Super Meat Boy is a game I've been having a hard time figuring out how to write about. It's fun and I've really enjoyed my time with it, and while there is a certain amount of creative depth to be found in the game I'm not sure there is enough to warrant much dissection and exploration. So I'm going to write a brief discussion of the game then look at something I find much more fascinating than the game itself, the games surrounding the game.
The most enthralling part of Super Meat Boy is probably the gameplay. It is a perfect, difficult retro platformer. The controls are tight, though failure is constant. It makes up for the difficulty with a forgiving penalty for death, instant continue. Unlike a game like I Wanna Be the Guy there is no obnoxious death screen for the many times you die, except on rare occasion. A few warp zone levels send the player into old school worlds where one is only given three lives. Comparing these sections of the game to the rest makes one grateful for the standard gameplay of Super Meat Boy, and for its creators understanding of what classic tropes still work well today and which ones don't.
The character of Meat Boy is a boy without skin on a mission to save his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil Dr. Fetus. I'm not going to even think about Dr. Fetus because I'm almost certain that one could find some very unintentional and tasteless "children ruin relationships" sort of logic in that character. I honestly think it was just to be funny. However, Bandage Girl and Meat Boy's relationship is a complex one.
Meat Boy's goal is to save Bandage Girl, but he is so weak and prone to one hit death that he could not possibly make a truly great hero. He is a flawed person, a walking wound. He goes through trial after trial, losing repeated, and he is doing it just for someone he loves, a Bandage Girl. Bandage Girl is everything Meat Boy is not. She is durable and protecting, but bandages are useless without something to use them on. The two characters were made for each other. So while Meat Boy is saving Bandage Girl he is actually saving himself. She is the only one who can protect him. They belong together perfectly, and Meat Boy will risk life and limb for that love.
Another aspect I loved about the game is it plays as an indie game counterpoint to something like Super Smash Bros. It celebrates a wonderful collection of independent game heroes who have appeared in recent years, showing this downloadable indie game trend isn't going to be an unnoticed or short lived one. So for the next few weeks I'll be looking at the games these characters came from and what they do so differently from their peers - from Castle Crashers to Mighty Jill-Off. Each indie superstar in this game is worth examination for themselves.