I was going to write about something else today, something that I started playing last night, but I didn't bank on XBox Live Arcade throwing three games out on one day, with at least two that I really fancied trying... and ended up buying. So the original offering has been put on hold, and instead I'm going to write about the game that took a solid hour out of my evening without even trying... Super Meat Boy.
To be honest, I'd heard very little about Super Meat Boy before its 360 release, other than the odd comment on a website saying it was "awesome". I like awesome games, so I thought I'd better investigate. It turns out that Meat Boy was a flash game on the Newgrounds website, which instantly brought something else to mind...
She's quite something... you can see why he'd go to all that effort to get her back.
Graphically, it has a certain charm, and this is where the Newgrounds link comes in... it kind of reminds me of Alien Hominid to look at, and Alien Hominid is another game that started life as a flash game and made its way onto the 360. It also reminds me of Alien Hominid in how bastard hard it is. But although there's more to do in Alien Hominid, you're more likely to spend more time with Super Meat Boy, and this is purely down to the superb game design.
You see, the beauty of this game is that when you die, there you are again, ready to throw yourself at the challenge one more time. This instantaneous restart is crucial to the game's hook, because if you had to wait for any kind of loading screen every time you died, your telly would likely have a controller-shaped hole in the middle of it after less than an hour. As it is, every time you die and are frustrated to the point of turning it off, you find yourself unable to resist flinging Super Meat Boy to the right just one more time... nnngggghhhh!!!
Bit like a snail, is Super Meat Boy... just his trail is bloody, rather than slimy.
Adding to the addictiveness is the fact that many levels take between 10 and 30 seconds to complete, and there are tons of them. It's like the most successful handheld games in that regard... it's very easy to just dip in and out of when you've got a bit of free time. If you complete a level fast enough, you get a Grade A+ ranking, and unlock the "Dark World" version of the level... it's the same level, but with loads more added evil. So, effectively you're getting twice as much game for your money. Even better.
I've mentioned that Super Meat Boy is bastard hard. It really is. You're going to die an extraordinary amount of times while playing it. It's also very evil. It has a sick, twisted, black heart... blackened by a profusion of congealed blood. The blood, fantastically, is everywhere. Super Meat Boy himself is blood red, and being a meat boy, contains lots of blood. This blood is spilled, splattered and strewn across the level every time SMB is killed, as you might expect. But the level doesn't reset when you die... the blood remains smeared, caked and splattered all over the scenery. Which is nice.
Replays are hilarious, with every Meat Boy that attempted the level being shown at the same time.
Super Meat Boy is an old-school platform game made new. I've read in a couple of places that it's like Super Mario Bros., which is cobblers as all it shares with that game are the initials and the ability to jump and sprint. If anything it's even more old-school than that. It kind of reminds me of the twisted glee of the torture screens in Creatures on the Commodore 64 in some ways, although the gameplay is pure platform jumpiness, with the odd boss level thrown in for good measure. They've launched it at the sale price of 800 points... I would grab it for that now if you have any interest in leaping about and dying lots.