For the past couple of days, my reality has consisted of nothing but blood curdling shrieks. You see, I’m currently trapped in a nightmare. This terrible nightmare has a name–Super Meat Boy. Fun fact: Super Meat Boy is the devil. Hell, Super Meat Boy is perhaps the most infuriating title I’ve played all year. I can’t recall the last time I was this angry at a video game.
Yes, Super Meat Boy is the devil…but I can’t stop playing it.
The premise of the little monster is simple: Dr. Fetus is a dick. And true to form, he’s stolen your love interest, Bandage Girl. I’m sure this sounds familiar to some of you (incidentally the acronym is the same as Super Mario Bros). And, like Mario, I sincerely believe that Meat Boy deserves to be considered for a spot under “generation classic.” A bold claim which will need to be revisited at a later date, but one currently held with real conviction.
I can spend a long time detailing the aspects of SMB which exude the feeling of a classic title–from the retro chiptune soundtrack, to the inclusion of warp zones that teleport Meat Boy to homages to classic gaming consoles. Meat Boy himself oozes charm, thanks to the wonderfully gooey sound effects, his expressions, and his dashing animations. Even the “supporting cast” of Dr. Fetus and Bandage girl are precocious, in their own way (and isn’t the idea of a fetus as a villain amazing in of itself?), but none of this is what makes SMB stand out. Sure, it’s a love letter to old-school platformers, but what really makes SMB superb is the incredibly deliberate design. SMB stands strong on its core design without any of the “features” bloating modern titles. And it’s all the more bold, outstanding of a title for it. Team Meat knows, well, where the meat of the gameplay is.
Meat Boy must run, dash, jump and wall jump at high speeds–nothing new, as far as platforming mechanics go–across worlds designed to be microcosms for your own personal hell. These actions are all governed by simple controls which follow the ‘simple to pick up, difficult to master’ paradigm. The thing about the game is, Team Meat knows where you want to hide your family heirlooms, your children, and your dignity. But I will tell you right now: there is no escape. The only way to come out alive is to have the precision of a madman. Have I mentioned there are no checkpoints in any of the levels? Because there aren’t. Hence, the need for near perfection. Don’t take this to mean that SMB requires specific precision–levels aren’t (always) linear, and can often be approached in a number of ways. Some of the more creative approaches require nerves and reflexes of steel, though. In my current playthrough, I’ve died over two thousand times. Normally, that sort of death count would cause me to give up playing a game, but while each death brings me a little closer to heart attack, it strengthens my resolve to beat the level.
Well, now here’s Infinite Adaptive Mario, from a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. Which shows, ultimately, the same thing the other two did: it’s really fucking hard to make a good Mario game.
I mean, yes, the theory is spectacular here. A Mario game that adapts to your level of skill as you play (and die) on the levels? Fantastic idea. I’m a huge fan of games scaling up or down in difficulty by how well you do, and this executes the concept pretty solidly. Die a lot, and you get a flat plain with goombas and coins. Beat a lot of levels in a row, and you’ll get a level straight out of Super Mario Frustration. It’s really good in theory.
I say in theory because this, like every other Mario knockoff, proves how hard it is to make a good Mario game. At it’s core, Mario is jumping. Just jumping. Just jumping is really, really boring if it is not balanced with the proper weight, and the enemies are not meticulously placed. Those two things exist in none of these games (well, Mario Crossover had proper level design, by virtue of being a remake), and as a result they’re all kind of bad.
But it’s a really neat, novel idea that deserves attention, and seems to be getting some from the internet at large. And while these new ideas might not work fantastically in Mario games, they might work in different games.
Video Games Live is “an immersive concert event” featuring “top musicians from around the world perform along with exclusive video footage and music arrangements, synchronized lighting, solo performers, guitarists, percussionists, live action and unique interactive segments to create an explosive one-of-a-kind entertainment experience.”
The concerts are a “musical journey through classic gaming” which feature “never before televised live musical performances from the Mario, Zelda, Sonic, Halo, Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Castlevania, God of War, Civilization, Chrono Cross, StarCraft and Guitar Hero franchises.” All of this? Just talk. Watch the trailer below to get a sense of the unique experience:
If you’d like to know when this is airing in your town, make sure to check out the PBS TV schedule, found here.
And let me just add that if you don’t think this is a must-watch after catching a glimpse of the Civilization piece…then you, sir, are a barbarian of the lowest kind.
NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII is a videogame developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Wii. It was directed by SHIGEYUKI ASUKE.
This article contains the following types of spoilers:
- Description of the boss system
Before anything else, let me say that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a good game and you should play it if you can find it cheap.
Gamers who knowingly buy New Super Mario Bros. Wii (NSMBW) are going to get exactly what they expect: there are the Mario Brothers, on the Nintendo Wii with super powers. Only the “New” part of the title is misleading. Perhaps it was irony, I don’t know. There is nothing really new in it. This is a remake from the Nintendo DS game New Super Mario Bros. (NSMB), which is itself a remake of the original Super Mario Bros. (SMB) for the NES. It’s a turtle on top of another turtle and, if this “New” series continues, that turtle will be on top of yet another turtle. Eventually this will become a perpetually remade series – with Koopas all way down.
I call NSMBW a remake because this game is the equivalent to Gus van Sant’s shot-by-shot refilming of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But while van Sant’s work can be viewed as an invaluable experiment in the theory of cinema, games have no need for such lesson, as gamers are already all too familiar with ‘more of the same’ sequels, ‘me too’ copies and remakes. NSMBW, however, did make me more aware of how I admired the creativity behind the older Mario games – including the DS one. Apart from the 3 new power-ups – the Propeller Mushroom, the Ice Flower and the Penguin Suit – everything in NSMBW was featured somewhere before. We are dealing with the same overall style of NSMB: the very same level archetypes (grass, desert, ice, water, forest, mountain, sky and lava), the same enemies, same Boo houses and even the same Bowser castle – so this is basically NSMB redone. Other features are aimed directly at the player’s nostalgia: the background features both hills from Super Mario World (SMW) and blocks from Super Mario Bros. 3 (SMB3); bosses’ castles feature all the traps we have seen in both SNES Mario games. There are appearances from the Koopa Clown Car and the airships from SMB3, but while in SMB3 those airships were used as reasons for developers to play around with fixed-scrolling stages and the impression of relative movement, the airships in NSMBW are purely gratuitous. Read the rest of this entry
I’ll admit, when I saw this post on Joystiq, I was skeptical. Mario “ripoffs” like this usually have slightly off controls, imitative gameplay, and just generally suck.
Then I watched the video. Watch the video. Keep going. Anything else I say at this point would be kind of silly, because…moving pictures say a thousand words. Wait until you get to the Mario Paint tools, to the bullet bill gun, to Mario fighting Mother Brain.
I’m going to go pick my jaw up off the floor. Best of all, it’s a free download, so guess what I’m playing right now? That’s right. That’s right. There will be actual thoughts sometime this week/end.
Video is after the cut. You should click it because it’s fantastic, and you have to see it. My life was not complete, but now! Now!
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