to be precise in your movements. I consider myself pretty chill when gaming and even I fell into multiple moments of frustration turned to vocalized anger.
As for the gameplay itself, it revolves around jumping (who would have guessed?). You can control the height of your jump based on how long you press down the jump button, with wall jumps playing a vital role in your gory quest to save Bandage Girl. You can increase your speed, and jump further with a simple button hold.
Levels are pretty short, some of them lasting only about a couple seconds, but there are some longer ones out there. You may even spend half an hour on a level that takes just a few seconds to clear in a single run because you died so many times. So, make sure you go into this game with that in mind. If you don’t like purposeful, constant challenge, stay away from this game. You won’t enjoy it. If you’re a more adventurous soul, buy this game now if you haven’t played it before. It’s one of those few modern classics that nails what it sets out to do in every way. And I haven’t even mentioned the collectibles, unlockable characters, wormhole levels, or the dark world.
Let’s talk about those things for a bit, shall we? The main collectible you’ll be keeping an eye out for are bandages. They’re pink and scattered in seemingly random levels. You have to collect and complete the level in the same life to keep each one. You can use bandages to unlock several characters with unique abilities, such as limited gliding and faster movement speed. The unlockable characters crossover with several other indie games, so keep an eye out for those connections. Some of these characters are unlocked by completing wormhole levels, which can be accessed in specific levels. Once you unlock a wormhole, you have three lives to make it through each of the sequential levels within that wormhole.
Then there’s the dark world, which is an alternate version of every single level in the game. To gain access to this extra layer of challenge, you need to get an A+ on every level you want the dark world version of. You get an A+ on a level when you beat it within a predetermined timeframe. Some levels require that you beat them in less than a second, while others expect ten seconds. It depends on the length and difficulty of the level. The dark world reimagines every level with a greater challenge. It’s not necessary to beat the game, but it’s there if you want to suffer a little bit more.
One last thing worth noting is the Race Mode multiplayer mode included in this release. You can compete with a friend in local co-op, choosing to play random stages or the whole game, level by level. The goal is to advance the fastest and collect the most bandages. It’s a really neat addition that does a great job of keeping the game fresh. Is it enough to bring back veterans? I would say yes, but only because the rest of the game is just so good that the challenge doesn’t get stale.
Cutscene graphics aside (they’re pretty bad), Super Meat Boy is one fine looking game. Most of the levels are colorful but don’t distract from Meat Boy’s red, sponge-like figure (which means you won’t lose track of him). It’s still amusing to see his blood and meat coat the walls of the level after you’ve died several times.
Some bonus levels are rendered in gorgeous, 8-bit graphics, and there are even a few where the level and characters are presented in black silhouettes. There’s plenty of visual variety; you won’t be bored from looking at this game, even for a few hours. You may get angry at seeing the same level a few dozen times, but that’s not really the fault of the aesthetics; it’s ’cause you suck, actually.
Almost Me(a)tal-Sounding Affair
Music: There’s a nice blend of chiptune songs, rock-infused tracks, melodic arpeggios, and even songs that incorporate all of those characteristics in one song. The music doesn’t distract from the game but also doesn’t necessarily fade into the background.
It’s got that hard punch of classic video game music that you want while not being annoying or too repetitive. I’m still surprised by the variety in the soundtrack and how appropriate it becomes depending on the level. Sound effects do their job, with quirky finesse. The sound design in this game is definitely a high point, but what isn’t (let’s forget about those cutscenes, shall we?).
I didn’t try to hide my love for this game in this review. With Super Meat Boy Forever on the horizon of 2018, it’s great to get the original game for a quick refresher. Don’t miss out on this brutal, yet honest friend. He might make you cry, but he’ll also make you smile… after he makes you cry.
This review of Super Meat Boy is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
So is Super Meat Boy worth another go? Even if you bought and played the game halfway through its lifespan, I would say that it’s a definite “yes.” For newcomers who enjoy pain- I mean, who enjoy a challenge, I’m excited for you. You’re going to have a fantastic time yelling at your Switch while loving every minute of it.
Word player, note manipulator, and logic breaker. My favorite game is The Last of Us. I’ll argue with you about it all day. Try me. “To the edge of the universe and back, endure and survive…”