Super Meat Boy has been around the block. Developed by Team Meat and designed by Edmund McMillen (one of the creators of the original Flash game, Meat Boy, and designer for another well-known indie title, The Binding of Isaac) and Tommy Refenes, this is the latest in the countless ports of the original game. Originally released on Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 in 2010, Super Meat Boy has finally seen it's Nintendo debut with the Wii U. Forgotten fact: Super Meat Boy was actually originally set to be released for the Wii via the WiiWare service alongside its Xbox 360 début, but unfortunately was scrapped due to limitations of the service and console. Better late than never for us Nintendo fans, right?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Super Meat Boy (though you'd be hard pressed to find a gamer that is oblivious to this indie game powerhouse), it's a single-player precision platformer. Think 8-bit or 16-bit platformers. Do you remember how difficult they were? Great, now turn that all the way up to 11! Like a typical platformer, you're presented with a unique stage with multiple obstacles that you can jump and slide your way through. Spinning blades, endless pits, spikes, needles - everything is out to end you, and one small touch will send you back to the beginning. The objective of each level is to guide Meat Boy through the dangerous paths to save Bandage Girl, who has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fetus.
The game offers up the perfect nostalgic feeling. Not only is the gameplay reminiscent of old play styles, the intros to each world (and secret levels within the world) are based off of old consoles and games. Just in the first world alone you'll see Super Nintendo and Game Boy based screens and aesthetics to the secret levels. With a title like Super Meat Boy (and the initials of SMB), how could you not include nods back to some of the greatest consoles and titles that ever were?
Controls are tight and unforgiving. Often you'll find yourself repeating the same mistake over and over until you can finally nail that precise timing on a jump or a wall slide. We found that playing with the Wii U Pro Controller was a much more responsive experience over the GamePad for tackling this challenge. The face buttons on the Pro Controller are tighter together, giving you that extra split-second while rolling your thumb from the run to the jump button. Depending on finger-size and individual preferences, the GamePad could end up being the better option. It's nice that the Wii U has multiple controller options, allowing the player to find the perfect experience for themselves; with a game as demanding as Super Meat Boy you'll need all the help you can get.
Each world has a specific theme and new obstacles for you to try and manoeuvre around. Then, within each world are hidden portals that can take you to unique levels that can help unlock some of the extra characters. Each character (many from other indie titles) has its own set of pros and cons. Commander Video from the Bit.Trip series has a jump and float mechanic, but he runs much slower than Meat Boy. Ogmo, from the Flash game series Jumper, has the ability to double jump, but the trade-off is that his individual jump height is much lower. There are several other characters to unlock, each that offer a new perspective to all the levels. With an assortment of characters, and a speed timer that determines an A+ grade on completing the level quickly, completionists will surely appreciate the replayability of the game.
Unfortunately, due to the circumstances between Team Meat and Super Meat Boy's original composer Danny Baranowsky (composer for other indie games, such as Canabalt and the original Meat Boy), the Wii U release - as well as the previous port to the PS4 and Vita - has a new soundtrack. However, the new music is composed by a handful of other extremely talented artists. The new musical score team includes Ridiculon (The Binding of Isaac), David "Scattle" Scatliffe (Hotline Miami), and Laura Shigihara (Plants vs. Zombies). Although the tone may feel different, especially for Super Meat Boy veterans, the new score certainly keeps within the overall theme. You may feel that some tracks don't hold up to their old counterparts, but the moment you move on to the next song you may find that you enjoy that one more than the original. The new soundtrack is delightfully catchy and fits the game well.
Although the game is still fantastic, enjoyably difficult and very rewarding, the execution on the Wii U is only a mediocre experience. That's not to say that it takes away from the game at all, because it doesn't, but for a port that has come 6 years after the original release and almost a year after its previous port to the PlayStation 4 and Vita, it doesn't feel like the wait was really necessary. The release feels like an afterthought. No unique GamePad elements, no integration with Miiverse, nothing special to Nintendo or the Wii U (which is disappointing, since Nintendo games and consoles inspired a lot of the graphical elements and game design of the original game). It runs well, though, which is all some will care about.
The Wii U port for Super Meat Boy may not necessarily bring anything new to the table, but it's still an enjoyable experience. The new music is great. The level design is brilliant. The gameplay is difficult, yet satisfying. It's an excellent ode to original platformers, and a nice middle-finger to a lot of games that hold your hand throughout your experience. Super Meat Boy is trial by fire; here's hoping you make it out alive!