Some ten whole years after the original Super Meat Boy first took the indie gaming scene by storm, fans of the original game's brutally difficult action finally get the chance to return to Team Meat's gloriously bloody world in a sequel that decides to make some pretty big changes to the series' core platforming mechanics.
Super Meat Boy Forever ushers in an endless-running style of gameplay combined with a procedurally-generated level design that seeks to add replayability to proceedings but, ultimately, robs the game of the wonderfully exacting little one-screen death chambers that made its predecessor such a fiendishly addictive joy. Make no mistake, there's still plenty to enjoy here for fans of tough platform action; we're just not sure that the new direction hasn't taken away more than it's added.
Team Meat has gone big on story in this sequel, with somewhere in the region of an hour's worth of cutscenes telling the story of Meat Boy, Bandage Girl and their brand new baby, Nugget, who's been kidnapped by returning super villain Dr Fetus, leading to the pair dashing, punching and jumping their way across over seventy level's worth of painful, bloody and repetitive death.
While the free-running style of action and procedurally-generated chunk design of the levels here definitely removes the feeling of pitting your wits against bespoke little gauntlets of pain, they still combine well enough for the most part and provide players with a solid six hours worth of often insanely tough challenges to blast their way through on a first run – a figure that easily doubles if you're seeking to ace every level you're pitted against.
Controls have also been given an overhaul and simplified to just two buttons – a jump/punch and slide/dive which you'll use to navigate the many spikes, lasers, whirling sawblades and knives that stand between you and Nugget, and these then combine with some fun novelty mechanics that are thrown in along the way to spice up proceedings.
It all leads to a game that's easy to jump straight into – but let's be clear, this one starts off hard and only gets tougher. Indeed, the painfully exacting nature of old-school Super Meat Boy is alive and well in this follow-up and although you may not now have full control over how you move through levels, Team Meat has designed some fiendishly difficult level chunks which are thrown at you in random combinations that'll have you absolutely pulling your hair out at points – in fact, we managed to die over 150 times during one particularly nasty boss battle.
Speaking of boss battles, they really are a highlight of the gameplay here, bringing worlds to an exciting end with some imaginative and clever face-offs against screen-filling creations that will test your skills to the absolute limits. We love how Team Meat point-blank refuses to hold your hand during these encounters, with the key to defeating bosses left entirely for you to figure out for yourself as you're repeatedly mashed and smashed around the screen. If you loved OG Super Meat Boy purely for its insane difficulty, you're in for a proper treat here.
However, as we previously mentioned, the free-running, procedurally-generated nature of proceedings here does create some problems. We miss being able to learn levels, to perfect the intricate death mazes laid before us and, honestly, chipping away at our best times as we got to grips with Team Meat's fiendish creations was our favourite thing about the original game.
Having level elements generate differently every time you jump into a new game, for us, actually serves to rob Super Meat Boy Forever of much of that addictive, highly replayable quality that kept us coming back for more in 2010. There are also times when the procedural generation throws a wobbly and dishes you out a section of platforming that's impossible to pass, forcing you to reload. It doesn't happen very often, and for the most part this side of things holds up really well, but it is an issue we encountered on a few occasions during our playthrough.
While we're being negative, there are also some framerate problems to contend with as levels become busier later in the game, something which really surprised us given how exacting and precise the nature of the gameplay is here. It's by no means a big problem, and there's apparently a patch imminent, but it's something to be aware of regardless.
Overall, however, we enjoyed our time with Super Meat Boy Forever; there's a ton of characters to unlock, a surprisingly detailed story to enjoy and plenty of fiendishly difficult action to pit yourself against – we're just not sure the move to an endless runner style is something that benefits the game in the end. If you're a massive fan of the original game – or brutally tough platformers in general – you'll find plenty to enjoy regardless, but for us, this one feels like a little bit of a step down from the pure genius of its predecessor.
Super Meat Boy Forever makes some big changes to its predecessor's classic formula, ushering in an endless-running style of gameplay, simplified control scheme and procedurally-generated levels that are a blast to play through but ultimately rob the game of the fiendishly additive quality of the 2010 original. We miss perfecting Super Meat Boy's bespoke little death mazes here and although fans of brutally tough platformers will still find plenty to love, we can't help but feel this one's a little bit of a step back for Team Meat's squishy red mascot.