Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Oh boy, here we go again. Back for more, Team Meat is here to deliver a flying lariat to the throat that is Super Meat Boy Forever. After the sadistic success of Super Meat Boy, SMBF changes up the playstyle to deliver to you a completely new experience, but still jam packed with the table-flipping difficulty you’ve probable come to expect.
In Super Meat Boy Forever, the nefarious Dr. Fetus kidnaps the adorable Nugget, who I presume is the kid of Meat Boy and Bandage Girl. Needless to say, it’s up to you to help guide them through the dangers they will experience on their quest to save Nugget from the grip of Dr. Fetus.
Now, those who have experience with Super Meat Boy may want to know that there have been some major overhauls to the gameplay in SMBF. While basic progression is similar to the previous title, meaning you make your way through individual stages of a world, fight a boss, then move onto the next world, all while dodging instant death traps like saws and spikes, SMBF changes the brutal platforming gameplay. Gone is the day of full control over Meat Boy, instead it is now a side-scrolling “auto-runner”, where you are always constantly running forward. Jumping off a wall or landing on a little direction pad will make you reverse direction, but Meat Boy can, and will, keep running in the direction he’s facing, provided there isn’t anything blocking or killing him.
Unlike in the previous title, where there were few gimmicks and everything relied on your own understanding of stage composition, a lot of gimmick type aspects are added in SMBF. You can now punch and slide tackle, for instance. This will let you hit enemies, and bosses, as well as destructible environment objects. An airborne punch also propels you straight forward for a short distance. You can also drop down fast while in the air and slide on the ground, allowing you to avoid midair threats, or to duck under saw blades.
In addition to the new action moves, there are many new environment effects. Without wanting to ruin too much of the surprise, you have stuff like acid/glass, that you can only spend a set amount of time in before you need to leave, blocks that can turn intangible blacks tangible, and hooks to grab onto that will move you up or down. While the focus of both games is primarily your own skill, where the previous title focused on your ability to navigate terrain, this title focuses more on your ability to correctly interact with stage environments and objects. There are a lot more “puzzle” type segments this time around as well.
Another new aspect is that the game is seeded. That’s right, the stages are generated from a code that can be randomized or manually input when you’re starting up a new game. This is interesting for a number of reasons, as it means that item locations can change depending on your game seed. Furthermore, each stage in each world is comprised of smaller segments. These segments will differ between the game seeds, meaning you could, theoretically, have the toughest time at the beginning of the game only to have a really easy late game. Yes, this actually happened to me. I had significantly more collective deaths on the first world than the last world. Back to harass you as well are the collectibles, only this time they come as pacifiers instead of bandages. Collecting these, as well as fulfilling certain achievements, will allow you to unlock new characters to play as. There is also a new game plus feature, which retains unlockables, but allows you to restart the game with new collectibles. Seeing as there is an unlockable character that requires 90, and there definitely aren’t that many in the game from what I can tell, this would probably be required to unlock that character.
A couple of interesting things that have resulted from levels being in segments are the locations of items and the in-game timer. Items are also randomized according to the seed, which also includes warp zones. This means your warp zone may be in a dark world stage instead of the light world, most likely meaning it is significantly harder to unlock. As reference, my first two warp zones were in the light world, and my rest weren’t. So how do you unlock the dark world? Well, you have to clear the associated light world stage within the time limit set by the developpers. These time limits can range from “meh” to “HOW THE BLOODY HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO SHAVE 12 SECONDS OFF THAT TRASH?!?!?”.
Words were had, controllers were thrown.
Thankfully, the in game timer keeps track of your overall time in a stage, and will update after each segment indicating whether you are currently under or over based on how much time is allotted per segment. For instance, clearing a segment fast might mean you have a green “-1.2” next to your timer, indicating you are currently 1.2 seconds under the the time to beat. Doing poorly in the next segment could mean you now see “+12.7” meaning you are now 12.7 seconds over the segment total you should be around to reach the goal within the time limit. Lucky enough, dying will just return you to the beginning of the segment you are on, and will revert your timer to what you started the segment at. This is really useful for scoping out fast paths through segments.
Let’s talk a little bit about what I personally liked and disliked about Super Meat Boy Forever. I like how the bosses were actual bosses you fought, and weren’t just races/dodging endurance contests. I liked the segment timer. I liked how some of the collectibles were timed, and you needed to get to them fast. I liked the massive number of really cool gimmicks and environmental effects. I did not enjoy the constant running function, which made the game feel more like it was going to be a mobile/iOS style game instead of a console/PC title. I didn’t like how harsh some of the time requirements were for unlocking the dark worlds. While this is predominantly seed dependent, it was still quite frustrating. I am rather on the fence about the seeded games. On the one hand, this means there are a myriad number of different combinations, all with varying difficulties that can be formed, which is really cool. On the other hand, having a string of some of the most arse precision movements that felt like they only had a few frames as a window was wretched. The first world’s dark world? Good lord man, I legitimately thought I was going to cry.
While the above were simply likes and dislikes, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any issues with the gameplay itself. Hitboxes are…weird and mostly awful. It feels like Meat Boy has a bubble around him larger than his character sprite that will take collision damage. While this isn’t too bad normally, it results in some extremely frustrating moments when trying to thread a thin gap, or when you’re supposed to make contact with a gimmick, only to die as you grab a hook or enter a warp portal as soon as you touch it, because those spikes nearby are just a little too close to the portal. Another issue that kept cropping up was with the punching mechanic. Punching can be done by hitting any button that will cause you to jump while midair. Since you have more than one button for this, what happens if both buttons are pressed, or one is held as a jump and the other pushed as attack? You get a quarter second punch with hardly any of the momentum you need.
Also, special mention goes to the last boss. There is a gimmick to block attacks, but half the time I found the attacks would just completely bypass by “block” and still hit me for no good reason. Some of the jumps are super tight, and some gimmick activations were super sketchy. As a reference, I had a total of, I think about 54 deaths in the last world leading up to the boss, including using multiple deaths on a timed pacifier I wanted to collect. The boss itself? Somewhere around 168 deaths. I mean, I did it, but it was a super iffy fight all around, despite the other boss fights being more or less decent.