Throwing The Bandaged Hamburger Baby Out With The Bathwater
HIGH This team can still make a game that controls with expert precision.
LOW Zero flair and zero soul to speak of.
WTF…did anybody at Team Meat ever write down what people liked about the first game?
Any list of the most important games from the past decade would not be complete without Super Meat Boy on it. This indie didn’t create the tough-as-nails platforming genre, but it definitely brought mainstream attention to it. What started as a Newgrounds flash game made in three weeks by two guys somehow became one of the most successful indies of all time, and it forged great strides on the long march towards legitimizing indie development in the eyes of many.
The wait for a sequel has taken a surprisingly long time, but for good reason. While I’m happy it was made under more humane circumstances, I’m afraid the end product will not be worth the wait to most.
Most of my befuddlement with Super Meat Boy Forever is due to the dramatic change in gameplay. While the original was a twitch platformer with unbelievably precise controls, this installment is an auto-runner.
I’m all for going against the grain and mixing up an old formula — we recently saw a phenomenal example of this with Yakuza: Like a Dragon — but the difference here is that while Like a Dragon was able to still feel like a Yakuza game in both tone and structure, none of the things that defined Super Meat Boy feel represented in Forever.
Rather than boasting handcrafted levels made with precision, Forever‘s are procedurally generated from over 100 different slices exclusive to whichever of the twelve worlds the player is currently in.
Instead of having direct control over Meat Boy (or Bandage Girl), the player is constantly running forward and the goal is to jump, wall jump, slide, punch, and maneuver their way to the end without getting turned into (literal) hamburger by a multitude of traps. This style of play is common on mobile phones, but with a full array of triggers, buttons, and sticks in my hands, it comes off as basic and rudimentary.
I also associate speed with Super Meat Boy — it’s all about one-hit-deaths and immediate restarts with very, very little downtime. Most levels could be finished in under five seconds for those who know what they’re doing. In comparison, the levels in Forever are exponentially longer and require numerous checkpoints. There simply isn’t the same amount of joy when one finally trudges across the finish line after finishing a level in chunks like this.
Another area where Super Meat Boy disappoints is in presentation. The original was a pioneer in the sprite-based retro revival, and it really went the extra mile by having weird stuff like secret levels that replicated the look of original Gameboy titles. They’ve replaced the iconic sprite art with a 2D style that looks, appropriately I suppose, like a Newgrounds flash game.
While I don’t think it looks terrible (some of the Dark World levels in particular can look rather striking) the charm has dropped significantly. There are also many more cinematic scenes, and while there are some good chuckles in there, having such a large focus on narrative doesn’t seem particularly warranted, though the spot-on homage to Rocket Knight Adventures was appreciated.
While Team Meat was known as a two man operation in their heyday, there was another who contributed significantly to the success of Super Meat Boy — Composer Danny Baranowski. The original soundtrack slaps harder than (maybe) any other retro soundtrack ever, and his absence in Forever is a tremendous loss.
I hate to say it, but Super Meat Boy Forever is a bummer. Its design and execution as an auto-runner is sound, but as a sequel to one of the most noteworthy and important indie games ever, it’s substantially lacking. Maybe that isn’t fair to say as much of the original team isn’t present, but I strongly disagree on the direction Team Meat took here. The original Super Meat Boy was brimming with panache and personality, and seemingly all of its magic has been lost in the decade since.
Disclosures: This game was developed and published by Team Meat. The game is now available on the Switch and Epic Games Store. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Six hours of play were devoted to play, and the main campaign was completed. There are no multiplayer modes
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and features Violence, Language, Crude Humor, and Blood. While the cutscenes can occasionally be juvenile, they’re rather banal and inoffensive. The levels literally become drenched in your own blood, but it’s actually hamburger meat so…ehh? It may be a tad much for pre-teens.
Colorblind Modes: The game features no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game features subtitle options for the cutscenes and they are presented in very large font. The size of the text is not able to be altered. All dialogue and instructions are provided in text, and there are no necessary audio cues. I’d say it’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The games controls are completely remappable.