the Horn Farm Paste Mob

Super Meat Boy (Team Meat, for XBox)

Super Meat Boy has made me realize I don’t know what ‘difficulty’ is. How long it takes to finish a game? No, there are long easy games. How frustrating it is? That’s definitely part of the way a hard game feels, but frustration is draining in some games– the ones that don’t feel like they SHOULD be frustrating– and not in others. How many tries each goal takes? No, otherwise trial-and-error puzzles would be the hardest ones, as opposed to just the most tedious.

Super Meat Boy is very hard. I think. It seems hard, anyway; I’m close to 4000 deaths (it counts for you) and that’s at not quite halfway to the real ending. A lot of levels I’ve finished seemed impossible, which makes me feel good for beating them but just proves my sense of these things is highly fallible.

Is the game forgiving? Maybe that’s the key. It’s brutally unforgiving about basic failure/success; if you’re jumping over a sawblade, a split-second mistake usually means doom. On the other hand, if you have the right plan for a speed run, you can bobble the execution in a few places and still get that satisfying “GRADE: A+” at level’s end.

Plus, the more you focus, the more forgiving you can make it. Meat Boy and his friends are all very steerable in mid-jump, though this will do you more harm than good until you internalize just what rates of acceleration you can expect from various characters and situations. Most of the levels are designed to reward precision recklessness– take every jump at full speed and everything lines up but the floor is always falling out from under your feet; jump cautiously and you can catch your breath, but the angles are awkward.

It’s a very technical game. You have to enjoy seeing how the little details fit together, because there is no big picture other than “beat enough levels and you win”. If you’re capable of feeling like a winner for getting through level #28 out of 300, though, even knowing that level 29 will be even harder, you have to play Super Meat Boy at least once.


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