XBox 360, WII
Super Meat Boy has to be one of the hardest games I’ve ever played
In Super Meat Boy you take on the role of a cube of rare, bloodied flesh, about to settle down in blissful matrimony with your wife, Bandage Girl. That is until the evil Dr. Fetus (a fetus in a jar inside a powered battle suit. Naturally) inexplicably shows up, knocks your bride unconscious and spirits her away. Your mission: get her back.
And that’s where things get tricky because Super Meat Boy has to be one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. It’s essentially a platformer, with Meat Boy able to run and jump and cling momentarily to vertical surfaces, all in search of his precarious way through obstacles like saws, spikes, salt and radioactive waste. Levels can take as little as five seconds to complete which might make you think you’ll breeze through the whole game in an afternoon. But you won’t. In a level in the first world, I died 40 times before completing it. I know this because Super Meat Boy gives you a replay at the end, not just of your successful run but every attempt you made. Tiny Meat Boys spring hopefully from the starting block only to be minced, dissolved, exploded and fall into oblivion in mesmerising waves of death. It’s a startling portrait of iterative progress and also just a fantastic spectacle.
It’s just one small detail in a game full of surprises – from the almost 400 levels to a range of unlockable characters (all with different powers and all pilfered from other indie titles) and even the promise by developers Team Meat that they will continue to support the game with free DLC levels for as long as possible. It’s an amazingly generous package, even before you take into account the pixel perfect gameplay, bizarre, bloodthirsty cutscenes and frenetic boss fights.
You’ll die many times on your quest for Bandage Girl but the level of difficulty is pitched so perfectly and the reset time is so instantaneous that you’ll hardly be able to resist the opportunity to give it one more go. It’s an amazing feeling as your eyes dart over a level for the first time, trying to find a chink in the seemingly impossible armour of crumbling platforms, spinning blades and instant death. But inch by inch you’ll progress, thumbs finding patterns you never thought were possible, using every last ounce of momentum to clear that gap and pouncing from wall to wall leaving a trail of blood behind. Then suddenly you’ve bested another impossible task and allow yourself a brief moment of euphoria before squaring up to the next. An unmissable distillation of what gaming is all about.