Like many other gamers my age, my personal video game journey started with the original Super Mario Bros
on the NES. Though nostalgia may have grossly exaggerated my memories of those early days, thereís no question that they served as the catalyst for what can only be described as a passionate 25 year video game obsession.
Games have changed a lot since then. As they strive to become more complex, the controls have also become more complicated. Graphics and sound are reaching new levels of realism every year and the machines we play them on have skyrocketed in complexity and power. While this rationale serves first-person shooters and action/adventure games very well, I still believe that the best platformers are the ones that stay true to their forefathers.
Super Meat Boy
is a brilliant example of this and stands as a testament to the virtues of classic simplicity.
In the spirit of accessibility, the controls are deceptively easy to grasp. Running and jumping are your only two means of traversal, but by no means is that a limitation. Meat Boy can sprint and leap around with insane momentum, often covering what seems like impossible distances in a very short amount of time. Once in the air, he can change direction at your command and weave between various hazards with relative ease. Thanks to a generous vertical wall slide, he can also travel straight up just as easily.
Those pinpoint controls quickly become a necessity considering the sheer amount of traps that stand between our skinless hero and his princess, Bandage Girl. Mounds of broken glass, saw blades, turrets, spikes, rocket launchers and lasers can all end your run instantly if even so much as a pixel touches them. Itís important to remember that each death in Super Meat Boy
teaches you an invaluable lesson - never ever do that again
. Iíve personally suffered over 25,000 lessons, and Iím still learning.
To combat the demented level of difficulty, Meat Boy has a respawn time of approximately one second and an infinite pool of lives to back it up. With no time to mourn your own death, there is no choice but to get out there and try again. And again. Each mistake brings you that much closer to victory. With the tools to complete each stage right there in front of you, the only traits required to succeed are patience and bravery. In my case, an absurd amount of stubborn confidence and poor posture can eventually work as well.
Though the superb controls provide a sturdy foundation, Super Meat Boy
doesnít just get by on them alone. The graphics are reminiscent of the 16-bit era, with bold colors and hard edges accented by some lovely lighting and particle effects. The trail of blood Meat Boy leaves on any surface he comes in contact with is an especially nice touch. To top it all off, the whole package is complimented by an amazing soundtrack composed by (the now famous) Danny Baranowsky. Itís a powerful, energetic mix that continues to motivate well after the thousandth time it repeats. Hell, youíd think Iíd be sick of it by now but I still canít get enough of it.
Itís a good thing the soundtrack is wonderful because the game has an absolutely ridiculous amount of content for being a downloadable title. Over 300 stages make up the main game, each of which can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more to complete. The environments range from forests and rooftops to hospitals and fiery hell caves. Xbox 360 players have access to an exclusive chapter called ďTeh InternetsĒ which delivers even more stages every couple months, all completely free of charge! With leaderboard support for each individual stage, a competitive person like myself can spend a lot of time painstakingly shaving off those precious milliseconds.
In essence, Super Meat Boy
is a heartfelt love letter to platforming enthusiasts. Itís fast, intense, difficult and magnificent. A modern classic and my favorite downloadable title of all time, hands down.