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The Tech Deck

‘Super Meat Boy!’ gives old-school platforming a fresh sheen

Super Meat Boy! is a game that's unafraid to borrow from the tropes of the past, and turn them into something that is both infuriating and irresistible.
Super Meat Boy! is a game that's unafraid to borrow from the tropes of the past, and turn them into something that is both infuriating and irresistible.

Title: Super Meat Boy!
Release date: Oct. 20, 2010
Genre: Platform action
Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Team Meat
Platform review on: Playstation 4 ($14.99)
Also available on: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Playstation Vita
 

Somewhere around death no. 80 on a fiendishly difficult late level in Super Meat Boy!, my frustration turned to respect.

Games like Super Meat Boy aren't made anymore. The evolution of narrative structure and the move away from quarter-munching cabinets in the arcades has given rise to design that forgives the player his or her mistakes. Checkpoints are frequent, difficulty settings are a must and contextual clues and hints are given to help those holding the controller along the way.

Super Meat Boy takes these conventions and, much like its antagonist Dr. Fetus, repeatedly gives them the finger.

A screenshot of 'Super Meat Boy'
At the end of each level, you'll get a replay of your huge, embarrassing failures.

Team Meat has made a platformer in the most basic sense, in that you play on a two-dimensional plane and are tasked with jumping over, under and through obstacles to reach your goal. The narrative even borrows heavily from the wealth of games in the genre. You're a slab of meat, tasked with rescuing a female slab of meat from the bad guy.

Rather than a finite amount of lives, however, the difficulty in Super Meat Boy comes from the necessity of precision and beating the clock. Almost every one of the game's roughly 60 levels has a target time that you'll need to complete to unlock the “Dark World,” a variant of the game that hides its true ending. When you die, you're not penalized with the loss of a life, rather you must start the level all over again with a fresh clock.

The effect is mandatory experimentation and a loss of the fear of death. Progression comes from trial and error, and with a ticking clock there's no incentive to sit and wait on the timing of buzzsaws, homing missiles or vanishing platforms.

That's not to say the game can't get under your skin. I relived several of those angry afternoons of my youth, swearing at my television and my cutesy character's inability to jump the way I felt I'd instructed him to. But because there's no threat of permanent game over, the difficulty of Super Meat Boy never feels entirely beyond your grasp to conquer.

A screenshot of Super Meat Boy!
A boy and his meat.

Its graphics won't win any awards and some of its levels are pedestrian while others are needlessly complicated. But Super Meat Boy does what a great throwback game should do, and that's take conventional gameplay and turn it into something that feels fresher than, well, a slab of day-old meat. Give it a shot.

Verdict: 4/5 stars



Kip Hill
Kip Hill joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the City Desk, covering the marijuana industry, local politics and breaking news. He previously hosted the newspaper's podcast.

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