I remember the moment I discovered Meat Boy. I was on Kongregate, one of the largest Flash gaming sites on the web. Immediately, I was grasped by the name and the image. The image, now a super low-quality screenshot of a blob of meat taking a leap, captivated me. The name itself raised some questions. Meat Boy... Peculiar, indeed. This was 12 years ago now.
Of course, we're just talking about the Flash game here, which Super Meat Boy owes its origins to. Super Meat Boy was truly "super" in every way, shape and form. It was a successor to its Flash origins and shows how big of an impact the medium of Flash is.
Super Meat Boy's Flash Origins
Flash is dead. At least, it may as well be. We've got a less than a month before Adobe pulls the plug. There are so many great games on that platform, though, so it's a sad sight to see. Thankfully, many games live on in the form of their successors—such is the case with Super Meat Boy. This supersized version of the first game was on Steam and consoles and became an instant hit.
The Flash progenitor, Meat Boy, was known for its slick platforming (literally), as players took control of a living cube of meat. The eponymous protagonist's goal was to save his love, Band-aid girl, from the nefarious Dr. Fetus. This plot sounds like a fever dream, but the game itself played like a dream—a damn good one.
Meat Boy has several chapters of varying difficulty. As you progress, the challenge amps up. You'll face platforming challenges in a forest, salt factory, and hellish landscape. Obstacles vary from saws, fire, lava, to streams of deadly salt. Really, Meat Boy was a simple platformer, but it played so well. The controls were precise and easy to grasp. The levels were difficult, but thoughtfully designed and fair.
My favorite part about this game was collecting various band-aids around certain levels. These were very hard to get, but rewarding. Getting band-aids unlocked characters like the blue Castle Crasher and Alien Hominid. This shows the strong partnership between Newgrounds and Meat Boy's developers; after all, Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid were developed by The Behemoth, a team comprising among others, Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp.
Meat Boy also had a basic but useful level creator, and a few months later, Meat Boy (map pack) released, which contained levels created by the community. This added even more insane levels, challenges, and band-aids to collect. It really felt like a sequel to Meat Boy, adding plenty of content and even more fun. Meat Boy basically solidified itself as Flash royalty.
Super Meat Boy, the Perfect Successor
To see that my favorite Flash game of all time would receive a true, polished sequel that I could play on consoles? That was amazing. The visuals by today's standards are rather dated, but back then it blew me away. Super Meat Boy looked beautiful, seemed to add so much content, and it had a bigger budget. I was living the dream.
Now realizing that dream was 10 years ago, you can lump Super Meat Boy in as a "classic platformer," keeping company with the likes of Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. It's clever naming on Team Meat's part to call it Super Meat Boy. Each word shares the same starting letter as Super Mario Bros., paying homage to its roots.
Being a true sequel to Super Meat Boy, the new inclusions and changes were beefy. The story remains mostly the same, though. Dr. Fetus once more kidnaps bandage girl, and Meat Boy has to save the day. Funnily enough, Band-Aid Girl had to change her name due to copyright concerns—Band-Aid is a brand name. Likewise, instead of collecting Band-Aids, Meat Boy collected bandages.
Bandages served the same purpose as they did in the previous two titles: they unlocked characters. The cast of Super Meat Boy was star-studded, including indie all-stars like Spelunky from Spelunky and Tim from Braid. Bigger titles had some presence in Super Meat Boy as well. The PC version of this game had the headcrab from Half Life and even Steve from Minecraft. Perhaps the coolest part about all of these characters was that each character platformed differently as they had different abilities. Some characters were even unlocked in special Warp Zones, which were themed levels inspired by the titles these characters came from.
Super Meat Boy plays virtually the same as its flash predecessor. It's just a simple but challenging game filled with well-designed levels. This time, there's several new worlds and a lot more levels to actually play, but fundamentally, it feels the same. This worked well to Super Meat Boy's advantage, because the platforming itself was as smooth and satisfying as ever.
There's plenty of deaths to be had still, and this is certainly harder than Meat Boy, though. One of the coolest new features in Super Meat Boy was a montage of all your attempts on a specific level. If you died, say, a dozen times on a certain stage, you could view each little cube of meat make its run in unison. While death can often be frustrating in Super Meat Boy, watching one of your Meat Boys overcoming the odds was nothing short of satisfying.
Flash's Influence and Super Meat Boy's Future
Super Meat Boy is the perfect example of how Flash is deeply rooted in the indie scene nowadays. Plenty of developers got their start with Flash and have moved on to bigger and better projects. Some developers grew and broadened their scope. For example, Team Meat's developers have gone on to create more hits, with Edmund McMillen moving on to The Binding of Isaac and Tommy Refenes working on the long awaited next entry in the franchise, Super Meat Boy Forever. While the death of Flash is bittersweet, the celebration of Super Meat Boy's 10th anniversary is one cherish.
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