Thursday, February 9, 2012

Super Meat Boy Review

Having beaten this game today (by which I mean "saw the credits"), it's  time for the review!

Super Meat Boy Review
If you really care about spoilers for Super Meat Boy (I can't imagine why you would, there aren't exactly any amazingly shocking twists) you may want to turn back, since I'm not paying attention to whether I'm spoiling or not.

Well, it seems to be an Edmund McMillen week! The graphic designer who went on to create The Binding of Isaac is even more known for this title, made by Team Meat (the partnership of him and programmer Tommey Refenes). The game has been widely-acclaimed, and has become astoundingly notorious for its difficulty. But right into the review.

Gameplay: A swift overview of how it works: You play Meat Boy. The arrow keys make you run left and right, holding the shift key makes you dash, the space bar makes you jump (how high is dependent on how long you hold the press). You stick to walls and slide them slower, allowing chained wall jumps, which are really important. That's, um, it. Levels gain new tricks as you go along, of course - the first couple levels just feature pits, but soon you meet the infamous buzz saws, then you get moving ones, they add a Key mechanic in (grabbing the key opens a specific wall), then spiked mounds on the ground, shooting saws, roaming creatures, flame balls, rockets, and more. And of course, being a modern indie game, a single touch of pretty much anything that isn't solid ground murders you, save the keys. What's up with the hyper-lethality in modern indie games anyway? It's not like Super Meat Boy started the trend (for example, Bit.Trip, specifically Runner, came first), so I dunno. I guess it's to appeal to that Nintendo Hard feel. But I'll get back to that.
The gameplay is really strong. Meat Boy slides a bit, and it makes the controls more slippery, but it's definitely an intentional feature (the wall jumping wouldn't work without it) so I won't fault that. I think a lot of games have slippery controls simply because they couldn't be damned to get the sensitivity right, and I hate that since their sloppiness makes the game more difficult in a way it shouldn't be - in other words, difficulty should come from the intended content, not from the interface's flaws. This is a lot of what I have against some traditionally-recognized ultra-hard games: for example, one of the major reasons Battletoads is so impossible (aside from the actual content is demonic) is because the controls are really unresponsive, and that sort of difficulty isn't fair to the player. Similarly, I hate extreme limited lives because it tries to make content hard only by saying you can only have a couple shots. But then, I suck at video games if I can't die over and over and still be okay. Meh. My point is that I think that Super Meat Boy is difficult in all the right ways, being based almost entirely on skill as opposed to poor controls or arbitrary game limitations (another game I actually would credit like this would be the original Sonic games, if they weren't limited in lives, and they aren't hyper-lethal so the lives aren't as bad). Of course, a couple times a jump comes down almost to luck whether it works or not (there's one in the final pre-credits level that has about a 30% success rate just depending on how the game is feeling), but that's very rare.
So yeah. It rocks. I love the gameplay. Each level is about a minute long, but since it takes maybe 5 minutes to get the hang of each level around the midpoint of the story, and it took at least a half hour per level at the very end so you'll be playing a while just to get through the light world (main game). There are 105 light world levels plus 6 bosses (and a finale escape sequence), and then there's A+ing each one and getting the bandages (A+ing is beating a par time, generally god-awful hard). Then there's a dark world (hard mode) level for each that you A+, so 105 of those, and the bandages and A+ing those. Then there's Cotton Alley, a final post-game level with 20 light and dark stages as well. There's the hidden warp zones to beat too, and I don't know how many there are but they're tough because they only give you a couple shots at it (I admit, I dislike that, but it's ssupposed to be emulating the old-style games, they're in retro graphics and everything, but still). So there's a bajillion levels, most of them excruciatingly hard, you could play this game forever. For a flaw, the creators themselves have admitted that the bosses are
It's pretty awesome.

Plot: Well, uh, Dr. Fetus kidnapped your girlfriend Bandage Girl and you go to save her. That's the basic story. It gets pretty epic at the end, but it's extremely background compared to the gameplay. Each character is pretty quirky and entertaining though, although it's in a distrubing way usually. But in the end, everything turns out okay. Also, the plot is continually funny.

Graphics: Who would have thought that Meat Boy had that much blood in him? There's blood and gore everywhere. I don't think it's as much as in The Binding of Isaac, but it's a lot. The graphics are charming, and not nearly as disturbing as Isaac, everyone is usually smiling and cool stuff is going down, it's not a sad game really. Everyone has a lot of graphical variety (especially the moves Dr. Fetus uses on Bandage Girl at the end of every level, he has like 10 things he can do. Btw, Bandage Girl gets beat up like 500 times througout the game, it's sad yet kinda funny since after a while it's just silly and she always bounces back). The graphics are colorful (except when they're intentionally not, The End is in mostly monochrome), the animations smooth, but I don't think it'll be winning any major graphics awards - there's nothing really revolutionary, just very well-executed formula.

Sound: Danny Baranowsky, the soundtrack owns. I really do love it. Not much else to say, it has a range of sounds and they're all good and fitting.

Conclusions: I can't really think of anything else to talk about. This is one of those one-in-a-million indie games, which seem to be coming more and more often recently. Sitting at the midpoint of these games, time-wise, it's among VVVVVV, Bit.Trip, Bastion, Binding of Isaac, and of course the old champion of indie games, Cave Story, Super Meat Boy is a posterchild for modern indie quality, and I hope the trend continues. I can't help but give the game a solid A+, the sort of A+ that means a 9.5 or 9.75 out of 10. With slightly even prettier cutscenes and a bit more time to polish the bosses, I'd call it a perfect game. Rock on, Team Meat, and Edmund McMillen. I'll be waiting for your next masterpiece.
End Recording,

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