Xbox 360
Games for Lunch: Super Meat Boy

Posted by Kyle Orland (October 22, 2010)

Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Team Meat
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2010
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC, Mac, Wii
ESRB Rating: Teen
Official Web site

In a nutshell: There’s meat juice EVERYWHERE!

0:00 I’ve been looking forward to this self-described “tough as nails platformer” (according to the XBLA download description) for what seems like years, ever since I played the Newgrounds-hosted original Meat Boy to death. I expect great things.

0:01 “This is Meat Boy." He’s a square blob of meat with stubby arms and legs and a face. "This is bandage girl. (She loves meat boy and Meat Boy loves her). This is Dr. Fetus.” He’s a small fetus in a thick robot. “No one loves Dr. Fetus. And that's why Dr. Fetus hates you. But most of all, Dr. Fetus hates Meat Boy. So he beat Meat Boy up and kidnapped Bandage Girl. ...So go save her, hero." It’s all told via plain text and cute old-timey black-and-white animation. Short and sweet... just like an intro. story should be.

0:02 The hard guitar background loop on the title screen reminds me of a 16-bit game. The first level is “CH1: The Forest.” The world map Meat Boy is standing on has a grimacing face on it. It’s.. disturbing.

0:03 A short cut scene apes the opening to Street Fighter II by showing Dr. Fetus punching Bandage Girl before panning up to show the title.The first level is titled “Hello World.” Ha... programmer humor.

0:04 The first level is over in literally seconds as I wall jump up to Bandage Girl, sitting all alone on a wide ledge. As I reach her, Dr. Fetus warps in, punches her, and takes her away again. I wasted a bit of time trying to decipher the animated pictograms explaining the controls. Not that I needed them... they’re immediately familiar from the Newgrounds game. Everything looks so much better on my big HD screen, though.

0:05 Level 2 teaches me what I already know about wall jumps, and about how to run by holding the X button. I love the sticky-yet-slidey physics when Meat Boy hugs the wall just before doing his super-floaty jump away. As in N+, climbing a single wall using the wall jump is pretty easy.

0:06 Level 3 is just a single running jump across a long gap. Level 4 is a small vertical maze with a hidden bandage collectible.

0:08 I stumble upon a glowing purple portal in Level 5. “WARP ZONE!” screams an unseen voice and I’m transported to an old TV with an NES-style version of the Super Meat Boy title, preceding an NES-ified version of the game. The controls and physics are similar -- only the graphics have changed. Also, I only have three lives, apparently. This makes me much more cautious as I jump across some all-too-narrow platforms and avoid buzzsaws big and small.

0:09 I lose all three lives on the third NES level, which involves some incredibly tough curving wall jumps and a lot of avoidance of fast-moving buzzsaws. I’m losing but I LOVE IT!

0:12 I really focus and take my time as I make it through all three warp zone levels this time. "We're sorry, but Bandage Girl is in another warp zone." HA! Mario humor.

0:15 Level 8 literally takes two jumps, including one wall jump, to make it across the entirety of the wide screen. I love the feeling of freedom as I fly through the air, but I wish they’d turn up the difficulty already.

0:16 Level 9 introduces crumbling floors and walls. I spend way too much time and meat-lives going for a collectible bandage sitting between a crumbling wall and a buzzsaw. When I finish the level, the replay shows all dozen or so lives I lost running simultaneously. It’s a bit mesmerizing.

0:18 Another warp zone in Level 12. This one transforms Meat Boy to huge, Atari 2600 resolution world. The obelisk-like Commander Video from the excellent Bit.Trip Runner comes in and dodges deftly around some bullets in a cut scene. Whoo cameos!

0:20 I get to control Commander Video through some Atari-style levels, now. He’s slower than Meat Boy but has a nice little hover-jump that lets me get through some tight spaces. Now he’s usable in any level, apparently. Whoo, options!

0:22 Meat Boy's bloody remains continue to coat the ground and walls and buzzsaws throughout subsequent lives. The result is that levels quickly begin to resemble slaughterhouses as I play.

0:24 I'm assuming every level has a hidden bandage to collect, but if they do then some of them are REALLY well hidden. Even when I do find them, they are so tiny on my HD screen as to be near impossible to see.

