Super Meat Boy
The more we think about it, the more we come around to the idea that Super Meat Boy might be the hardest game we’ve ever played. Even from the first time you enter the Dark World and witness how cruelly walls and floors become beds of circular saws, and collapsing platforms replace once-safe ledges, it’s evident that by the time you reach the end of the game, you’re going to be expected to string together precision jumps, slides and landings like no game in years has expected of a player.
It’d be like Guitar Hero throwing you an Expert level Dragonforce track and failing you the first time you miss a note – there’s zero room for error, and Team Meat demands nothing less than perfection from its subjects. It’s hard to deny this right, though, when the two-man team behind the game has only just fallen short of gaming perfection itself.
A near-constant flow of hardcore platforming, visual gags and references that span indie and retro gaming’s rich histories makes Super Meat Boy a tireless entertainer, and, though the focus is evidently on the platform action, the game is full of surprises. Retro-themed bonus stages pop up when you least expect them, while even the main levels twist and turn their way through a tapestry of cameos and nods to download gaming’s greatest.
Sometimes the environment will change (one level taking on a Canabalt-inspired theme, while others later on directly reference N+), plus there’s a host of unlockable characters to test your indie knowledge. These can be recruited either by collecting bandages hidden in the most awkward spots possible within levels or by seeking out warp zones, which test your ability to master the new hero’s unique powers over a trio of horribly punishing trials. It’s okay to cry, we’re assured.
With a vast selection of levels to wade through and Dark World versions of most to challenge once you ace the main stage (if your patience doesn’t snap before then), there’s no shortage of ways in which Team Meat is able to test, frustrate and delight players in equal measure. Bonus characters can be used to reduce or increase challenge as you see fit too, further boosting longevity and helping even less able players to reach the latter stages, where they’ll invariably start to tear their hair out.
Even veterans won’t escape the torture – Super Meat Boy takes the dubious honour of being the game that caused us to invent the most new profanities – but the payoff at the end is worth it.