Super Meat Boy Forever Deserves its Namesake [E3 2018 Preview]

Super Meat Boy is one of the defining platformers of the last decade. Its pitch-perfect controls and blistering difficulty made it a genre titan but it was boosted by its goofy, charming aesthetic. While a mobile game can capture look of a series, replicating the all-important feel seems downright impossible. And while Super Meat Boy Forever is coming to other platforms, its mobile roots are still apparent. However, despite it looks, this is a true Super Meat Boy.

But it is a slightly different Super Meat Boy. Forever is broken up into levels like most platformers but its randomly generated parts set it apart. Each level chooses a handful of sections out of 100 different segments. There will be around 7,200 chunks in total for the entire game, meaning most people are going to have a slightly different experience. It’s a lot more than a traditional sequel would require and is something its designer and programmer Tommy Refenes says is, frankly, quite stupid.

“I’m sitting here talking about this and thinking, “This is dumb,” said Refenes as he recollected how much work the randomly picked level system was adding to this game.

These random levels mean players will have to master the mechanics, not just the level layouts like most other platformers. The simplicity of the mechanics gives the game a familiar feel despite the perceived shallowness of auto-runners. Meat Boy can jump, dive kick, slide, and do a mid-air dash with the latter two also doubling as offensive attacks. Two buttons dictate all of these actions and it isn’t unlike the original Super Meat Boy. The levels, in each of the three shown difficulties, were made with these systems in mind and stretch the game to its limits.

Super Meat Boy Forever Preview: Dead Meat

That’s a roundabout way of saying that I died a lot. Saw blades, ravenous mushrooms, and, well, more saw blades will splatter your ground round ass all over every level in more ways than you can count. That part is appropriately Super Meat Boy, and, more importantly, the responsive controls keep death from becoming an issue. Frustration quickly evaporates when you know that you goofed and got sawed into goo.

Dr. Fetus is, once again, the impetus for putting Meat Boy through all of this torture. The evil fetus in a jar and monocle has kidnapped Nugget, the horrifying hybrid spawn of Meat Boy and Bandage Girl. The cutscene Refenes showed me on his phone had Nugget accidentally messing with Dr. Fetus’ plans in hilarious ways. These brief vignettes echoed the similar dark, bizarre humor from the first game that gave it its charm. While Refenes could not show me more scenes from the game, he assured me that it’ll have similar comedic sensibilities from the first game.

Super Meat Boy Forever Preview: Meating (and Subverting) Expectations

But Refenes, despite Super Meat Boy‘s positive critical reception, does not want Forever to be a retread of its predecessor. That’s why it isn’t named Super Meat Boy 2 and doesn’t have the same setup and level layout. It’s different from what you would expect a sequel to a popular platform to be and that’s what Refenes says he is trying to accomplish with this new game.

“This game subverts your expectations,” he said, “but not in a shitty The Last Jedi sort of way.”

The Last Jedi, in his eyes, killed off a cryptic character and sucked some of the mystery out of Star Wars that he’d loved about the franchise. And while Super Meat Boy Forever is not one of the most controversial blockbuster films of all time, it still has a lot weighing on its shoulders. It has to deliver an experience that fans are pining for, but, as Refenes seems to be aiming for, not exactly in the way they envisioned it.

And that’s the feeling I had as I walked away from the game. Similar to my pre-release time with Cuphead, I selfishly hogged the Super Meat Boy Forever preview station. I didn’t want it to end, even if it meant upending the “sharing is caring” mentality that my parents instilled in my head when I was a child. That mix of hard platforming and smooth controls was what I wanted from Super Meat Boy, but its auto-runner wrapping wasn’t how I thought I wanted it. That surprise is part of the reason I’ll be anticipating Super Meat Boy Forever when it releases some time later this year on PC, iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.