0:25 I love that I can die a bazillion times on a level, but as long as my final pass is quick enough, I get an A+ grade.

0:26 I try out Commander Video for a few real levels. He’s pretty slow, but that actually makes for some easier landings on narrow platforms. His hover-jump also makes it easier to collect a few hard-to-reach bandages, too.

0:29 I had to walk through a seemingly solid wall to reach the warp zone in level 19. This time around it’s a black-and-white original Game Boy styled introduction, signed by Auntie Pixelante. Wait, like Mighty Jill Off Auntie Pixelante? Hooray! I loved that game.

0:30 I make it through some twisty, maze-like levels pretty easily, despite some tough, narrow jumps over buzzsaws at one point. “Thanks Meat Boy...” says Bandage Girl. “Oh Noes!” She turns into Dr. Fetus and bounces off. Wow, they’re aping Super Mario Land now? Color me impressed.

0:32 Level 20 is appropriately titled “The Test,” with areas that involve pinpoint timing and careful jumping on crumbling walls. This is starting to hit the masochistic difficulties I’m looking for.

0:34 Boss time. In a cut scene, Dr. Fetus empties dozens of gas cans and throws a match. Meat Boy is horrified as the forest burns behind him.

0:35 Now I’m running away from a Dr. Fetus-powered walker with a huge chainsaw as the forest burns in the background. I have to jump a few buzzsaws, but it’s not that tough. The hardest part is ignoring the distracting, terrified, flaming squirrels that run around the foreground. Afterwards, a cut scene shows heaps of dead squirrels, and one survivor turning to the camera with tears in his eyes. Then a buzzsaw beheads him. Wow.

0:36 I finished 20 of 20 levels in the light world and... zero of 20 in the dark world? Who knew?! I only got nine of 20 bandages, implying they were hiding in every level. Apparently I missed a warp zone too. Should I go back for all these goodies? Mmmm... maybe later. I want to see how much harder this game can get first.

0:37 A Super Castlevania IV-style intro opens world 2: “The Hospital.” The first level feature mounds of deadly, irregularly shaped piles of purple medical waste in a cave. Loving the old-school music here.

0:40 I have to dodge tiny piles of medical waste that are sticking to the ceiling(!) as I make precise, tiny jumps over buzzsaw guns. This is some split-second platforming, right here.

0:41 Some huge fans propel me upwards in level 2-4. 2-5 puts those fans at angles, letting me make extremely long jumps across huge pits. It’s interesting how the depth where I enter the fanstream affects my final acceleration. It just feels right, in the end.

0:46 Level 2-6 is the first super-frustrating one, for me. I’m running against some horizontal fans that try to blow me backwards, including a super powerful fan that blow me across a section of uneven ground with a lot of deadly gaps. Watching all my deaths at once after I finish is kind of cathartic.

0:48 Level 2-8 changes things up by making all the platforms and enemies and me into black silhouettes on a blood red background. It’s a testament to the strong graphic design that everything is still immediately recognizable.

0:50 I’ve been finding some new, quicker paths through this level by missing the jumps I intended to make, flying too far and landing on other, more convenient blocks accidentally. Can’t help but feel that the careful spacing that allows this was intentional. I love it.

0:51 Level 2-9 has literally no floor... I have to hug the walls and wait for the perfect opportunity to make a tricky horizontal jump throug ha narrow gap. Things are getting tough QUICK!

0:55 I spent the last four minutes trying to collect a single bandage that required a perfectly timed jump out of -- and then back into -- a precarious fan stream. It’s not for everybody, but I love this kind of crap.

0:57 Holy bejeezus... I just had to collect a falling key in mid-air as I jumped across a pit of lava to save Bandage Girl. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I got it on the first try.

0:59 Wow... if I want the bandage in this level, I have to get the key sitting right next to bandage girl, then climb all the way back down to the beginning, then climb all the way back up, dodging floating purple blobs the whole time. If the game is this mean in World 2, I can’t wait to see how truly sadistic it gets.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Amazing controls, elegant, tough level design and lots of retro-throwbacks... it’s like someone is pushing all my pleasure-buttons at once!

This review was based on a downloadable copy purchased by the reviewer.

Check out hundreds of archived Games for Lunch reviews on the official Games for Lunch blog.

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