Move over, Duke Nukem, this is Super Meat Boy Forever

Meat the Parents

Why did it take so long to release a Super Meat Boy sequel, eh? Too busy replacing the original game's soundtrack, I suppose. First announced in 2014 as a mobile exclusive, it's spent the intervening six (!!!!!) years becoming something rather special, and easily the best autorunner I've ever played.

And that's enough to give some people the jibblies and run a mile, because autorunners are god's punishment for an evil world. Settle down, folks, there's no monetising, no microtransactions. This is a full-featured and hugely enjoyable platformer that takes the twitchy, challenging gameplay of its predecessor and filters it through a much more rigorous and frankly fun design philosophy. It's still rock hard in places, but generous checkpointing reduces the frustration factor enormously.

Another thing about Super Meat Boy Forever that gives people conniptions is its randomly-generated levels. Now, this I understand, because that's hardly a recipe for a bespoke, carefully-made platformer. But, in this case, each stage is composed of many, many, many hand-made "chunks", which weave together nicely creating a distinct experience for every player. Which is cool! There's also plenty of levels here, though fewer than the original game - this isn't a bad thing, as the levels are longer and fairer and more fun. The challenge is certainly here, with the inclusion of the Dark World levels as in Super Meat Boy, again locked behind A+ ranks on the Light World stages. These aren't as daunting, though, because each checkpoint is timed out separately and losing lives will reset the clock to whatever it was when you started the current "chunk" - this means you can get each section down before committing to a time, effectively erasing the irritation of beating a tough level just a half-second too slowly.

I honestly never thought I'd be saying this, but the story is also a bit brilliant. Not so much the events as the way they're portrayed in dynamic, gorgeous animation. The narrative is laugh-out-loud funny throughout and it goes to some wild places that kept me very much entertained. I'm also fond of the soundtrack, which to my mind is as good as any Danny Baranowksy joint but here presented by the underrated Ridiculon who soundtracked The Binding of Isaac Rebirth.

It's not perfect. The usage of a single button for both jump and punch makes sense on mobile, but here it takes a touch of getting used to. Don't get me wrong, it plays great, it's just a decision I personally wouldn't have made - leaping and beating are very distinct actions and I don't think it makes sense to put them on the same button when it's not a necessity to do so. I'm also not wild about the new hidden "glitch" levels; there's a novelty to them in their recreations of old games such as Mortal Kombat and Punch-Out, but there's very little room for error and outside of the "ooh, it's a reference" factor, they're just not really all that fun.

Still, it's a tremendous package, and one which I personally rate over the already-brilliant original simply for being a fairer, more polished experience. It's also a tenner off on the Epic Games Store at present, though you might want to wait for its Steam/console launch next year.