Thursday, May 31, 2012
Video Game Assessment: Super Meat Boy (2010)
I started playing Super Meat Boy recently after I fell in love with The Binding of Isaac. Since both games have similar art styles and developers, I really hoped that I would enjoy it in the same way I enjoyed Isaac. And you know something? I did. I really did. I mean, not in the same way or anything. Isaac is a Roguelike with random rooms, random items, and random enemies for the most part. It plays completely differently than the platform and memorization hell that Meat Boy presents. But they both have the same humor, the same sorts of references to other video games and popular culture, and they both are very tongue-in-cheek at points. They are also both really fun to play.
The game, though, is something of an oddity in this day and age. It is a callback to some of the ridiculously hard platformer games that came out on old systems like the NES, SNES, etc. It is a very difficult game on top of everything else anyway. And when I say difficult, OH BOY. I MEAN DIFFICULT IF YOU CATCH MY MEANING. It's difficult, okay? It's frustratingly hard at times with actually beating a tough level being incredibly satisfying, which happens less and less in this era of simple and easy video games marketed towards a increasingly casual market who don't want challenges, don't want to get lost in the game, and who don't want to spend time actually getting good at it. Like any good video game player, I must scoff and turn my nose up at those people in a ridiculously exaggerated manner.
Nah, not really. I personally don't like the casual game market, but I don't think it's a bad thing either. Just not what I'm looking for. I like getting very skilled in a set of games or enjoying stories, worlds, characters, etc. And because of that casual games just don't appeal to me, but Super Meat Boy is certainly not a casual game. You have to master the controls if you even want to think of getting to later levels. You have to literally be pixel perfect to play the game effectively.
The game starts out simply enough with easy mechanics, simple jumps and movements, wall jumps, running, collecting items called bandages to unlock different characters to play as. Ordinary stuff. And then you realize that you are playing as a man made out of meat. And that this Meat Person, or "Meat Boy," has a girlfriend made out of bandages, "Bandage Girl," who's in turn been kidnapped by a fetus in a jar with a monocle and a top hat, "Dr. Fetus." Okay, it's an odd game. Unique and really different. The story doesn't really matter much more than an early Mario game, although the story is told better in this game and some of the cutscenes are actually kind of brilliant, hilarious, and all kinds of well done.
I consider myself pretty decent at platformers. I grew up playing them on the NES and the SNES. I loved the old Super Star Wars games (I played them to death.), the early main Mario Bros. games, the Donkey Kong Country games, and the Metroid games. I'm sure there are others too. But I have to say that I've never played anything quite as difficult as Super Meat Boy, at least not that I can actively remember at the moment.
Frustrating may be a better and more appropriate term. There were times that I played the game and just wanted to heave my controller through my television, rant and scream, and then finally curl up into the fetal position and grow a top hat and monocle and murder meat... Seriously, just let the damn piece of meat burn in the fires of his own making... watch him... uh...
Um... yeah? My point is that the game starts off easy but gets hard very quickly.If you do not master the controls you will find yourself unable to complete many levels. It took me a while to be able to become good enough to get to the last world of the game. I still haven't collected everything nor have I beaten every level in the game yet, although slowly but surely I'm getting better at everything.
There is one level... it's a character unlock level, of which there is one to the normal worlds... and anybody who has played the game knows which level I'm talking about. I have found endless difficulties with that level to the point where I played a level I should be able to beat in under a minute for about four hours straight. I beat the first level, but had so much trouble on the next that I had to quit, therefore losing all of my progress. Woo-boy was I unhappy with that one.
I played the game on the Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade), but it is also available on Steam at the very least. It's a great game. It has hours and hours and hours worth of gameplay. It is difficult enough to make you earn every hour you play and every victory you gain. I like the game, but the frustration cannot be summed up by a person who has never played it. It's terribly difficult, a callback to older days, and I certainly wish more games like it would exist.
All of that being said, with its unique story and characters, great controls and gameplay, and difficult challenge, I find this game to be perfect for a video game player like myself. I love the difficulty and the challenge. It gives me something to strive for within the game, something to push myself forward to accomplish. So, I'll recommend this game to those who like an interesting and unique challenge of a video game, but don't say I didn't warn you...