Xbox Live Arcade has put indie game developers back on the map. Having a 10 million dollar budget for a game doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good. In fact, it seems that the indie game developers are doing much more with very little cash and giving the big publishers a run for their money. Recently we've seen games like Limbo, Comic Jumper, Braid, and Shadow Complex set a precedence for what is possible on the Xbox Live Arcade platform as well as open up a market for people who want to develop games but not necessarily work with a team of 100+ people where their creative freedom is replaced by mainstream market statistics.
Super Meat Boy is another one of those great games that would never see the light of day or get good distribution if it wasn't for the indie game movement. I haven't finished the game, only completely two of the chapters, but I feel that I've delved into it enough to see what it has to offer in terms of gameplay.
The premise is simple and hails back to the 8-bit story lines of yore. You play Meat Boy who's girlfriend, Bandage Girl, get's kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fetus. You get thrown into a realm of eight chapters each housing 20 levels plus their dark level counterparts (twisted and harder versions), warp zones, and even "glitch" zones all to rescue your girl. So in all the game has 300+ levels so you'll be playing this one awhile.
The gameplay here is fairly straightforward. You can jump, launch of of walls, and have a variant speed jump. The control response is very tight so you never feel like you're being cheated by the mechanics. The levels are fast and frantic, it's all about speed and timing. You'll be launching off walls, avoiding giant buzz-saws, lava pits, spikes, and anything else you'd expect would turn you into a bloody pile of meat. Each level has it's own par time which you can try to attain to get an A+ rating which I'm sure aids in unlocking achievements. You also collect bandages along the way which help you unlock other characters (from other indie games such as Braid, Gish, and Castle Crashers) with different abilities all extending the gameplay and how you choose to approach each level.
Is it Worth Buying?
Without a doubt. It's on sale this month for 800 MS points, which is $10. After that it goes up to $15, but even then it's well worth the price. I've already put at least 4 hours into it and I've barely scratched the surface, so it probably holds more value than many full retail games you'll find at $60. The art direction is great and is very reminiscent of the old 8-bit and 16-bit games, but it doesn't merely copy, it is an homage, bringing graphical techniques not possible back then and also utilizing other modern gameplay elements.
Everything about this game is great. The music, the art, the gameplay. I can't remember the last time I've been so into a game and looking forward to the next chance I get to play it. The levels are short and sweet, so if you die it never feels to frustrating to having start over and you have unlimited lives so don't sweat it if you die 100 times to complete a particular level. Time trials, and a ton of meaningful unlockables will have you playing this for months to come.
Go buy it.