Game Reviews

Super Meat Boy Forever Review

Changes.

by William Schwartz

It’s been 10 years since Team Meat released the original Super Meat Boy.  Since the game’s debut on what was a fledgling aspect of the Xbox ecosystem, the “Xbox Arcade” we’ve seen the original game called a number of things.  By myself, on this website, in it’s different variations across multiple platforms and generations, I’ve called Super Meat Boy one of the best platformers of all time.  It truly is a timeless platforming classic that relied on tight controls, great level design, and a fantastic presentation to remain shoulder to shoulder with the titans of a crowded genre.  Well, here we are 10 years later and the release of Super Meat Boy Forever has finally arrived.  It is nothing short of an utter disappointment, largely due to the developers completely changing course for this game.  While Super Meat Boy Forever can have its moments, those moments pale in comparison to the true endless fun that came from its predecessor.

Nothing short of an utter disappointment for fans of the original

Players assume the role of Meat Boy or Bandage Girl in the game, they are on a pursuit to perpetually save Nugget, the child of the pair.   It’s that same old formula of the princess/prince constantly being in another castle.  As you make your way from level to level, Dr Fetus will keep swooping in to whisk your target away each time you get to the end of one of the levels.  If you’re familiar with the previous game, much of Super Meat Boy Forever is similar in terms of the structure of this game.  There really isn’t much to elaborate on in terms of the story of Super Meat Boy Forever.  Like its predecessor, this is not a story driven game.  While you’ll get some exploration via between level animated scenes, this is mostly a gameplay driven experience and unfortunately it’s the core gameplay that’s been changed up considerably.

smbf-screen-gameplay

For reasons that don’t seem entirely clear, Team Meat made the decision to turn Super Meat Boy Forever into a auto-runner game.  So instead of having control of your character entirely you’ll simply manage a set of abilities as you make your way through each level.  Those abilities are jumping, wall jumping, dashing, punching, sliding, and more.  There are also a slew of level specific moves that can be performed as well.  In your way will be a variety of hazards.  Made of meat, the trademark spinning saws, spikes, and other dastardly hazards will splatter you over and over in Super Meat Boy Forever… just like the original.  Unlike the original though, that navigation feels cumbersome due to the autorun nature of the game.  It’s almost as if Team Meat didn’t realize what people enjoyed about the original Super Meat Boy and that was the pixel perfect platforming, controls, and moveset of the first game.  The original game was about mastering a level and moving on.  With checkpoints, auto-running, and some light combat, the gameplay in SMBF is a stark deviation away from a successful formula.

Super Meat Boy has never looked better

Aside from the shift to using automatic traversal, Super Meat Boy Forever feels like about what you would expect from a follow-up 10 years in the making.  The revamped art style and improved visual fidelity in things like between level cutscenes delivers an impressive style made famous by the original game. Everything has a nicer, cleaner look to it than the previous game.  The soundtrack, while not quite as good as the Danny Baranowski set of tunes from the original release of SMB, doesn’t feel out of place and feels wholly authentic. Fans of the original will not be disappointed by these presentation aspects of the game.  But that really wasn’t the original’s strong suit.  The presentation was a nice tidy bow on what was a gameplay driven experience.  Without that core competency Super Meat Boy Forever is no where near as impressive as the original.

smbf-world-map

It really does go back to the decision to make this is an auto-runner with attacks and checkpoints.  It goes against everything that the original game was, which was a fight to master each level.  Shaving seconds off of your times and discovering ways to not only get to the exit of a level, but to grab collectibles and find secrets.  Super Meat Boy does still have some of this.  You’ve got a number of collectibles that are almost always in hard to reach places that have you trying to think about the level in different ways if you want to collect them all.  Dark Worlds also return for those who want a different set of challenges on each board.  Unfortunately, the gameplay just isn’t enjoyable enough to make you want to track down all those secrets and collectibles.

Super Meat Boy Forever is still a brilliant game.  As much as the original was about total control, down to the pixel, Super Meat Boy Forever is about controlling a set of tools and applying them at exactly the right moment.  You’ll still have plenty of ‘one more run’ moments, and you’ll need to learn the language of the game as you are introduced to different trap ands obstacles as you progress.  If the original Super Meat Boy didn’t exist, SMBF would be a pretty impressive auto-running platformer.   It’s smartly designed, it has a nice a presentation, and there’s plenty to keep you driving through each level.  It’s just hard to review this in a vacuum because SMB does in fact exist and it’s a much, much better game than this.

The Verdict

Super Meat Boy Forever is a disappointing follow-up to one of the best platformers of all-time.  A drastic change from traditional platformer to auto-runner leaves a bad taste.  If you’re unfamiliar with the original, there’s a decent game to enjoy here, but if you were looking for something that improves upon that previously established formula you’ll be left scratching your head as to why the extreme changes to gameplay were made.

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Super Meat Boy Forever

  • Available On: PC, Switch
  • Published By: Team Meat
  • Developed By: Team Meat
  • Genre: Platformer
  • US Release Date: December 23rd, 2020
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Super Meat Boy Forever is a disappointing follow-up to one of the best platformers of all-time."
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