Super Meat Boy Forever Review: A Sequel Done Right
Table of Contents
A word of advice: the first time you write a review, maybe don’t pick a sequel to a game you never played and which you only knew for its vague reputation for gore and high difficulty.
Super Meat Boy Forever is the direct sequel to the 2010 indie breakout hit, Super Meat Boy, developed by Edmund McMillen (who also worked on other indie classics, The Binding of Isaac and its remake, and The End Is Nigh) and Tommy Refenes, known collectively as Team Meat.
Super Meat Boy Forever builds on the classic formula of precision platforming, high difficulty, and absurd humor of the original, while also taking the franchise in interesting new directions mechanically.(Get Super Meat Boy Forever for $15.99 here -Use code VERYALI at checkout-)
The Plot Thickens
Super Meat Boy Forever manages to offer a more complex story than the first game, while still retaining the tongue-in-cheek, surreal, and downright absurd premise of the original. In the first game, you played as Meat Boy as he sought to rescue his love, Bandage Girl, from the evil Dr. Fetus.
After the successful rescue, Meat Boy and Bandage Girl have become parents to an adorable little flesh sack called Nugget. But, as expected, Dr. Fetus (who has developed quite a penchant for flipping everybody the bird) returns to mess up everyone’s day: while the Meat family is having a picnic, the evil baby swoops in to kidnap Nugget. As any reasonable parents would do, Meat Boy and Bandage Girl immediately give chase. As you might have guessed, this also means that you can choose which of the pair to play right from the start of the game.
Not just a Retread
Although I had never played the original Super Meat Boy before, I decided to try it out while reviewing its sequel, for the sake of comparison. To be honest, I expected Super Meat Boy Forever to be little more than an attempt to cash in on its predecessor’s success, simply offering more of what made the original so popular in the first place. But while it is undoubtedly true that this game builds on the same formula as the first, I am happy to say that it also innovates in some interesting and welcome ways.
Whereas the 2010 title had you control the titular character’s movement directly, Super Meat Boy Forever is basically an autorunner; the effect this has on gameplay is profound. The moment you begin a level, Meat Boy (or Bandage Girl) starts to sprint, giving you little time to get your bearings before you have to start jumping to avoid the game’s many gruesome obstacles and booby traps, including saw blades, electricity beams, and veritable cataracts of falling syringes, almost all of which result in instant death if you touch them.
Not only do you run automatically, you also can’t change direction manually; rather, the direction you go is determined by a variety of other moves and environmental factors, such as your most recent wall jump or ramps that appear in certain corners of the path. In many ways, you control less like an autonomous character and more like a pinball that must be strategically ricocheted around the map.
This means that environmental puzzles, where you try to navigate your way through a complex series of murderous hurdles to get to the end of each level, are less about standing around while you carefully plan out your next move and even more about split-second timed platforming than the original. I very much prefer these new mechanics over the old ones: they offer a truly fresh take on precision platforming, keeping you forever on your toes and engaged with the game.(Get Super Meat Boy Forever for $15.99 here -Use code VERYALI at checkout-)
Bigger Worlds to Die in
Of course, such an approach practically demands even more trial-and-error gameplay than the original. In other words, prepare to die a lot in this game, and then a lot more besides. But don’t worry, for just as in the original, death is but a momentary setback. After each failed attempt, you are instantly respawned for another go. And that brings me to another improvement.
The original Super Meat Boy featured hundreds of tiny levels, each one made up of essentially one puzzle sequence each. Every time you died, you would have to start the entire sequence again from scratch. This could make more complex levels extremely tiresome and repetitive. Super Meat Boy Forever replaces these bite-sized chunks with much large levels, each one containing a series of ever-more-complex puzzles. When you die, you don’t start the whole level again, just the current sequence, with each sequence being fairly clearly distinguished from the rest.
While this does not entirely eliminate the occasionally frustrating repetition, especially later in the game when individual puzzles often involve a whole score of separate moves, on the whole, each discrete sequence is small enough that you don’t tear your hair out from having to do them over and over again.
