Meat Boy is finally back after eleven long years in Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy Forever. The loveable cube of red meat is thrust into another adventure after his evil nemesis Dr. Fetus kidnaps Meat Boy and Bandage Girl’s baby, Nugget. The Original Super Meat Boy became a fan favorite in part because of its challenging and addictive gameplay, but also because of the humor and fan service its creators wove into the game. The good news is all that is present in the sequel; however, there’s a slight change in gameplay. Super Meat Boy Forever is an auto-runner, which might put some people off initially, but after playing through the game multiple times, I can assure you the gameplay is extremely similar. Another change to the formula is due to the semi-procedural level creation, which makes each new playthrough unique. To top it all off Meat Boy got a fresh coat of paint in the form of an updated, more high-definition art style.
A few years after the release of Super Meat Boy, Tommy Refenes, one half of the original Team Meat duo, wanted to make a mobile Meat Boy game. At the time he noticed that big studios were making mobile versions of their IPs, but the gameplay didn’t feel right on a phone – there were too many inputs crammed onto a small screen. So he set out to make a version of Super Meat Boy that could be played with one button. He made it an auto-runner and allowed you to change direction by jumping off of walls. This eventually evolved into Super Meat Boy Forever with the number of inputs doubling, from one to two, and you’d be astonished at the gameplay variety achieved with just those two. I was initially hesitant about the auto-running aspect, but after playing for a bit it started to feel like I was just constantly holding the run button in the first game and always going for an A+ rating. That might sound kind of hectic, but it’s not, until you get to some of the harder levels.
Making the game an auto-runner lets the designers have a clearer idea of the player’s potential actions during gameplay and lets them design better more precise levels because of those constraints. The game does give you moments to catch your breath; if you run into a 90-degree wall you will stop moving. In addition, there’s a forgiving checkpoint system in Super Meat Boy Forever. The levels in Forever are longer than the levels in the original and are split into sections – or chunks as the developers call them – so each time you get through a chunk there’s a checkpoint that you immediately respawn at if you perish in the next chunk. The speed at which they put you back into the action when you die was one of the reasons I enjoyed the first game so much.
A press on any of the four face buttons causes Meat Boy to jump, and another press of any of them while in the air makes him do a punch dash horizontally through the air. I’m so happy they choose to use all four buttons for the same move, the original entry was easily one of the biggest culprits in wearing out my 360 controllers from constantly mashing the A button to jump and I definitely didn’t mess up any controllers by tossing it away in a combination of frustration and disgust when going for my Golden God achievement… Allowing any of the four buttons to be used is not only great for accessibility but also good for controller health.
The second input is the down button, which when pressed and held causes Meat Boy to slide. When down is pressed in the air it causes the character to go into a dive. Both of these and also the jump punch can be used to knock out enemies or activate powerups if timed correctly. The slide only triggers an interaction during the first second or so and is displayed by a slightly different animation which then changes if you’re still in the slide to notify you that it’s no longer active. On the surface Meat Boy’s mechanics seem relatively simple, and they are. To make things interesting, new in-level mechanics are introduced as you play. The first world, Chipper Grove, keeps things simple, introducing and familiarizing the player to Meat Boy’s regular moves, like smashing an enemy, which gives you another dash/punch. Normally, you can only do one while in the air until you come in contact with a wall or the ground again. The saws make a return, which isn’t much of a surprise since saws have become synonymous with the game. They are the most common obstacle throughout the entire game. There are stationary saws, saws that move in simple patterns like up, down, or circles, and saws that move on tracks seemingly following you, and in the Chipper Grove, the saw’s trickier tactics are slowly introduced.
The second world sees you returning to a hospital setting: The Clinic. Back are the waterfalls of needles, and this time there are also piles/pools of broken glass. A difference in this game is that you can traverse through these, but only for a very short amount of time which is indicated by a circular health bar timer that appears around Meat Boy when you come in contact with either of these. This causes you to pick up the pace and dash to the nearest needle-free spot. Sometimes it seems like a new mechanic is introduced in every level (which I’m pretty sure is actually the case in the 5th world: The Other Side). There is a type of block that appears and disappears each time you press the jump button and another tile that does the same for the down button. There are mini black hole things that suck you in when you get close and then shoot you out at super speed in one of eight directions; fortunately, you can select the direction by pressing the down button. The later worlds also introduce one-use powerups that can be attained if you dash, slide, or dive through one. There’s one that makes you dash backwards, and one that makes you do a high arcing uppercut. There’s also one that creates a temporary block that can be used to traverse that chunk of the level. The same block powerup can also be used to fill in the empty outlined boxes you encounter in the later levels – just dash through one of the empty outlines and they’ll appear for a few seconds letting you use them as platforms or walls – the ability is crucial in the final boss fight, blocking the bosses attacks when activated in the correct spots.
