Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Lace Mamba Global
Super Meat Boy is an indie benchmark; a mechanically perfect and unrepentantly difficult platformer that has already gained an impeccable reputation on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade. However, the merchandise-laden physical disc editions remained tantalisingly out of reach over on the other side of Atlantic Ocean... until now. The Ultra and Rare editions are now available to buy in the UK, and since we don't have a review of the original game on site (mainly due to the fact that I was unable to push through the Rapture world for several months), it's high time we gave this latter day classic the respect it deserves.
After Super Meat Boy's girlfriend, Bandage Girl, is kidnapped by the nefarious Doctor Fetus (who's a bit of a dick, it has to be said), our squishy and succulent hero sets out on an epic adventure throughout more than 300 levels in order to win her back. The two-dimensional stages offer a genuinely insane level of challenge, riddled as they are with buzzsaws, spikes, pits, lava, more saws, enormous piles of salt and murderous bosses that stand between you and your pretty pink objective. Interestingly, the emphasis isn't on completing them in as few deaths as possible; rather, each and every one of your attempts is catalogued and replayed simultaneously once you complete the level - slathering the stages in blood and gore in the process. You will die countless times, fail constantly and get punished to within an inch of your patience... but the feeling of finally beating a tough level delivers an ecstatic endorphine rush that's beyond belief.
Difficulty alone is not enough to make a good game, and Team Meat clearly understood that tough platformers also need to arm their players with intuitive and responsive mechanics. Super Meat Boy is technically perfect, providing instantly responsive controls, precise analogue control and a realistic sense of momentum. Players have everything they need to complete each level in spectacular style... so when you fail, you've only got yourself to blame. This removes most of the frustration factor, turning what could have been a miserable grind into a compulsive quest for self improvement. Multiple characters (typically cameos from other indie platformers) earned by collecting tricksy bandages or completing hidden bonus levels all offer different physics models and abilties, adding even more depth to the experience.
Naturally you'll get all the latest updates including dozens of extra levels, level editor and level portal on top of the original value-packed game.The editor itself is intuitive and relatively easy to use, though remember that you'll have to complete a level yourself before being able to submit it publicly. If you're hard enough to make it, you should be hard enough to play it!
Graphically, Super Meat Boy looks great thanks to its colourful and anarchic art style. Personally I feel that the PC version lacks some of the visual vibrancy and polish of the XBLA offering, but it's an attractive and refreshing experience nonetheless. What's more, you'll be having too much adrenaline-coursing fun rocking out to the outstanding soundtrack to notice. I'd go as far as saying that DB Soundworks' musical effort stacks up with the best that this generation has had to offer, lending a real sense of urgency and grandeur to the proceedings. Don't take my word for it! Note that both the Ultra and Ultra Rare editions are bundled with the soundtrack in MP3 format, so it's probably time we took a closer look at what's in the box.
Super Merch Boy!
The Ultra Edition comes packaged in a single DVD case and contains the following pieces of bonus merchandise:
- Comic/Art Book. This surprisingly slim document is probably the highlight of the package. 40 pages of detailed concept art, hilarious asides and developmental commentary supplement a comic that apes the introductory video. Fans will pore over this for some time.
- Poster. This impressive double-sided poster displays the standard SMB solid red logo and the 'realistic' epic movie artwork on the reverse. Printing quality is very sharp, but frankly, it's a poster. It's great, but I feel discussing it further might be a waste of both our times.
- Digital Soundtrack. The disc contains DB Soundworks' entire soundtrack as MP3 files, including remixes and piano arrangements. A CD copy wouldn't have gone amiss, sadly, but I suppose that we're free to make our own.
- Some Digital Goodies. If your desktop background could do with sprucing up, consider this your lucky day.
The Rare Edition contains all of the above (in fact, it literally contains a sealed copy of the Ultra Edition itself) along with an Extra Large T-Shirt. You don't get a choice of size, but the shirt itself is high quality, comfortable and about as stylish as you'd expect from a garment designed around a bloody slab of meat. Most retailers are vending far below the RRP at the time of writing, meaning that a few extra pounds is probably a steal for an official piece of branded merch. The box itself is also extremely striking and durable, making for a fun collectible in its own right. If you can - especially if you're a fan - go for the Ultra Rare edition.
There are a couple of aggravating niggles with the physical edition that stem from Super Meat Boy's origins as a downloadable title. You'll still have to register and access the title through Steam - while online - despite owning the DVD yourself... and in an incredibly inconsiderate move, the serial number you'll need to enter in order to install Super Meat Boy is printed on the disc itself. For want of a better word: this is really, really dumb.
Due to the reliance on Steam, it's a shame that the long-awaited physical edition never feels like it's truly yours. In the grand scheme of things, though, I couldn't care less.
- Outstanding, addictive indie platform action
- Mechanically perfect
- Meaty value and decent merchandise
- The soundtrack. Oh my God.
- Get used to rage quitting
- Game still has to be activated, registered and played through Steam
The Short Version: Super Meat Boy's Ultra Rare Edition more than justifies its existence and negligible price tag with some decent merch, an excellent shirt and a physical copy of one of this generation's finest platormers.
Just buy it already. Download it, buy the ultra edition, whatever... just make sure you own Super Meat Boy.