Meat Boy - Retro Reflections - TBT

Meat Boy by developer and publisher Jonathan Mcentee, Edmund McMillen—Windows PC Throwback Thursday review written by Hamza. 2008.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

After watching the excellent Indie Game: the Movie by Swirsky & Pajot, I got a craving for meat... Meat Boy!!! Yea... *sigh*. Anyway, this flash platformer is universally over-shadowed by its more detailed and ‘meaty’ successor Super Meat Boy; and rightly so. This game is traditional platformer in the truest sense but is also unfinished and flawed, something the developers later rectified in its Super successor. Meat Boy’s roots go all the way back to when challenging platform games weren’t something to be taken for granted; but at the same time its soul is firmly in the present. And because of this, this little title will serve as a great connector between the bygone era of gaming and the current, fresh one. Meat Boy is challenging and fast but also full of charm and with that intangible groovy vibe to it. This game will transport the playerback to a time before platformers were taken for granted and will act as a great reminder that though the genre has had been tampered with countless times, its one aspect, difficulty, hasn’t rusted one bit. And that is precisely what this game excels in.

The story, reminiscent of fairy tales and folklore, sees Dr. Fetus kidnapping Bandaid Girl, who happens to be the lover of Meat Boy – the protagonist. Thus, Meat Boy has to brave danger – bullets, salt, Hell – and rescue his girlfriend... only to be kidnapped by the doctor every-time. The love story between a boy with no skin and a girl who is seemingly made up of bandages is one of modern games most cute and they indeed make a lovable couple... in that odd, bizarre way of course! There’s a certain 80’s game I want to mention, but I’m not going to, because by this time the name should be on the tip of your tongue. If not... *sigh*.

The levels are divided into two categories; static levels and scrolling levels. The static levels I can manage, but the scrolling ones I have to have nimble fingers, something I’m still working on. With the core of the gameplay still the same and the execution different, Meat Boy is simultaneously similar and distinct from its contemporaries and influences. Except for the scrolling levels, the other levels either see you descending down and rescuing your girlfriend; or ascending. The well structured levels are a recurring pattern throughout the game. And just when you’re thinking it will rehash one of its own designs, it surprises you by either an unprecedented childishly simple one or a devilishly timely one.

I must admit – I was quite intimidated by Meat Boy’s unabashed difficulty, but somehow, with its offbeat charm and likability, it won me over and seemed to whisper in my ear, “Look, I may be difficult, but once the tough exterior is penetrated, the interior is like an oyster bed, ya’ hear?” Going back to the game, I truly am glad of the fact that it had no timer whatsoever... and unlimited lives... and non-linear completion.

The ability to complete the game or a chapter in a non-linear fashion pleased me very much. There are a few levels which still I cannot finish, but I have made it to the end of the game. I was afraid of this game pulling a SkyRoads over me; and my fears were confirmed. Now, as surprising as it may sound, considering how many times I’ve mentioned the difficulty factor, but I found myself dying more often due to the sensitive nature of the controls than the dangers that plagued the levels throughout.

The controls are very sensitive, very reminiscent of an earlier game I reviewed, N+ on the NDS. Honestly, the sensitivity frustrated me. Over time I began to fear the handling more than the missiles and pouring salt. Yea. You heard that correctly! I saw this as unprofessional and an unnecessary banging of the nail on the coffin, seeing Meat Boy is difficult enough as it is. But through countless trial-and-error and blood and sweat, I managed to work my around the sensivitiy by slowing down my computer just enough so that the game was almost running in slow motion. Call me chicken, but that’s what you’d’ve done!

In conclusion, Super Meat Boy may be widely loved, but its unfinished and flawed little brother in the shadows, Meat Boy, is deserving of near-equal praise because of its accessibility and endless replay value. Seeing it is both free to play online and offline, everyone should take time off and play it. I recommend it!

Note: Screenshots from all platforms that were available at the time can be found here at Moby Games.

Score: 9.0 / 10



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