One of the break-out indie titles to go mainstream was the original Super Meat Boy; back in 2010 it was lavished with praise and won over plenty of gamers. Now returning and hoping to skewer the competition, we have Super Meat Boy Forever.
Changing the gameplay up whilst keeping the traditional conventions, Meat Boy automatically runs through the stage and the game adopts a two-button configuration; you must use all of his cheeky tactics to jump, kill or avoid any enemies and/or obstacles. Similar to what Super Mario Run achieved on mobile, Meat Boy's mechanics work in a similar vain but with more complexity and challenge; it’s frightfully addictive and has that 'one more go' vibe that made the original so memorable..
Arriving on Switch sometime in 2018, the cult hit will feature a different level system than previously seen, albeit expanding on the approach of its predecessor. Each chapter has six light worlds and six dark worlds, with the worlds 'ranking up' as you beat them; you get progressively harder 'chunks' - that are used to generated levels - to take on as you work to clear the world. On top of this Bandage Girl has been made available to play, just in case you didn't think one Meat person was enough.
At EGX we got to spend some time with three levels that very much stick to the tried and tested formula of Meat Boy. Each one was great, introducing different scenarios that you learn from as you try to progress further. On Switch the cartoon style is a great fit, making this an ideal pick-up and play title.
We also managed to grab co-CEO of Team Meat, Tommy Refenes, for a chat about the highly anticipated sequel.
Meat Boy and Bandage Girl are back, what can you tell us about their new adventure?
Well let’s see, they have a kid now who’s named Nugget. Nugget, as far as character design goes, is a thing of meat wrapped in bandage pyjamas. It has bunny ears too for some reason because the artist put them on it and I kept it. This time they are trying to save their little girl. The theme of the game is different whilst still feeling the same.
We're guessing the arrival of Nugget doesn't herald a family-friendly turn for the series...
No, God No! I would say it’s more everybody friendly because it’s easier to play to an extent, but it’s every bit as difficult and bloody, and Dr Foetus still flips you off. We’re not going to ever tone that stuff down.
So the levels get more difficult every time you complete them, what was it like designing the game that way?
That was a lot of fun because it would have been easy to do a sequel where you just do the same thing over and over again. This is the line I’ve used over and over but Mega Man 2 was awesome, then Mega Man 3 was good, then Mega Man 4 was pretty good. I don’t remember five or six, I can’t even remember the robots. It’s all the same thing. It would have been easy to make six hundred levels and throw HD paint on it and call it Meat Boy 2. With this one I wanted to do something different. I wanted to try and make a randomly generated Meat Boy, something that you could literally play forever. That was interesting to come up with the design process for that.
It’s easy to generate a 2D platformer with random obstacles because you can mathematically formulate, well you need this much time between a jump and you can possibly make this so put a saw here and here. The thing that made Meat Boy great is actually the same thing that makes Forever great, it’s where the controls in Meat Boy were designed first, then we made levels. It was three months of controls then levels and the same with Forever. I got everything feeling exactly the way I wanted to over a couple of months then started making levels. So in that way it was fun to piece everything together and actually make levels that are designed to show off the controls and feel like a Meat Boy game, but then smash them all together in a big long level.
I’ve been calling it Meat Boy flash cards because of your muscle memory. Like in Meat Boy you’ll go through the whole level fine. There’s blindfolding runs of the forest that they do at AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) and stuff like that. With Forever it does the same thing except it doesn’t give you a rest in-between it, so it’s just like flash card, flash card, flash card. It’s interesting because you’ll watch someone play through a dark world level and they’ll take forever to get through it and they’ll final learn it. Then they’ll go back and even though it will regenerate to a new level, they’ll beat it much faster because of the feel and cadence, even if they get new chunks, they’ll beat it because the muscle memory is still there. I had someone describe it almost like a song. Yeah it was a lot of fun to design.
Can you talk about the process of developing for the Switch?
There tools are way better than they used to be. The last time I did anything with Nintendo personally was when we were doing Super Meat Boy for WiiWare and those tools were not great. It was all tools no developer actually uses, it was using something called Code Warrior which I learned in high school – that’s how bad it was. For instance my engine is something I’ve made over time so I’m very familiar with it because I made literally all of it. With the Switch I was able to get a build up and running in two days. The way Nintendo designed everything it’s all this pretty common stuff; with WiiWare you had to allocate between two separate banks of memory and all this crazy stuff, whereas here it will just run. Compile it in visual studio and there you go.
What was it like returning to the Super Meat Boy after the reception it received first time?
It’s kind of nice. Like I said I don’t want to do the same thing over and over, but at the same time you want to do something people want and are familiar with. It kind of just feels the same. Honestly when I play through the levels and I test them, it’s like I’m back in my apartment in Arden all by myself, just me and my cat testing out levels. It’s much less financially stressful now, but it feels honestly really good to get back to it. To take the characters, take the game and do something new with it that feels the same; it’s like coming back to an old friend.
Yes, it’s nice. I’ve always said that when I was working on Meat Boy, what everyone saw in Indie Game: The Movie was me at my most stressed out. What people don’t realise is that was the last three months of an eighteen month development cycle. The first fifteen months were amazing. I was so happy, even though I was really stressed in the last three. I still felt it was super important what I was doing, I felt it had meaning and I enjoyed what I was doing, even though I was exhausted.
Forever is the same way because of when the Switch build came out and Nintendo with their Nindies push and everything, I had to get a Switch build pretty quick whilst developing the game, so I was staying up several late nights/early mornings - but I never got tired of it. My wife even commented saying “I haven’t seen you work like this in a long time, and you seem really happy”. I’d say I spend 95% of my life happy but to do something you’d think would be so stressful and daunting and still be happy is quite something. It feels good.
Do you expect there to be any differences between the platform versions?
No. We’re not sure what we’re doing with characters. I don’t know if there will be any differences as far as content. It’s going to be the same levels across all platforms.
So, Super Meat Boy Forever is due to launch in 2018?
Yes, hopefully before the summer.
Do you know if this will be an eShop-only title?
It will definitely be eShop. We’re looking at possibly doing a limited physical release.
A huge thanks goes to Tommy Refenes of Team Meat for spending some time with us to show the game off. Are you looking forward to the sequel? Let us know in the comments.