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Super Meat Boy re-review (Switch Version)

It finally happened! I’ve been writing reviews here for at least 10 years, and finally a big game dev has recognized me as legitimate gaming press! That’s right. Team Meat, after I filled up a Google Form for reviewers requesting game keys, has decided that my little site is worthy of being approved as a Game Press site worthy of receiving review copies. Maybe I should try to get some from other companies… But in a way I like that almost all the reviews here are for games that I actually spent money on. It keeps me honest unlike… most other reviewers. But getting review copies from time to time is fun too!

So as a result of that, I get to write a review I probably wouldn’t have written otherwise. And this is interesting because I already did review this game 8 years ago… but back then my writing wasn’t very good, and we were experimenting a lot with layout and stuff. In a way this is a re-review, in a way it isn’t. Super Meat Boy is pretty much a classic now, but it’s been a while since I’ve played it, so let’s see how it lives up!

Disclosure: A Switch copy of Super Meat Boy was provided to me for review. Duh.

Let’s go!

Developer and publisher: Team Meat
Date of Release: There’s lots of release dates, but let’s keep it simple…
Original Release: October 20 2010
Switch Release which is what I’m reviewing here: January 11th 2018
Platform: Switch, PC, Xbox 360 (but not Xbox One, maybe it’s “backward compatible”), PS4, Vita, Wii U (Switch version reviewed)
Genre: “Single-screen”/Side-scrolling Platformer

Rated T for Teen

Presentation

Super Meat Boy uses small sprites during gameplay. Nothing super-detailed but Meat Boy isn’t a super-detailed character in the first place. He’s charming though. He’s a piece of meat with goofy cartoon eyes, what more do you need? As far as gameplay goes though, it’s always fairly easy to follow when Meat Boy is, it’s very easy to see what will kill you (and if it’s not immediately clear, you’ll learn that salt is bad very fast). Plus the fact that Meat Boy leaves blood on the floors and walls he touches helps with gameplay in various ways. There’s nice touches like buzzsaws becoming covered in blood if they kill you. In cinematics it uses what I’d say would be really high-quality flash animation back in the day. There’s big black outlines around the characters, lots of flat colors. It’s simple, but it’s smooth and fun to look at and well animated. Some of them parody old games which is kinda fun. Overall it oozes style. Speaking of style, there’s a lot of levels called Warp Zones, and those tend to feature a different visual style than average, usually mimicking some oldschool hardware. They definitely had lots of fun with that.

The game features lots of rock-ish stuff and game-y techno-ish stuff and it’s great. I love it. Not quite hum-worthy for the most part (though some tunes definitely are), but it fits the games and levels very well. Plus the “retro-style” levels tend to have fairly fitting music. I hear the music is different from the original music I remember from the PC version (I didn’t quite realize it), I didn’t know that. Listening to the PC soundtrack again… yeah it’s a bit better than the newer versions.

On the game sound side, there’s not MUCH to it, but the sounds Meat Boy makes when he jumps and lands are really funny, and the few objects with specific sound cues like buzzsaw launchers are well designed and help with the gameplay. Can’t really ask for more.

Story… Dr. Fetus (a fetus in a weird robot suit) kidnaps and beats up Meat Boy’s girlfriend, Bandage Girl. A lot. Every world has Dr. Fetus breaking/burning stuff and being a general dick to everyone, even the squirrels. Every level even ends with Dr. Fetus doing some kind of attack against Bandage Girl before running off with her again. The goal is to save Bandage Girl. The story isn’t anything amazing, but it’s fun to watch the cinematics. It serves the gameplay well.

Gameplay

Super Meat Boy is a platformer, and a very interesting one. It’s simple in concept. You have a run button, a jump button and you can move around. What makes Super Meat Boy work is how these simple mechanics work together, and the level design. Each level is covered in buzzsaws, lava, salt, spikes, missiles, holes, monsters, all there to kill you. The goal of every level is to get to Bandage Girl. Sometimes there’s keys you must find to open up certain blocks to go through a level.

The way Meat Boy jumps starts out a bit jarring but it’s great after a couple minutes of experimenting. It may seem floaty but that’s part of what makes it work so well. It may seem really fast despite that fact too, but that’s what makes it so exciting. Meat Boy is a fast dude, and he retains a LOT of momentum when jumping while running. The idea is to attempt to control that momentum to perform very precise platforming. Despite the floatiness, the controls are spot-on. It feels so good to jump around, Meat Boy can wall-jump which works amazing, running through sections really fast is really satisfying. There’s nothing to complain about when it comes to control and feel.

The levels tend to be fairly small and short. Sometimes a single screen, sometimes side-scrolling. But they’re difficult. You will die, a lot. That sounds like it may be annoying but it really isn’t. When you die you respawn almost instantly. You restart the level entirely, but like I said they’re very short. Very few levels take more than 20 seconds to complete (not counting the ton of deaths, obviously). When you do finish a level it’s super satisfactory, and then you get to see a cool replay where you see all the lives you lost attempting to go through the level at the same time. I love that aspect. Seeing hundreds of meat boys dying in vain is very fun.

In addition to going through levels and playing meh boss levels (they’re basically normal levels with a boss trying to kill you, or sometimes not even that), there’s lots of hidden stuff. There’s hidden warp zones which open up extra levels (in warp zones you have limited lives), glitch zones which you can get randomly, there’s bandages which unlock new characters (said new characters play similarly to Meat Boy but sometimes with different speed or abilities like better wall-clinging, double jumping, floating) but you only collect the bandages if you grab them and then finish the level without dying (otherwise you have to collect it again), and there’s the Dark World, where there’s new versions of all the levels (but you need a Grade A+ time in the light world version of the level to access the dark world version). There’s over 300 levels in all.

Note that the Switch version, much like the PS4, Wii U and Vita versions, does not include Teh Internets (XBLA exclusive) or Super Meat World (PC exclusive, which featured a level creator). The Switch version does however includes a new 2-player race mode, I didn’t try it yet though. Sounds like it would be quite fun. You can either race through the normal levels, or through randomly-generated levels. I’ll definitely try it at some point.

Overall

I may be beyond happy to have gotten this review copy, but I wouldn’t let that sway me. Fact is I loved the game when I reviewed it 8 years ago after paying money for it, and I love it now. It’s truly excellent and timeless.

Super Meat Boy has a tremendous amount of content, amazing controls that are fun to master, really fun/stupid/evil level design (and by stupid I mean good stupid, not bad stupid), lots of unlockables, really well-tuned and fair difficulty… The only thing I can really complain about is some of the boss battles, they’re just not really interesting. It was a badass game 8 years ago when it first came out, it’s still badass now. It’s the kind of game that will live on as a classic in the gaming community forever.

As for the Switch port, there’s no problem with it. My one “concern” was the “d-pad” on the left joy-con when playing in handheld mode, but once again it’s proven itself to work fine for even fast-paced action games. I think we can stop complaining about the “buttons-as-d-pad” thing, it works great in most situations. The Switch is the perfect platform for this game, it looks awesome in handheld mode, better than the Vita version due to the bigger screen. The addition of a race mode is really cool.

The Switch has both Super Meat Boy and The End is Nigh that came out recently, both similar games made by some of the same people, and I think Super Meat Boy is the better choice between the 2… but please don’t ignore The End is Nigh, it’s also amazing.

If you have never played Super Meat Boy, you must do it, regardless of platform. The Switch is just the nicest one to play it on.

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