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A Masterful Blend of Difficulty and Fun

I've been a fan of platformers since I first got my hands on a video game. The first game I ever played was the All-Stars release of Super Mario Bros., and I've beaten pretty much every 2D Mario and Donkey Kong ever made (except the Wii ones...). So needless to say, I was both excited for a hard-as-nails platformer and somewhat skeptical if it could distinguish itself from it's predecessors and stand out. Suffice to say, though, that Super Meat Boy should be held up to the high standard of the genre's classics.

Beginning the game with the first five to eight levels, you might question why the game is considered so mind-bogglingly difficult. The first few stages give you time to adapt, but right after it throws you to the wolves. Super Meat Boy's learning curve is steep. One moment you're on the introductory level, where it's impossible to die short of suicide, and a few minutes later you're dodging huge buzzsaws (the game's favorite obstacle) beyond number. Most players should get through the first world without too many deaths per level, but it only gets harder from there.

Fortunately, complementing the insane difficulty is an extremely quick respawn time. Often, when you die, you'll see chunks of meat still flying from your point of death as you respawn. This minimizes frustation (though by no means eliminates it, of course) and keeps each level entertaining. And you'll hardly ever die cheaply. Every death is, almost without fail, your own fault. You can't blame the game on anything (except it's sadistic difficulty) because you pressed the buttons and got it wrong. The precision of Meat Boy's movement is that good. The game does exactly what you tell it to. You just have to master what you're telling it to do.

The difficulty curve is also magnificent. You'll die dozens of times on World 1, but by the time you beat the last world, expect a combined total of 8000 or so deaths (I died 12000 times, but in my defense I was using a keyboard until I finally got a gamepad halfway through World 5). When you return to previous worlds, you'll be performing insane stunts without the blink of an eye, wondering how you ever could have had trouble with this stuff. It feels great.

SBM also has a ridiculous amount of content. You only need to beat 90 stages plus six bosses to beat the game, but there are a total of 125 standard, "Light World" stages. Compounding these are a further 125 "Dark World" stages (and one Dark World boss). The Dark World levels have similar structures to their Light World counterparts, but add in downright nasty obstacles that make the level even harder. Then you have 20 warp zones across all the worlds, and at three levels apiece, there's another 60 levels. There are also six harder-than-hard "glitch" levels that you unlock randomly (a shout-out to the famous World -1 in Super Mario Bros.). All told, there's 323 levels to chew your hours away. And though, ideally, every one of them can completed in under a minute (and most in under 20 seconds), your countless deaths will ensure that these 323 levels yield at least 24 hours of gameplay time, and probably well over that.

Aside from the entertaining gameplay, you'll occasionally be treated with simplistic, yet hilarious cutscenes. Every introductory cutscene for a World references a classic game (for example, the World 2 cutscene is a near-perfect recreation of the Castlevania opening) and the boss cutscenes are always hilarious. I found myself wanting to see just what insanity waited for me at the next boss fight, or world.

At $15, I couldn't ask for a much more entertaining game. If you are a platforming fan, get Super Meat Boy, It's that simple. I couldn't recommend it any more.

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