Tue 19 Oct 2010
Super Meat Boy is a $15 game with a simple story, charmingly told. You are a meat boy. Your girlfriend has been taken by a fetus in a powered suit, wearing a monocle. You must save her by making your away across fiendishly difficult 2D levels where everything can kill you. Super Meat Boy can jump, he can slide on walls, and that's it. There's your game.
Luckily, it all works very well. The movement of your character feels perfect, as does your jumping and sliding. When you die, it's not because the game is unfair, but because you messed up. You can play each level as many times as it takes to beat it, and once you reach the end of the level you are treated to a video of your last run, including every one of your failures, all played out at the same time. Watching dozens of Super Meat Boys meeting their end in different ways, all on the same screen, is hypnotic. It doesn't hurt that your character leaves a thick trail of blood wherever he goes.
Complete a level quick enough, and you're rewarded with a "dark world" version with difficulty that's even higher. There are other characters, with slightly tweaked powers, to unlock as you go, as well as amusing cinemas. I'll leave these great surprises for you to uncover—expect many references to other games—but the real star here is the fun of playing each level over and over to get to the end. The cost of dying is low, and the repetition becomes a challenge more than it becomes an annoyance. Are you enough of a gamer to try one more time to try what looks to be impossible?
When you fail you feel like you need to hone your skills. When you succeed you feel like a surgeon. This is gaming in its purest form, distilled to the essence of high-level platforming. You don't play it, you cut it into fine lines and snort it.
Super Meat Boy is coming to the Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday, and will be on WiiWare, PCs, and Macs in November.