For anyone that's followed the independent gaming scene over the years, you know all too well how much talent and creativity many of these games feature. And now with digital download services like Nintendo's WiiWare and Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, many of these indie developers are finally getting the chance to shine and offer up their wares to console owners around the world. One such developer, Team Meat, has taken the basic idea behind its insanely popular flash game Meat Boy and created a completely new and absolutely diabolical platforming experience for Xbox Live Arcade, and given that the WiiWare version will be basically the same game we thought we'd take the XBLA version for a little spin.
Super Meat Boy subscribes to the old-school principle that platforming should be quick, intense and brutally challenging and that's exactly what you'll get during each and every level of the game. The evil Dr. Fetus has kidnapped your lady love Bandage Girl and it's up to you to rescue her. In each level you'll have to platform your way to the location where Dr. Fetus is holding your sweetheart and it's not going to be easy. Along the way you'll have to run, duck and jump over everything from fiery pits to spinning saw blades and everything in between. Of course there are a host of other challenges too like homing missiles, flowing channels of salt and enough moving platforms to challenge even the most ardent platformer fans.
There are five worlds in the game, each with 20 Light World levels and 20 Dark World levels. As you can probably guess, the Light World is the regular and more tame levels and the Dark World is where you'll find the expert levels. You'll have to score an A+ ranking by finishing the Light World level under the specified par time in order to unlock its Dark World counterpart and this is generally easier said than done. Naturally, merely completing the levels is only the tip of the iceberg as there are a host of other activities to keep you coming back for more.
To make things more interesting, certain levels will have a bandage craftily placed that you must pick up and finish the level with. Collecting these will allow you to unlock a host of hidden indie game characters that can then be used to play the regular levels in the game. Each of these characters offer their own set of pros and cons, so some are obviously more useful than others. There is also a host of warp zones hidden in various locations that will take you to groups of classically-themed levels ranging from 8- and 16-bit worlds to even monochromatic GameBoy-style areas. Not only are these levels visually and musically authentic to the era of game system they represent, they also tend to resemble levels from games of those eras as well, which even further propagates the sense of nostalgia.
Super Meat Boy contains some of the most challenging platforming ever seen in a video game and you're going to spend a lot of your time getting chopped up and blown to bits throughout the game, but it handles so well that you'll always be comforted to know that each time you die it's from your own doing. Given the staggering number of regular and hidden levels, not to mention warp zones and boss fights, you'll never be at a loss for things to do throughout your adventure and you'll likely find yourself coming back to the game time and time again, if only to see if you can outdo your best finishing times and move up on the game's online leaderboards.
When it comes to platforming, it's the controls that generally makes or breaks the game, and Super Meat Boy comes through with flying colours. Not only are the controls perfectly smooth and responsive, they offer enough freedom of movement and manoeuvrability to offer up an almost limitless array of gameplay mechanics. Of course, even with the game's fairly brutal level of difficulty in many places, there are still quite a few areas that should prove to be manageable enough for gamers of even average skill sets. Just keep in mind that if you have any hopes of actually beating this insane adventure, you're gonna have to bring your "A" game.
While Super Meat Boy might look a bit flat in screenshots, it's really the type of game you have to see in motion to fully appreciate. Sure the game uses a lot of rather basic artwork designs, but once you see it all put together and with the many special effects the game makes use of, only then will you begin to realise what the developers were able to accomplish.
Super Meat Boy has to be one of the most brutally challenging platformers ever created by human hands. There are very few levels that won't leave you shouting profanity at your television or tossing your controller down in frustration. But as difficult as the game is, it's got the spot-on controls to carry the experience and enough content to keep you coming back long after the credits have rolled. Video games come and go, but every so often one comes along that reminds us why we love to play video games in the first place and there's no better example of this than Super Meat Boy. It's safe to say that Microsoft can officially close down the Xbox Live Arcade because nothing is likely to outdo this absolute gem of a platformer. Of course, now comes the grueling wait for the WiiWare release.
Impressions based on the Xbox Live Arcade version provided to us by Team Meat