Overall there are five regular worlds in the game and each one has six levels and a boss. One of the biggest selling points of Super Meat Boy Forever is the semi-procedural level generation. For each level, the designers created up to a hundred chunks (sections) and these are about the size of a level in the first game. When you start a new game you get a ‘Seed’ made up of a set of symbols, which are all characters or enemies in the game. When you start the game for the first time the game creates each level based on the seed by taking six or so chunks and combining them together. This has the potential for thousands of level combinations. Supposedly the chunks are ranked in difficulty so you’ll get easier chunks at the beginning of each level and harder ones towards the end. Some people have complained that the levels are procedurally generated and the game won’t have the handcrafted feel that made the first game so special. But that’s not the case at all, each chunk was hand-made and tested. One aspect that some people might not like is that they want to be able to play the same levels as their friends or the same levels that someone said were easier or harder to beat. I don’t know what any of the seed symbols mean but you have the option to change them to the pattern you want before starting a game so you could use the same pattern as your friends.
The chunk based level generation means that all of the levels are very horizontal in their layouts, which is common for auto-runners, but I really enjoyed playing some of the smaller, screen-sized levels in the original, dodging the dreaded heat-seeking missiles (ok so maybe I didn’t actually like those that much) – fortunately, the missiles don’t make a return. Unlike the long regular levels, the boss levels use the smaller room-based design found in many of the levels in the first game. These boss fights in Super Meat Boy Forever really shine. They are extremely fun and very challenging until you figure out the best strategy to defeat them. The thrill of beating each one for the first time is very satisfying.
I thought the art in the first game perfectly matched the gameplay and was somewhat put off with the newer art style in Super Meat Boy Forever when I first saw it in trailers. After playing the game I couldn’t have been more wrong. The new art style is much more crisp and vivid, making everything look ultra high-def. There’s tons of variety in each world’s art design. Each individual level often looks much different from the other levels in its world. Most of them have their own background art. The levels have plenty of little interesting and humorous details in their art design. Tetanusville, the third world, has cacti with silly faces and a big angry-looking sun in the background in one level. A basic element of the art I really like are the depictions of each world that can be seen when you’re picking which one to play. The biggest highlight of the art though is the cut scenes, you can tell the designers put a lot of time and effort into creating them. They look like a high-end animated cartoon and tell the game’s story with plenty of the humor that fans of the series have come to know and enjoy. They are also filled with references to other video games and movies. Each world has an intro video that plays while the game is loading to that world’s level select screen, and there’s also a video before and after each boss fight. If you want to re-watch any of the videos there’s a gallery option in the main menu.
The sound design in the sequel is another aspect that really helps bring the whole package together. Danny Baranowsky’s soundtrack of the original is a classic, and although he didn’t work on the second game’s soundtrack, the group that did, Ridiculon, managed to create something that pays homage to the first game while at the same time forging their own creative path. Parts of the music sound reminiscent of the first game, especially the first world since it’s very similar looking to world one in the first game. As you get deeper into the game the music gets much more varied, but it always stays enjoyable and always fits in with the levels and the gameplay. The sound effects are very similar to those found in the first game, and some clips were used in the sequel but changed slightly. The iconic “Super Meat Boy” shout at the title screen is back but there’s a “Forever” at the end. The similar-sounding “Warp Zone” shout is also back but it is distorted which makes sense since you’re getting sucked into a warp zone.
Super Meat Boy Forever is filled to the brim with extra content and features to make the experience of the game last for as long as possible. The regular levels are referred to as the light world, and just like the first game if you beat the par time in any given level you earn an A+ rating and you unlock that level in the dark world. The dark world levels are much more difficult than the light world ones but use the same level-specific mechanics as their lighter counterparts. The dark world can be accessed by pressing Y on the level select screen. Warp zones make a return, and each world has its own specific warp zone that could be hidden in any one of the levels, light or dark. It all depends on your seed and how the level was generated. The warp zones are all references to classic console games and change the gameplay to mimic that game but with a meat boy twist, I would give examples here but part of the fun is discovering them yourself.
There are a number of unlockable characters, which can be unlocked by finding the hidden or hard-to-reach pacifiers throughout the levels. These are just like the bandaids in the first game, but since you’re saving your daughter Nugget and not Bandage girl the new collectible makes sense. Some of the characters require an extra prerequisite as well like beating a warp zone level, sometimes in a particular way. One of the most difficult examples is the challenge of beating the F-Zero inspired warp zone, M-Zero, in the par time but turning around and driving the course backward (I know I said I wouldn’t give an example, but now you have an idea of the variety as well as the difficulty). The pacifiers are also inserted randomly into levels, but at predetermined locations, for the maximum challenge in most cases. Some of the unlockable characters will be familiar to players, but there are a few new, very unique ones, and they all have their own individual dash and slide animations – some of which are pretty funny. The biggest factor that adds to the game’s replayability is the New Game+ feature. After you beat the boss of the fifth world you can erase your current level progress and get a whole new set of levels to play, while keeping your pacifiers and character unlocks. This allows for nearly infinite replayability.
Super Meat Boy Forever might not be the game I expected, but it’s a game I thoroughly enjoyed. Good sequels take the best elements of the first game and build on them. The gameplay doesn’t have to be exactly the same but in this case, it’s familiar enough, while adding many interesting new elements. The new high definition art style is on point and the level design and generation makes the sequel truly stand out. One of the designers said he wanted something that could be played forever, hence the name, and when I heard this I was worried that this might be the last entry in the series; however, thankfully the cut scenes hint that there might be more to come. I look forward to seeing what Team Meat will do in the future, but in the meantime, I have plenty of Meat Boy content to enjoy, I think I’ll go try again to beat that warp zone backwards.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.