The original Super Meat Boy holds a special place in my heart. It’s the game that made me think again about platformers: their controls, their difficulty. I used to see platformers as a dying game genre, but Super Meat Boy changed my entire perspective, and even made me crave time with Super Mario Bros. again. It’s one of the gold standards I hold every platformer to. It’s too bad that Super Meat Boy Forever chose to go a different route.
Super Meat Boy Forever is an endless runner. Yeah, I missed the memo on that one—because I was expecting more Meat Boy. Full disclosure: I’m not really a fan of endless runners. Though Super Meat Boy Forever has quickly become my favorite example of this platforming subgenre, I feel like I would have preferred a more traditional platformer. With that said, Super Meat Boy Forever does deliver comparable gameplay to the original—just in a slightly different form factor.
In Super Meat Boy Forever you’re not relegated to playing as just Meat Boy—you have the choice of playing as Bandage Girl, as well as a number of other characters that are unlockable through gameplay. Dr. Fetus kidnapped Meat Boy and Bandage girl’s kid, Nugget. The story is told in the same style as the previous Super Meat Boy, but it feels like it’s missing something. Perhaps Edmund McMillen’s presence is more sorely missed than I thought it would be, because even though Super Meat Boy Forever goes through the expected motions with the expected art style, it feels empty. But the cutscenes deliver well enough, and it’s not really about the story, but about the gameplay—and Super Meat Boy Forever is fun despite itself.
Super Meat Boy Forever takes Super Meat Boy’s great platforming, sawblade obstacles, and precision jumps and twists it into an endless runner. So much of Super Meat Boy lies underneath, but there are just as many changes. The entire game can be played with two buttons: jump/punch and slide/dive. You are forced to run forward, and can only change directions when you run into a wall and jump off of it. This turns many of the platforming sections into sort of puzzles that have to be figured out to proceed. This may have been even better with a set of handcrafted levels tailored for exactly that, but Team Meat decided to increase replayability by procedural generation.
Chunks of levels are pasted together to form unique experiences that are different for each run. As you would expect from Super Meat Boy, there is an overworld with both light and dark maps to play through, with the dark world maps accessible by hidden entrances. Each of the four worlds is capped off by a boss encounter, with these bosses being some of the most fun and challenging encounters in the game.
Levels in Super Meat Boy Forever are also a bit longer than in Super Meat Boy. The replay after victory, therefore, is not as satisfying to watch. You still have the pleasure of watching your past runs fail spectacularly, but since levels have checkpoints the replay isn’t a continuous stream of meat splatting against sawblades, at least not all at once.
Super Meat Boy Forever seems to suffer from wanting to be different. It started its development as a mobile game, and shifted focus at some point—but it should have completely shifted its focus into a full blown platformer. At least that’s my opinion. Because despite the fact that Super Meat Boy Forever is a surprisingly good endless runner, it’s still trapped in that form factor, and for me, that definitely not as fun or interesting as a standard platformer. I recommend Super Meat Boy Forever with this caveat: don’t expect a standard platforming experience, and don’t expect the same level of charm. But Super Meat Boy Forever is a fun endless runner that is more Meat Boy adjacent than a full sequel.
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