Moreover, the much bigger (and, consequently, much fewer) levels of Super Meat Boy Forever gives the sequel are much more cohesive feels than its predecessor. This is also a good segue into talking about the game’s aesthetics.
Pretty Pictures and Bopping Tunes
Super Meat Boy Forever, despite its notorious (but also very lighthearted) levels of gore, is a treat to behold. Even more than the first game, despite (or perhaps because of) their simplicity, character models are clearly defined and bursting with personality. Both Meat Boy and his lady friend Bandage Girl have a determined, furious expression plastered on their faces as they traverse dangers and plough through enemies on their quest to rescue their kidnapped child. Particularly appealing is the animation, which remains largely smooth as silk.
In a similar vein, the game’s sounds are a pleasure to take in. Music tracks vary from rock and roll to metal to spacey electro, depending on the world you’re in. I say world, because the only time the music actually changes is from one overworld to the next, with individual levels within each world all playing the same tune over and over again. While this does make the music repetitive, overall it’s fun and unobtrusive enough that I never really got tired of it: that’s an impressive feat in itself. Meanwhile, sound effects are generally very satisfying. I especially loved hearing the meaty crunch every time I punched or kicked an enemy, particularly a boss. By comparison, quiet squelch that accompanies every one of your many deaths somehow felt simultaneously revolting and unimpressive.(Get Super Meat Boy Forever for $15.99 here -Use code VERYALI at checkout-)
With its high-paced, literally nonstop action, a game like Super Meat Boy Forever lives or dies on its control scheme. Another reason why I prefer the autorun gimmick of this game over its predecessor is that changing direction manually in the first game could be a real pain, particularly during long wall-jumping sequences. With directional controls taken away, the only moves you make yourself in Super Meat Boy Forever are jumps and the next attacks. In the Windows version of the game I played, jumping is still mapped to the space bar. One tap makes you jump, while a second tap in mid air makes you punch (or kick, if you’re playing as Bandage Girl). The only other button you need is the down key, which makes you either crouch (when running) or dive attack (when in midair). Each move is also affected by how long you hold down the button in question.
This is intuitive enough, but is not without its issue. The space bar, while resting comfortably under your thumb, is also a very soft key to use, and not so suited to quick multiple presses. Often I would double tap the jump button to perform an attack, only to watch myself flight inertly through the air: the game simply did not register my second press of the key. In complex levels and boss fights, this could spell the difference between a minor annoyance and rage-inducing frustration, as my success entirely depended on pulling off multiple moves in quick succession.
Similarly, I experienced some surprising slow down when the game had to render more than just one or two animated objects on screen at once. There was one boss fight, which featured a literal horde of enemies, where the combination of chugging framerates and unresponsive controls rendered the battle almost unplayable.
Granted, I was able to make the game run smoother by lowering the graphical settings, and my Dell G5 laptop is by no means a gaming powerhouse. But it easily clears the game’s recommended specifications, and given that Super Meat Boy Forever is hardly comparable to Cyberpunk 2077 in its graphical demands, these problems came as something of a surprise, and a disappointment.
Occasional framerate and control lag aside, Super Meat Boy Forever is truly a sequel done right. It brings back the formula of the original game while taking it to genuinely original new heights. The seemingly minor tweak of autorun radically alters the way the game feels to play, and very much for the better, in my opinion. It also manages to remain visually and aurally simple yet appealing, which is absolutely essential for a successful indie platformer. It is by no means an easy game, but since this is Super Meat Boy Forever, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t want to be. If you’re up for some real tough love, pick yourself up a copy, and enjoy!
Super Meat Boy Forever is available now for Windows and Nintendo Switch, with versions for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, and Android releasing early next year.
Summary:The challenge of Super Meat Boy returns in Super Meat Boy Forever! Levels are brutal and death is inevitable. Players will run, jump, punch and kick their way through familiar places and new worlds all while enjoying a story truly meant for the big screen.
Genres: Platformer, Action Adventure
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Android, Xbox One, iOS, Microsoft Windows(Review Version), Linux, Macintosh operating systems
Developers: Team Meat
Publishers: Team Meat
Initial release date: December 23, 2020 (Nintendo Switch, Windows)