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Super Meat Boy Forever Review


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On 12/31/2020 at 10:00 AM by Nick DiMola

You can’t beat this meat.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of challenging platformers.

Ten years ago, we were given a gift in the form of Super Meat Boy on Xbox Live Arcade. At the time, we’d never really seen anything like it. Smaller indie downloadable games were really just starting to enter the mainstream consciousness of gaming and Super Meat Boy effectively kicked the door in and made clear that these smaller titles had something special to offer and were here to stay. And since that statement, myriad other developers have taken lessons from Super Meat Boy and its DNA can be seen in so many games that would follow. However, this creates an interesting predicament that Team Meat needed to solve - how do you offer a sequel that manages to bring something new to the table, while still feeling as simple and approachable (and difficult) as the original did?

If you didn’t cheat and look up the answer, I’d be willing to bet that turning Meat Boy into an auto-runner wouldn’t have been your first guess. It certainly wasn’t my first guess and I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical of the direction. That said, having played through and beaten Super Mario Run 100%, I knew that not only could an auto-runner work, but it could be unique and fun and still a legitimate challenge despite the loss of autonomy in movement. I’d strongly recommend putting aside any skepticism you might have of the new direction, especially if you were a fan of the original.

Super Meat Boy Forever might ask you to give up directional movement, but it rewards your sacrifice with a few new abilities. Most importantly Meat Boy can attack now - a marked change from the original. But this attack really plays into Meat Boy’s ability to move with more finesse through the level, giving you a boost forward through the air to help you clear larger distances or thread the needle through some well-placed saw blades. You can also perform a kick - on the ground, this will let you attack enemies, but it will also let you sneak beneath course hazards. In the air, this will rapidly send you careening downward to avoid impediments or to catch a wall to jump from and send Meat Boy headed in the opposite direction.

So while directional movement may be gone in favor of auto-running forward, Super Meat Boy Forever never feels like you’ve lost some amount of control. If anything, navigating Meat Boy is even more nuanced now, which is doubly true when you work in all of the incredible new environmental design elements.

You’re no longer just avoiding well-timed saw blades or salt in a factory, but interacting with and changing the level as you play them. There are blocks you can knock around, enemies that can be leveraged to help keep you airborn by allowing you to chain mid-air punches, warp portals that activate/deactivate pieces of the level, enemies that lock the screen and allow you to screen wrap in order to clear the area, special power ups to change your mid-air movement when you punch, and even more insidious hazards that force you to chain all of these different pieces together. When you start putting all of the moving parts of Super Meat Boy Forever together, you see exactly how they were able to ratchet the gameplay up a notch to make it fresh, interesting, new, and still insanely challenging.

Another cool change is how levels are actually assembled. While the levels are randomly assembled, they are assembled from small independently designed chunks. For each world in the game many level chunks were made and based on a randomization seed they are arranged into a set of five unique levels. This means that the Super Meat Boy Forever I played for review and the one you play when you start your quest will be fundamentally different, offering a unique experience each and every time you begin a quest. It’s a brilliant way to add replayability without having to constantly author new levels - and because you can set the seed manually, you can also have a shared experience with friends by syncing up with the same seed at the outset. Even better is that clearing each chunk of a level gives you a checkpoint, keeping the game manageable and enjoyable.

Beyond that, the game is set up very similarly to the original. There are a variety of worlds with a number of levels within them and each of the worlds are punctuated with a boss encounter. Beat each level quickly enough and you will unlock the dark world variant, which is even more difficult. Some levels even have a pacifier to collect, similar to the bandages in the original (this time you are rescuing your daughter, Nugget, from Dr. Fetus rather than Bandage Girl, hence the pacifiers). While the seeds make each overall quest unique, these various challenges give even more heft to the quests themselves. The hidden portals from the original also make a reappearance, unlocking a super cool retro throwback challenge. 

It’s also worth calling out the bosses specifically in Forever because they are much improved from the original. Now with the ability to attack, they feel more like a proper boss fights. Each and every one is designed very well, and like the rest of the game, requires precision and quick reaction times to complete. Rather than dreading the boss encounters, I really appreciated what Team Meat did this time around.

And I think that that general sentiment extends to the entire experience. It's not just the gameplay - all of the trappings have been kicked up a notch. The cutscenes are chock full of personality with a distinct Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe, the graphics and animations are all clean and crisp and everything just looks gorgeous in motion. The soundtrack by Ridiculon is phenomenal and the sound design by the crew at Power Up Audio adds even more to the experience.

Given the very long development time and numerous delays, the switch from a pure platformer to an auto-runner, and the loss of Edmund McMillen from Team Meat, I expected to be underwhelmed by Super Meat Boy Forever. But not a single facet of this game feels wrong. In all of the ways this game is different from the original, it’s the same in the most important ways - it’s incredibly well-made, incredibly fun and brutally difficult in the best way possible.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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