When the original Super Meat Boy launched back in 2010, it felt like one of the first games to breath fresh air into the 2D platformer genre for quite some time. The mixture of precision platforming, ludicrously difficult level design and gruesome yet oddly cute art worked incredibly well together, even if it did leave your thumbs aching after a while.
Of course, the level of finesse the game required made it seem that any port to a mobile platform would be, ultimately, futile. In a game where jumps have to be almost pixel perfect at times, any form of virtual joystick simply wasn’t going to work. Team Meat seemed to share these same concerns, and were initially hesitant to make the leap to touchscreens.
Eventually, way back in 2014, they announced they were working on Super Meat Boy Forever for mobile platforms, as well as Steam. They were also very clear that the game would not be an endless runner, a route that would have allowed them an easy cash in. Instead they promised a game with a “a simple yet intuitive control scheme” that would capture much about what made the original Super Meat Boy shine.
While the list of platforms may have changed – it’s been expanded to include PS4, Xbox One and Switch – the core premise of the game has not. It’s certainly not an endless runner, and is instead based around levels that have been constructed with the same degree of craft as those in the original game.
It does, however, utilise the controls of an auto-runner. The titular Meat Boy is always running, with direction changes available via jumping back off walls. As well as jumping, you can also duck, dash during a jump, and force yourself back down towards the floor. What’s impressive is all of this is achieved via two buttons in a control scheme that never leaves you feeling confused.
On the ground the jump and slide buttons will do pretty much what they say on the tin, with an added bonus for sliding where Meat Boy will throw his fist out in front of him, letting you pummel any enemies in your path. In the air, the jump button causes a mid-air dash, again allowing you to take out any enemies who might be in your airspace, while hitting slide will send you down toward the floor. Chain all of this together perfectly and you’ll find yourself moving through levels at pace. It even seems like those controls will work on a touchscreen, although the physical buttons that playing on the Switch offered us were certainly welcome.
Although Forever captures a lot of what made the original Super Meat Boy work, it’d be wrong to say that the levels could be taken from the original. There’s a familiarity, certainly, with elements like dissolving blocks and spinning blades still featuring heavily, but the pace that the game’s auto-runner nature enforces means that Forever’s levels pose different challenges. The precision in the level design and general gameplay is still there, but the increased speed adds more than enough to make it feel like a distinct entity rather than a sequel in an identical mould.
It should be noted, however, that the game had some minor graphical issues with ghosting when Meat Boy was in motion. Of course the title isn’t out till next summer, so it’s still very much in development, and these might even have simply come from the screen setup that was being used to demo the game (it wasn’t been shown on the Switch’s built-in screen). Gameplay wise, however, there were no issues, and even with the ghosting everything still felt smooth.
At its core, Super Meat Boy Forever is a blend between the look and feel of the original game and a new control scheme. Given the exacting nature of the original it was always going to be a gamble overhauling the controls, but Forever has absolutely nailed it. Levels are tricky and punishing while always making it clear exactly why you’ve failed, and any frustration you feel is with yourself rather than the game itself. Although the EGX demo only contained the game’s first three levels, it certainly left me feeling upbeat about the full title.