There are some games that quite rightly earn themselves a reputation. Super Meat Boy was one such game. The brutal, hard-as-nails platformer was released in 2010 and blended challenging platforming, kick-ass music and clever level design. It won over fans and critics alike, and despite the brutal challenge on offer, it was considered one of the best games of it’s genre. The long awaited sequel, Super Meat Boy Forever, has finally made its way to Xbox. However, how does it stack up against such a strong first act?
I can confirm that you’ll still die, a lot. Thankfully though, the only real punishment is that of starting over again, and thanks to the fact that you’re checkpointed often, the pace of the game keeps fast and fearsome. There’s a handy progress bar at the bottom of your screen which helps you track completion, as well as a brief respite from the murderous platforming action.
To keep the pressure on, each level has a target time to try and beat. These are quite challenging to meet because, of course, dying will slow you down. And as we know with anything Super Meat Boy, that is something which will happen to you a lot.
Meat Boy attacks each stage in a similar way as before, in that he runs from left to right, scrambling to avoid and deal with hazards as they appear with barely a moment’s warning. Spikes, saws and a variety of nasties will try their best to put an end to you. The difference from the first game is that Meat Boy will automatically run, meaning you are responsible solely for jumping and punching. The latter will only extend your fist for a few short seconds however, and if you make contact with an enemy after this you’re toast.
You’ll need to interact with all sorts of objects, including hooks, pipes, cannons and orbs. Each will provide a slight twist on the gameplay; for example some orbs will require you to punch your way out before they carry you to your death. Within “The Lab” area, you can use teleporters, arrow boosts which grant you an extra jump and other fancy high-tech gadgets.
Punching also provides another way for you to problem solve, usually by smacking airborne enemies out the way to extend your jump, on your path to the finish line. In Super Meat Boy Forever, this is where the gameplay really expands on the original, putting your time-pressured problem solving skills to the test thanks to the increased complexity.
Each world contains a series of randomly generated levels, which are challenging but offer enough to keep you playing. However, boss fights are hateful experiences. The first couple aren’t so bad, but then things get very, very difficult.
In one of these encounters, you face off against franchise baddie Dr. Fetus himself, alongside his army of clones. This was the first time where I felt the controls were not able to react quickly enough to my inputs, and what was being demanded of me. This led to several situations where I got utterly frustrated (and a bit sweary) as my character wouldn’t jump or punch despite me seemingly pressing the correct button in time. Of course, this instantly resulted in death, and there are no checkpoints in boss battles which makes the whole experience even more unforgiving. You’ll do well not to hurl your controller at the wall during these fights, breathing a heavy sigh of relief when it’s finally over.
In Super Meat Boy Forever, the difficulty doesn’t lie in figuring out how to complete the level for the most part – it’s possessing the necessary skills to pull it off. However, when things get really difficult you may well get stopped in your tracks for a short while as you figure out how to proceed.
It wouldn’t be a Super Meat Boy game without unlockables, and this is no exception. You can play as several characters and more will be revealed as you play, ticking off certain achievements. Many are unlocked by picking up pacifiers in each level. Some require you to chase these to multiple places before you can grab them for keeps. You’ll still have to avoid death until the next checkpoint to hold onto them however, which is sometimes the hardest part.
Super Meat Boy Forever sounds pretty good, however the most notable difference is how it looks. The visuals are a huge step up from the original, boasting vibrant and varied worlds each harking back to a classic retro platformer. You’ll visit “Chipper Grove”, “The Clinic” and “Tetanusville”, as well as unlocking other strongly themed worlds of pain.
Just to rub it in, the environments will gradually get bloodier to show quite clearly how many times you have died. The cutscenes are beautifully animated and genuinely funny too. Further to that, Nugget (Meat Boy and Bandage Girl’s child) is so cute, and it’s very entertaining watching Nugget cause chaos for Dr. Fetus in the pause menu too.
It’s only when you complete Super Meat Boy Forever that its true replayability is revealed. As mentioned before, the levels are randomly generated meaning you can run through the game several times without playing a single duplicate level, due to the thousands available. Of course, this all depends on how much you enjoy the gameplay, and how long you can grin and bear the constant death.
Super Meat Boy Forever lives up to its reputation, providing another hard-as-nails platforming experience. It expands well on the original, despite occasionally feeling overwhelmingly brutal, which may put some off. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, but should please fans of the original test.