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Meat Boy - Indie Game Review

by: David Sanchez ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

Meat Boy is an addictive, difficult, and engaging sidescroller that doesn't go easy on you and provides a great challenge. At $0, fans of tough platformers would be foolish not to play it.

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    Satisfying Punishment - Meat Boy Review

    Meat Boy 

    If you’re into punishing retro-style platformers that are totally unforgiving and push you to the brink of frustration while still retaining a great deal of charm, then you need to play Meat Boy. Even if you’ve already played the recently released Super Meat Boy on Xbox Live Arcade, you should really play the first game if you have yet to do so. Meat Boy is essentially the prototype for Super Meat Boy, but it really feels like a game of its own, and it’s worth a play by gamers who have the patience to deal with all of the game’s challenges.

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    Meat Boy Storyline

    Meat Boy's plot is simple and quirky. 

    Like many old-school games of the NES and SNES eras, Meat Boy’s plot is very thin. You play as Meat Boy, and it is up to you to save your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil Dr. Fetus. Though Super Meat Boy does a better job of explaining this exact same plot, Meat Boy follows the same basic story. It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s quirky enough that it manages to work. And there’s no denying that this strange story draws inspiration from the nonsensically enjoyable tales of the 8-bit and 16-bit generations.

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    Meat Boy Gameplay

    The game starts off easy enough... 

    In each of the levels in Meat Boy, you have to climb, wall jump, and avoid hazards in an attempt to rescue Bandage Girl. The levels aren’t very expansive, but they are challenging, and the game does a good job of teaching you the basics in the first few stages. Like other enjoyably tough games, death is a part of Meat Boy. You can’t get through the game without dying dozens upon dozens of times, so it’s good that you don’t have a set number of lives making you even more nervous.

    As you traverse lava-infested stages and avoid missiles, you’re bound to feel a bit of frustration. Again, this is just a part of the Meat Boy experience. At times it appears that stages are nearly impossible to complete, but with some persistence, you eventually get through that tough level that killed you 20+ times. After all of the frustration that comes from playing a level over and over again, you get a great sense of satisfaction once you finally clear it.

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    ...but things get tough almost immediately. 

    You control Meat Boy using the directional keys on your keyboard to move and the spacebar to jump. The controls are responsive and work well, but gamepad support would have been really welcome. It’s not that the keyboard does anything wrong, but games like Meat Boy make a much better match with standard controllers. For what it’s worth, though, the actions you perform are tight and go through without a hitch.

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    The game has an artsy look to it that's clean, bright, and solid. 

    Like other games by Edmund McMillen, the visuals in Meat Boy are clean and colorful, and they manage to look impressive despite their simplicity. Each of the game’s levels has a great deal of charm and artistry, and the little details add even more to the game’s look. For example, wherever Meat Boy runs, a trail of blood follows behind him. And it doesn’t just fade away after a while; the blood stains remain on the level until you clear it. Minor facial expressions and animations also add to the game’s quirky personality.

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    Meat Boy’s soundtrack consists of only a handful of songs, but they’re all pretty enjoyable to listen to. Some additional tracks would have been welcome, but this is just a minor gripe as none of the songs in the game ever get annoying even after you hear them repeatedly. Similar to the game’s look, there are minor sound effects that really help the game’s charm shine even brighter. The thud that Meat Boy makes when he lands on a platform; the squishy sounds that you hear as he runs across levels; even explosions are enjoyable (and loud) to listen to. A little variety would have certainly been welcome, but the game doesn’t suffer from the lack of it.

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    Lasting Value

    The level editor is a fun tool to play around with. 

    The three chapters that make up the story in Meat Boy each consist of 15 levels. You don’t need to clear them all to get to the end, but you’ll feel compelled to. Additionally, there is a bonus expert chapter for those who want to really challenge themselves after beating the game. And if you’re feeling creative, you can create some levels of your own.

    You can get through Meat Boy in a couple of hours, but it is so challenging that you’re bound to stay stuck on certain levels for long periods of time. Even after you’ve cleared all the levels, created some of your own, and unlocked everything by collecting band-aids in specific levels, it’s hard not to go back and replay the game. It’s that well-designed.

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    Meat Boy Review - Overall Score

    Meat Boy braves even the deadliest boundaries in his attempt to save Bandage Girl. 

    Whether you’ve played Super Meat Boy or not, if you have yet to check out this first installment, you’re missing out. Meat Boy is a great example of indie gaming at its best. The difficulty is satisfyingly brutal, and you never feel like you can’t beat a specific level. If you’re in the mood to play a quirky 2D platformer that truly challenges you, look no further than Meat Boy.