Super Meat Boy meant a lot of things to a lot of people. While talking with Tommy Refenes of Team Meat at PAX East in Boston, a random fan came up and explained how Super Meat Boy basically changed his life. It was a great moment that showed how the power of a really good game can mean the world to just about anyone.
Not so many people are aware that the duo that created the original best-selling title are no longer working together. While that split has already been publicly documented, knowing the newest installment in Meat Boy’s journey is only being made by half of the talent behind the original could have spelled disaster. Things weren’t looking up when the game was revealed to be an auto-runner style game.
Talking it over with our own Jonathan Holmes, I expressed my trepidation. I wasn’t sure what I felt, because I’m just not big on games that, essentially, play themselves. Holmes then said to me, “Tommy is the kind of guy that prioritizes control and would agonize over it being right, so I’m sure the game plays well.” I don’t know why I doubted him, because Super Meat Boy Forever is as tight as the original.
As a matter of fact, it is the original. While going through a few levels of the PAX build, I was surprised at how damned similar Meat Boy felt here compared to his previous adventure. Turns out this is the same physics engine from Super Meat Boy, just stripped of fat like directional controls. That doesn’t mean the game becomes simplified, but the approach to gameplay is more focused.
From the trailer above, it might look like this is yet another runner, but applying that label to it is a gross simplification of what Team Meat has actually made. Super Meat Boy Forever is more a two-button platformer that’s actually built around the idea of two-buttons. Since Meat Boy can only jump, thrust punch or dive, the level design exploits these mechanics to their fullest. If you thought Super Meat Boy was great in the way it taught mechanics through gameplay, Forever has it beat.
Before I even stepped up to play the game, I watched the demo reel of footage and basically understood everything I needed to know. Meat Boy will never stop running, so you need to have lightning fast reaction speeds to succeed (which I happen to have). The controls will never be why you fail because they are as tight as ever and are so uncomplicated you can’t mistakenly forget to run (or forget to do anything). You just need to look ahead and react accordingly, which is incredibly varied for a game where your character has a compulsion to move forward all the time.
I made the comparison to Refenes about how Super Mario Run was similar in style but didn’t stick the execution. “Run didn’t feel like Nintendo making a mobile Mario game,” he eloquently explained to me “but a mobile game with Mario.” He is absolutely correct because Super Mario Run doesn’t really capture the essence of what the Super Mario series was always about. Super Meat Boy Forever feels remarkably similar to Super Meat Boy and even has the same style of level design.
Curiously, the levels are procedurally generated and still feel tailor-made. As Refenes explains in the video that will go up eventually, there are segments crafted by his team that are then filtered in based on difficulty level (yes, Forever has multiple levels of difficulty). Each segment is randomly selected in an effort to create unique runs each time.
Since I’m apparently a hot shot, I just walked up, said, “Fuck it” and started on Cruel Mode. Refenes was blown away by how I was sight reading segments and doing incredibly well — we joked that a new difficulty would have to be made for me — but as I said above, this was due to my reaction speed. Since I’ve been a big fan of first-person shooters my entire life, my reaction time is pretty damn fast and the mechanics of Forever are simplified to the point where your raw skill is what determines your success.
That doesn’t mean Forever isn’t for you if you suck at twitch games though, because you don’t need to best levels in a single, continuous run to reach the finish line. I’m not exactly sure how the checkpoint system works, but it appears the game creates one after each major challenge. Refenes did explain that individual levels are long, but each segment is about the length of a level from the first Super Meat Boy. Theoretically, each world has more content than the entirety of Super based on difficulty and random generation.
With the varying levels of difficulty (which starts with Hard and progresses to Cruel), it means everyone is bound to find a mode that suits them. If you really are an ace and want to tackle things in a single run, the game will also accommodate that playstyle with a nightmarish mode requiring players to beat an entire world without dying. I can’t imagine doing that (even with my skill, I still died a lot), but the choice is yours.
That choice is what helps alleviate a lot of the apprehensions I had before playing Forever. I’ve never been a fan of auto-runner games, but I’m definitely on board with this new version of Meat Boy. It still has all the beautiful artwork from the first game and the physics are literally the same, but the game feels tighter and it provides a stark challenge for those that want it. That sounds exactly like what a sequel to Super Meat Boy should be if you ask me.