- Developer: Team Meat
- Publisher: Team Meat
- Price: £15.99 | $19.99
- Release Date: 23/12/2020
- Review code provided by Team Meat
Back, After All This Time
At the beginning of the indie game boom, when something big and new came along everyone and their dog would go to try it out. Usually, these would be in the form of free flash games you could play on something like Newgrounds or a similar site. One of those shining gems was Meat Boy, an ultra-hard platformer made by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes that really pushed the standard for what indie studios could make. Fast forward a few years and the popularity of the “little flash game that could” gave way to Super Meat Boy, a somehow EVEN HARDER version of the great game that so many had played before, and it sold TONS of copies.
So, how do you top one of the greatest indie games of all time? Well, the story is weird and not terribly satisfying, unfortunately. However, after what felt like a century (it’s was actually a decade, but still) the game finally hit the shelves and we can celebrate the final release of Super Meat Boy Forever!
And a Baby Makes Three
Super Meat Boy Forever is a continuation of the story told in the original Super Beat Boy: Meat Boy loves Bandage Girl. Evil Dr. Fetus hates Meat Boy, so he kidnaps Bandage Girl. Meat Boy hunts down Dr. Fetus and beats the crap out of him. Meat Boy and Bandage Girl fall in love and have a baby named Nugget. This time in Forever, Dr. Fetus has kidnapped your beloved little Nugget, and it’s your job as responsible parents Meat Boy and Bandage Girl to fight tooth and nail to save your little bundle of joy from peril.
So off you go to get your kiddo, but Dr. Fetus is up to his old shenanigans again as he leads you through death traps and pitfalls while trying his hardest to kill you a billion times. And if you think I’m joking in any way about that number of deaths, this must be your first experience with this series. We’ll get there though. The story takes place over a few highly varied worlds, each filled with their own slew of horrifying murder gauntlets as you clear stage after stage until you get to the boss.
Something interesting though is that, compared to previous Meat Boy experiences, each level in Super Meat Boy Forever is procedurally generated and randomized. Now, this isn’t to say that it’s different every time you play a level, but each level consists of randomized parts that make up the cohesive stage, so if you and a friend play two different copies of the game then neither of you will likely play the same puzzles. It’s pretty neat! Certainly adds to the replayability, that’s for sure.
Hurt Me Plenty
In Forever, there is one massive and very noticeable change from Super Meat Boy: The switch from free control of the character to having the character constantly in forward motion, almost like an endless runner style game, but in smaller segments. The only way to reverse direction for your character is to perform a wall jump, which will then send your character in the opposite direction. While this is a monumental change, this difference opens up the game for an entirely new and unique set of puzzles and challenges to solve. Next, with the addition of attacks and slides that have joined the move set, attacking enemies in the air or on the ground will grant added movement speed and distance to your character. As the game progresses, there are plenty of moments to complete enormous combos using all of these new mechanics to some pretty impressive results.
I was originally hesitant to enjoy this huge change, but it opened my eyes to an important concept. By removing the freedom to change direction at will, suddenly every obstacle in your path becomes a puzzle. Can you get through this area AND be facing the right direction when it’s all done? Honestly, when it works well it’s incredibly satisfying, but when it doesn’t it can be massively frustrating, but that’s kind of what Meat Boy do. Each new area, and in some cases each new stage, adds a new gimmick you have to learn and incorporate into how you navigate the traps and puzzles. Anything from disappearing blocks and enormous rotating buzz saws to gravity flip switches and interdimensional travel, this game has it.
Of course, with traps galore comes death galore. It’s a Meat Boy thing. Thankfully the kind folks at Team Meat knew this and kindly put in a checkpoint after every major obstacle, and for good reason, as my highest death count on a single stage is in the low three-digit range. On top of that, respawning is almost instantaneous, so there’s little to no downtime between retries. Honestly, it’s very kind of them for a game that goes out of its way to murder you in as many ways as it can. So, now that you have a decent framework of how this all works, let’s talk about something that doesn’t cause unending rage and frustration!
Riffing On The Classics
So, what sweet jammin’ tunes can you expect to listen to as you watch yourself getting murdered a billion times by the world around you? Thankfully, Matthias Bossi and Jon Evans made a pretty great soundtrack. Specifically, the backing music to your adventures is perfectly crafted to hear on repeat as you tear your hair out. Honestly, it’s pretty impressive to have a soundtrack as great as this game does for the kind of game that it is. By that, I mean that despite spending so much time dying over and over again, I never found myself getting tired of the music playing. If you’ve ever been in a situation where this isn’t the case then you know what I’m talking about.
Notably, the art style has changed from classic Meat Boy, shifting from the more pixelated style to a more HD rendered style. It’s not too bad to look at, but it feels like it misses some of the charm of its predecessor. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t like how this game looks by any stretch of the imagination, but it does lack a bit of what I was expecting. Each new area adds a whole new motif which gives the stages a new feel and energy that really adds to the quality of the game, so there’s plenty to enjoy as you play. In fact, each world has a bonus stage that adds even more flavour, but I will tell you now that while finding these stages is insane, beating them is just as hard, if not harder.
Finesse and Techniques
Now, here’s where things get a little bit tricky. This game demands precision in its base difficulty and actual perfection in the hard difficulty. Accordingly, I’m going to need some controls that match the level of expert movement I need to succeed, right? Wouldn’t it be a shame if something that demands near-perfect button presses just decided that occasionally those inputs aren’t going to work? Well, I’m sure you’re seeing where I’m going with this. Sometimes it feels like your buttons just don’t do what you ask them to do and then, unsurprisingly, you are instantly murdered. Given, this isn’t what happens every time, but I can safely say that it happened enough to be an issue.
Secondly, I was surprised that the game doesn’t give you crucial tutorials in the early stages until a few levels PAST when you first need to use those techniques. It’s a strange choice, for sure, and I don’t understand how you miss something that important. I mean, sure – Super Meat Boy is known for being hard as nails, but at least the original felt fair.
I am always going to recommend that this game be played in docked mode for the Switch, so as to have a larger screen to interpret what fresh hellish death-scape is unfolding in front of you. I will say that having Super Meat Boy Forever on the go is nice with the addition of handheld mode. The framerate keeps up, and it doesn’t feel like there are any performance issues with either of the different modes.
The Final Blow
Man, Super Meat Boy Forever was set up to be something amazing, but I feel like it just fell a little bit short on what I was expecting from it, even more so from the amount of time we knew this game was in the works. Seriously, I was hearing about this game for what felt like YEARS. This isn’t a bad game, and when it gets the action and puzzles right, this game sings. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t sing more often.
- This game is hard in a lot of good ways
- Fabulous soundtrack
- Near infinite replay value
- Controls are inconsistent when you need them
- The Dark World mode is brutal. Way too brutal.
- Unlock conditions for some characters are insanity.