How many controllers and keyboards have been destroyed in the pursuit of besting Super Meat Boy? How many people completed it for that matter? Super Meat Boy staked ratings and sales numbers on cutthroat, sadistic platforming, and Xbox 360 owners flocked to it. Some fans even purchased the game again when it arrived on PCs. Will those enthusiasts invest in the recent PlayStation versions? Five years is a long time for Sony loyalists to be left out in the cold, and several acclaimed platformers emerged in the interim. The good news: Super Meat Boy’s pure and responsive 2D gameplay complements the PlayStation Vita exquisitely.
Only a couple changes separate the Vita and PS4 renditions of Super Meat Boy from previous iterations. People that braved Meat Boy’s “out of the frying pan, into the fire” journey will have a leg up on newcomers, knowing full well how devious and emotionally upsetting the rapture, salt factory, and hell stages become. Nonetheless, avid followers expunged Super Meat Boy of its secrets, and so the strategies used to rescue Bandage Girl and eliminate Dr. Fetus work as well today as they did during 2010 and beyond. I wasted days in the company of Super Meat Boy on the Xbox 360, and zero additional content leaves me less enamored with it now.
Or should I say parts of it? I still love Super Meat Boy’s grimdark story. Dr. Fetus kidnaps the innocent Bandage Girl because of his hatred for Meat Boy, forcing the adorable hunk of beef to throw himself into a literal grinder at times to save his damsel. Meat Boy’s carefree and jovial attitude also makes the bleaker moments more humorous, like smothering an affectionate and sentient drop of blood or watching a tearful squirrel mourn its dead rodent cousins. I laughed, I made effeminate aww noises, and I grew attached to a sentient piece of poo, albeit briefly. In terms of its alluring, foreboding tone, Super Meat Boy runs unopposed.
You could also say Super Meat Boy remains unmatched in the platforming department. Team Meat’s developers created stages that test the resolve of any gamer. The forest introduces saw blades, the salt factory institutes conveyor belts and homing missiles, and hell presents airborne lava and portals. All the obstacles kill Meat Boy in one hit, compelling players to complete the levels without fault, though several wise designs reduce the stress. Meat Boy reacts to the slightest of inputs. While the momentum carries Meat Boy through each jump, the controls allow room for error when rebounding off walls or falling.
Whenever I turned Meat Boy into a meat smoothie, I only blamed myself. Super Meat Boy’s controls are that sensitive, that well executed. Super Mario Bros. set a gameplay precedent that Super Meat Boy upholds. I foresaw many deaths the moment leapt off ledges, and part of what makes the game so appealing is its quick restarts. Super Meat Boy returns you to the level’s beginning the second you touch spikes, magma, or lasers. The action never stops, never giving you time to reflect on your latest blunders or let the anger build. The instant you die, Meat Boy respawns, ready for another minute of agony. His unwavering smile is ridiculously contagious.
Another benefit of his beefy status, Meat Boy smears bloody muck on each surface he touches. The dedicated audience, even I, adopted this visual indicator to enhance our play. If you miss a platform time and again, delay your jump. Wait until Meat Boy covers the spotless ground in his filth, using his sprint to maximize your distance. The developers grant masochists the means to overcome any stage. Take the replays for example. Finishing levels rewinds the action, showing where every Meat Boy died trying to free Bandage Girl – all except one. The replays reveal the improvements you made in one level alone, and studious players carry those lessons over to the leaderboards.
While Super Meat Boy taught me its rules without ever breaking them, I don’t agree with every stylistic choice. Running away from literal shit and dodging dim-witted worms qualify as boss battles – in other words, embarrassingly easy pattern memorization. Graciously, Team Meat decided chapter six would not be the end of the hero’s story. If players achieve an “A+” rank on any level, they can attempt the dark world version, where skills decline or thrive. The forest, for instance, adds crumbling walls and buzz saws to the scenery that did not exist before.
I adored the challenges of the dark world, more so than other superfluous extras. Warp zones transport Meat Boy to different dimensions, unlocking bonus characters when you conquer their worlds. I didn’t enjoy The Kid’s (I Wanna Be The Guy) or Ogmo’s (Jumper) zones, however, for they involve too much trial and error and too many spikes. It’s the case of knowing a puzzle’s solution but lacking execution. In better news, those secret heroes revamp the gameplay in exciting ways. Commander Video (Bit.Trip Runner) temporarily floats when holding the jump button, whereas Tim (Braid) rewinds time for a few seconds, letting you net more bandages.
I hate Super Meat Boy’s bandages. Amassing band-aids unlocks characters unobtainable via the warp zones. Worse, you must grab the bandage and reunite with Bandage Girl in one go – no deaths allowed. I loathe when games don’t save collectibles the instant you obtain them, since I regret not seeing what benefits or mysteries they might confer. Thinking back, I wonder how I accomplished such a feat on the Xbox 360’s D-pad. On the Vita, I chickened out of the bandage hunt with three stages under my belt.
I nearly wrote the music off, too. The composer behind Super Meat Boy, Danny Baranowsky, rejected the licensing offers for his music, pressuring Team Meat to create a new soundtrack for the PS4 and Vita ports. I had my doubts, since Danny conceived some of my favorite chiptunes tracks. Surrendering those songs would impair Super Meat Boy’s future, right? However, it appears Ridiculon stepped their talents up. They created fresh setlists for the forest, hell, the rapture, and the end, contesting Danny’s work. Hell’s latest guitar riffs and the forest’s catchy banjos sparked my adrenaline like it was 2010 again.
The only distinction: I play the game exclusively on the PlayStation Vita now. Super Meat Boy became my Vita’s preferred piece of software overnight, due in part to the system’s D-pad and portability. At my desk or in my bed, I keep the handheld within reach, ready to boot up Super Meat Boy. In one sitting, I crushed twenty levels. During another, I beat three. I made progress regardless, so no session ever seems wasted.
At one point, I probably would have given Super Meat Boy a perfect score. In 2010, Team Meat refuted the claims that modern games have become staid, too easy, that they practically play themselves. However, I have matured. I’ve grown as a person, and although I think Super Meat Boy would reign supreme if we started listing hardcore platformers, a fresh soundtrack and Vita support cannot reignite my five-year-old passions. I’m sorry, Super Meat Boy. It’s not you, it’s me.
This review is based on the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
I envy Sony fans that get to experience Super Meat Boy for the first time. Hundreds of levels, pixel-perfect controls, and a brand-new soundtrack cement the game as a must-play 2D platformer on the PlayStation 4 and Vita.