There's still a lot to love about Super Meat Boy though. The sense of style is expertly accomplished, with many different artistic flourishes and references both to the rest of the indie scene and the games of yesteryear. There's loads of different music too and even when you've respawned in rage for the Nth time, you'll never be bored of it.
Each 'world' you visit has a distinct art style as well, but even between levels the look can feel wildly different. The Hospital world contains wild variations between light and dark, for example. There are also unlockable alternate versions of certain levels, including retro makeovers or challenges that has a limit of three lives.
In fact, there's a whole host of hidden stuff that can change the experience quite radically, none more so than the unlockable player characters that you get for collecting bandages, which are usually tucked away in very hard to reach places.
The PC/Mac version has a few exclusive characters that will be familiar to followers of the indie scene, such as a Goo Ball from World of Goo, Josef the robot from Machinarium and The Captain from VVVVVV. If you're looking to purchase the Steam version, you'll also get a playable Headcrab from Half-Life.
Princess, other castle, etc
Each unlocked character has a unique ability that can make levels either easier of harder depending on what it is. The Meat Ninja can, for example, teleport out of danger and Commander Video (from the Bit.Trip series) can hover in mid-air. All of these characters make playing the levels again a different experience, further extending the already huge amount of replayability, if one can bear to revisit some of the more fiendish ones.
What's looking promising, although it won't address most of the gameplay issues, is the dedication being shown to after-release material. Patches have already been released in the time between release and review; DLC is sure to follow, we reckon.
Super Meat Boy is an insanely hard platform game that's as forgiving as a Texan death penalty appellate judge, but it'll provide a ridiculous amount of replayability and intense action, providing you handle frustration well. You'll constantly be battling the urge to force the keyboard controller through the screen if you don’t.
As a traditional platformer with plenty of personality and content, Super Meat Boy goes a long way to deserving its extraordinary place at the very top of the indie gaming tree, but as with all games that get such hype, there are real issues that lurk underneath the surface andwhich others seem to have overlooked. The difficulty level is truly crippling at times, while losing a life because of flaky controls is never fun. Often the amount of variation in design breaks the flow too, with the lack of visual consistency being a recurring problem for Super Meat Boy.
It gets far too difficult far too early and that alone will cause it to be 'rage-uninstalled' quicker than is fair, but that's the risk you take when you play the challenge card so strongly. Few will get to see everything it has to offer, which is sad.
Super Meat Boy is a must-have for hardcore platform fans, that almost goes without saying, but it's just too obtusely difficult to recommend to those on the fence or who've not got much experience with the genre. It doesn't matter how many knowing winks, nods or bows you make or how many in-jokes you cram in, if people are bald by the time the 30th level comes along then you’ve gone too far in the wrong direction.