Super Meat Boy Review

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 Title: Super Meat Boy
Developer: Team Meat
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 177 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support:
Yes

There is a certain light about those indie games that out there that not only look to make a unique play on known genres, but make them unique in a disturbing kind of way.  Some indies out there succeed in their genre, but you can’t help but scratch your head at how the developers came up with the ideas for the game.  When you go from saying “What a cute platformer” to “How?  Why?”

The Binding of Isaac is a good example of this.  It took a nice blend of RPG shooting with rogue-like elements and made a neat little game.  The environment and story, though, is straight out of a hellish landscape of someone’s imagination.  It looks very dark and twisted in nature, but somehow still pulls off being what it is.  Today’s review is a game by the same creator.  Here is my review of Super Meat Boy!

Story

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The plot of Super Meat Boy is simple, yet disturbing.  The three main characters are Meat Boy, Bandage Girl, and Dr. Fetus.  Meat Boy is a square-shaped man made out of red meat.  Bandage Girl is his best friend and lover, whom is made out of band-aids.  Finally, Dr. Fetus is the villain of the game, whom is a fetus inside a mechanical suit.  Starting to understand the disturbing part of the game yet?  You play as a block of meat rescuing your girlfriend from an evil fetus.

At the start of the game, it is shown that Dr. Fetus hates Meat Boy with an undying passion.  Because of this, Dr. Fetus kidnaps Bandage Girl and flees from the scene.  As the game begins, Meat Boy recovers from being beaten and chases after them, set on rescuing his friend.  Each chapter is showing him journeying after them, eventually catching them, and having to fight a boss Dr. Fetus throws at him and running off into the next world.  As you could expect, it doesn’t have a lot of story to it, much like other 2D platformers do not.

Gameplay

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Super Meat Boy is a 2D side-scrolling platforming game, much in the vein of games like Super Mario Bros and other similar games.  You have various worlds you go through with stages and you progress through and unlock another.  Through and through, even with the controls in mind, this game is a 2D platformer much like the retro platformers of the 80s and 90s.

When you start the game, you’ll be in the first World, or Chapter, as the game likes to call it.  In each Chapter, you have a certain number of stages to go through.  You have to clear a certain number of these stages to unlock the Boss Battle that will unlock the next chapter.  These can be done in any order you wish, but if you play from the first stage, you will automatically be taken to the next, rather than going back to the menu each time.

In each stage, you will have to traverse a hazardous arena with traps and enemies in order to reach Bandage Girl and complete the stage.  You have no combat abilities, so you must be able to move around all of the hazards.  Getting hit a single time will kill you and restart the stage, so it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings and to see what is ahead.  There is no time limit, but you will get awarded a higher rank upon completing a stage quicker.

There are a lot of physics elements that come into play here.  You have a dash button, just like in the Mario games, and this directly affects jumps and falling maneuvers.  Many jumps must be done while dashing and some platforms you have to fall towards and use the dash button to put more weight into the fall to move through the air.  This is much more apparent towards the end of the game, where many of the stages require this element be used.

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Aside from completing your objective, there are hidden items in stages you should look for: Bandages of Portals.  Bandages are collectible items used to unlock more playable characters and Portals go to Warp Zone stages that have you going through as specific characters or in a unique environment that makes it look like a completely different game.  You can also tap Square in the Level Select Screen to switch between the Light and Dark World stages.  The Light World is the default stages you go through and the Dark World are the same stages, but harder.  Finishing both is required for seeing the True Ending.

Despite its platforming gameplay style, Super Meat Boy is not to be taken lightly.  The description on the PlayStation Store calls it a “hard as nails” platforming game, and that isn’t far from the truth.  The game starts out pretty simple and straight-forward.  As you go through each world, though, it gets a little harder and trickier.  By the time you reach the last worlds of the main story, the game will have you frustrated and cursing as your PS Vita, wanting to throw it into a wall.  It is a very hard game and once you beat the main story, the bonus chapters are that much harder.

There is but one complaint I have with the game.  Super Meat Boy has online leaderboards and Cross-Save functionality.  It wouldn’t be the first to suffer from this, but it suffers from annoying network-based pop-up messages.  While I had my Vita connected to Wi-Fi while playing the game, I got frequent pop-ups about leaderboards, cross-save, new updates, the list goes on.  It got to the point where it interrupted me so much in the middle of stages that I had to turn on Airplane Mode.  It is nice to be notified of the network features, but not to be pestered constantly.

As far as time is concerned, expect to put a big of time into the game.  Some of the stages can be finished within about 20 seconds, while the bosses are more like a few minutes.  That is, however, if you know what to do. If you don’t know what to do, attempting that 20-second stage could be more like 20 minutes instead of seconds worth of retries until you can finally get it right.  The main story has over 100 stages to play through, doubled by including the Dark World plus bonus chapters you can unlock and play after the main story is finished.  I would say you’ll be spending at least 5-8 hours on the game, most likely more.  I spent a good hour on the final boss of the Light World.  And that’s just one stage.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t hard at all.  First of all, there aren’t any touch, motion, or camera controls.   You will only be using the buttons when you’re playing the game.  As such, the game plays flawlessly on the PlayStation TV, even if you’re using a Dual Shock 3 controller.

Moving Meat Boy through each stage is done with the D-Pad or the Left Analog Stick.  Jumping is done with the X button.  Finally, dashing can be done with the L, R, or Square buttons.  Each of these has their uses.  Square for dash makes it feel more like a Mario game, but the triggers help your fingers from cramping up in the more taxing stages of the game.  Overall, though, it’s a very nice control scheme that should be very comfortable for any fan of the genre.

Presentation

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Presentation is one of the more noticeable and note-worthy achievements of the game.  Visually, the game looks really well-done.  All of the character models are crisp and smooth, and there’s no degradation, despite this being a handheld game.  If you recall, the last multi-platform game I reviewed, Dengeki Bunko, had clear degradation in its 2D model, compared to its PS3 counterpart.  Super Meat Boy, though, looks just as nice on the Vita as it does on any other console.

Performance is also quite the feat for these developers.  The game runs very solid at 60 fps and never drops a single bit.  Load Times are also nice and quick.  Some people won’t like some of the redone music tracks, but overall, the performance is really well done, especially for a smaller indie title.

Summary

Super Meat Boy comes to the Vita in all its disturbingly-cute wonder.  On the downside, the game has a nasty habit of bombarding you with network pop-ups.  Outside of that is one of the most well-done indie ports the Vita has seen in its lifetime.

9/10