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Super Meat Boy Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Oct 22, 2010 01:02

Limited-Time Discount: Super Meat Boy, at time of release, is 800 Microsoft Points/$10 USD. After November 21, 2010, the price will increase to 1200 MSP/$15 USD.

If you asked a long-time gamer about their earliest memories with this hobby, chances are a lot of them would tell you about all kinds of absurdly difficult platforming games on the NES. Games like Ninja Gaiden would often kill you for a single mistake, and they probably helped corrupt several youth by making them quite fluent with profanity. Super Meat Boy is, surprisingly enough, a heartfelt tribute to these sort of games as well as their modern peers such as I Want To Be The Guy and sadistic Mario ’ROM hacks.’ While very much a nod to these ’challenge platformers’, Super Meat Boy manages to avoid some of the genre’s worst problems. The end result is very hard, but fair. With a mix of solid action, a variety of characters to use, plus art and sound that pays tribute to several eras in video game history, Super Meat Boy is one of those games you’ll deeply enjoy.

As an intentionally hard platformer, Super Meat Boy likes to give you several challenges. It’s not enough to just get to the end of the stage, you also have to do it quickly if you wish to unlock extra levels and you have to keep an eye out for secrets; scoring enough of them will give you access to new characters and special ’warp zone’ levels that are even harder than most, but have extra rewards for completing them. Good luck with that however, because virtually everything on the stage is out to kill your character. He’s fast, capable of springing off walls, and more, but a single hit from anything will kill him. This isn’t just a hit from enemies, but also from stage hazards like giant buzzsaws and lava; they’re usually positioned so that you have to jump through them at just the right angle and moment or you’ll die.

Each set of levels is joined by a boss fight which usually takes the form of eluding their attacks until you reach the end of the stage, and unlike the regular levels where it’s entirely possible to finish in mere seconds these tend to take a minute or two. While there are only a few boss stages, there are easily hundreds of regular levels and the unlockable world ’Teh Internets’ is included as a means for the developers to give you even more stages for free as time goes on. This results in a game where each stage is extremely short, but there are so many of them that you’ll be entertained for hours on end.

While the challenging stages are probably the main attraction, the unlockable characters are a very close second. Some of them are just different looks for the titular Meat Boy, but many of them are actually from other games and bring their unique skills with them. Discovering these new characters and using them is a big part of Super Meat Boy’s appeal, and they deeply change how some stages are played; being able to double-jump, float, stick to walls, and so on are things the hidden characters can do, though they usually tend to be slower than Meat Boy or have some other trade-off to make sure he stays relevant.

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Super Meat Boy revels in being a homage to gaming history in general but particularly to extremely hard platformers of the 80s and early 90s, and it pulls no punches. You will die a lot when playing, you will find yourself uttering the same profanity in increasingly harsh tones during some stages, and your thumbs are going to hurt. These are not bad things; the game is rarely outright unfair to the player and when you succeed you’ll feel an incredible sense of satisfaction. If you’re up for a very enjoyable challenge made by people who want to share a real love of gaming history with you, then pick up Super Meat Boy. It’s absolutely worth buying at its launch-sale price of 800 Microsoft Points/$10 USD, and I would gladly still recommend it at its upcoming ’regular’ price of 1200 MSP/$15 USD; it’s definitely one of the best games in the XBLA library!

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Super Meat Boy Review (XBLA)
9.5 Replay
You’ll definitely be back for more; ongoing mastery of the game unlocks new characters to play, and additional levels will be added for free over time.
8.5 Graphics
The art is of an exaggeratedly simple style like that of Castle Crashers and a few other games that have ties to Newgrounds. It works great and has lots of character, though it’s occasionally hard to see a few secret items (and not in a clever way). Several stages are nods to older game systems, too.
8.0 Sound
While the sound effects are quite basic, the music is an excellent tribute to the sort of soundtracks one would here from older games.
9.5 Gameplay
Extremely hard, but fair in that it rarely springs ’gotcha!’ surprises on the player for taking an intuitive course of action. The difficulty makes it rewarding when you do prevail, and the variety of characters to use keeps things fresh.
3.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Primarily limited to online leaderboards. This is fine; it’s a fantastic single-player game.
9.5 Overall
A sincere tribute to the ’challenge platformers’ of the 80s and 90s, Super Meat Boy is a lot of fun and one of the best deals available on XBLA!

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