Potato Sack #5

One of the more curious titles in the recent Steam Potato Sack was Super Meat Boy. I'm going to be up-front on this one: I'm not much of one for platformers. Super Mario Bros games hold a special place in my heart, and my kids like them (we have Kirby's Epic Yarn - which I still haven't touched), but generally speaking platforming games do not hold the same place in my heart as sports, strategy, rpg and fighters. When I think of platforming games, I think of interesting visuals, challenging jumps, lots of dying and level memorization. These were staples of the NES era when I'd play games like Life Force, Contra, Rush N Attack, Legendary Wings and so many more. But over the years, I did not play these kinds of titles nearly as much.

Why am I prefacing this? Because on the one hand, I can appreciate a lot of what Super Meat Boy does and does well, but it's not a game I will probably spend a ton of time playing personally. My son loves it. He has no problem with trial and error and tons of deaths. I find it to be a decent 20-30 minute diversion and then I sink my gaming teeth into something a bit... well, I was going to say 'meatier' - realized the unintentional pun within, and hang my head in shame. Moving on...

There's a lot to like here. the presentation is full of retro goodness for people who enjoy this sort of genre. You will die and often, but one thing I did appreciate was that most of the levels were actually quite short. No checkpoints, no running out of lives. Boss battles feel a bit more like a traditional Super Mario level, where as many of the levels in Super Meat Boy are much shorter. In the first world, you will be seeing several levels that are 1 screen in size is all.

The controls are solid. You run, you jump, you cling (and slide down) walls as you angle for your next jump. There's a sense of both horizontal and vertical scale that keeps the levels feeling fresh. Graphics and music and sound all work together to help recreate the retro experience. On their own, these elements are slightly above-average to good, and not great, but together they do a good job of carrying the game's theme and intent across.

There are a lot of intangibles here. Each level has a tougher, more sadistic 'dark world' that amps up the difficulty level and splashes the screen with a cool, new look to levels you've already beaten. There's secrets to find including bandages you can use to unlock new characters who all have their own attributes as well. There are also leaderboards for those who like to compare scores. All of this adds up to a fairly large game with a lot to do.

At $15 on Steam, it's not a bad price. It lacks some of the musical and graphic 'wow' of a Super Mario or Kirby release, but at a fraction of the price, that's to be expected. If you enjoy platforming gameplay and aren't frustrated/turned off by punishing difficulties, then there's a lot of value to be had here and it's probably worth a go. This is a game I've been eying for awhile, and I'm glad I got it as part of this package and not as a standalone personally. I'd probably give the game an 8 - it's not my cup of tea but I can't deny that you get a lot of game here for the price.

Below is a funny video of my gaming session. I have no idea what was going on here. usually the game is fast and buttery smooth playing on my machine. But as I recorded it here, two things began to happen. A) The game slowed down considerably. Not surprising that if my processor's getting taxed that I'd be dropping frames. B) While I was recording, impossible game physics occurred. I was unable to jump at times, I couldn't cling to walls -and as you will see, I started to fall through walls and floors. I have absolutely no idea how this happened, but the video plays out almost more as a blooper reel. A level that's usually a matter of seconds to finish? I couldn't do it. Somehow the game engine was affected by my processor being taxed, and breaking its physics. I've love to know what is happening here behind the scenes to cause that, but I thought it made for an entertaining video at least. :)

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