Hey let's talk about Super Meat Boy, okay guys?
I got around to purchasing "Super Meat Boy" on XBLA. I thought I'd hold out of the PC version, but when $20 worth of MS points essentially fell into my lap, I knew what I had to play next.
When I bought the game, I at the very least I expected a well-done love letter to classic, retro gaming. A sort of homage to the classic NES era of gaming, a fun little retro-romp that borrowed and commented on a great deal of the classic gaming tropes.
Despite my expectations, I didn't get that.
No, instead of an homage or an interactive bag of references to classics, Super Meat Boy is a classic in its own right.
Super Meat Boy is an exemplary example of game design down to its very core. The game has fantastic, tight controls that are responsive to the point that it feels as though your thoughts themselves are being transmitted directly to the screen. On top of the extremely good controls, the game NEVER cheats. When you die(and you WILL die, many, many times), it's not due to the game being cheap or cheating you out of a life arbitrarily or artificially. It's always because you screwed up, you didn't time the jump right, you were too slow and unresponsive.
Already, that's the hallmarks of a great game. But it really doesn't end there by any means. The latency between death and starting the level back up again is a blink. You don't have time to scream and throw the controller in frustration in remembrance of the splattered, bloody remnants of your upbeat sack of meat because it's already time to go again not one second after your death.
This mechanic gives Meat Boy a really frantic pace and a license to GREATLY amp up the difficulty, and it would be REALLY easy to assume the game would be mostly cheap or random. Due to aforementioned controls though, in combination with some INGENIOUS level design, you very quickly come to feel like your last 20 deaths have taught you something. And you should have, because Super Meat Boy is an EXEMPLARY teacher. Due to the extremely low death-to-next-try latency, the small nature of the levels, and the extremely tight controls, you quickly realize that you start to easily skip past obstacles that once were insanely difficult, that you understand the path to success on a basic, rhythmic level. You LEARN the way to success and win, and you get better, because the game is designed in a way that teaches you to succeed without ever dropping handouts, because this game expects better from you.
This game is STUFFED with content. When you do succeed, and succeed quickly, you unlock an alternate, HARDER version of a level. There are also many hidden levels, including Warp Zone levels, where a Warp Zone is hidden inside a level and only appears at a specific time. This game sports over 300 levels, all of them relatively short but most of them extremely satisfying to play through and ultimately master. There are a wide variety of characters to unlock from many other fantastic indie titles(that you should have played). Super Meat Boy is not a game that leaves you thirsting for more due to a dearth of things to do. If it did, free levels come down to the XBLA version through "Teh Internets", and the PC version is getting a full-blown level editor.
The game's extremely fantastic design does not end with the gameplay, either. Meat Boy is incredibly atmospheric, with some of the best sound design in a game. Meat Boy's slushing sounds are incredibly responsive to his every action, it sounds different when he runs, walks, jumps, bounces off a wall, slides to a stop, or scrapes against a wall. His slushy meat steps can be used to time jumps, the sound of his jumps can be used to time midair movement. Everything about the sound design aids gameplay and adds atmosphere to the world.
Graphically, the game is extremely simple, but also very well done. The trail of meaty blood that Meat Boy leaves behind is persistent, as are the bloody remnants of Meat Boy's previous attempts at a level. Previously clean blades are stained red as a bloody reminder of your past failures(I actually used this in a level once, noticing that I'd never actually hit a certain sawblade in the past 40 attempts at the level, which let me realize that Meat Boy wasn't as apt to jump up into it as I thought).
Super Meat Boy also features an excellent soundtrack, quick and amusing cutscenes, iconic characters, and a beautiful overall look. Super Meat Boy is simply a MUST-OWN game, hands-down, and one of the very best-designed games not only in this generation, but in all of videogame history. Firing up Super Meat Boy is like getting a pleasant and comforting reminder that, yes, it's still okay to enjoy video games, and yes, there are still people who care about making something that is fun, challenging, and engaging as fuck. In short, BUY IT.