I have decided. In the world of Indie games putting "super" before your game title is developer code for one thing: this game will anger you beyond belief and probably make you destroy your computer…
Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy came out for the Mac in November of 2011. I remember purchasing it on Steam, eager to play the sweet little game about a sentient hunk of meat whose girlfriend was made of bandages and kidnapped by a tuxedo-wearing fetus in a jar (don’t ask). Of course my childlike enthusiasm was crushed immediately as I discovered that Super Meat Boy punished even the slightest slip of the finger with death. Repeatedly. Never before had I played a simple 2D platformer that was such pure evil. The premise of the game is easy enough to understand: You control the heroic meat boy through a 2D maze, bouncing off the walls and ceiling whilst avoiding gratuitous amounts of saw-blades and fire, and try to make it alive to your girlfriend on the other side, a few hours later and often at the expense of your sanity. There are 7 worlds in the game in total, each holding 20 light world levels and 20 dark world levels, which are pretty much the same except the dark world is made up entirely of objects that will smash you to pieces if you even look at them funny.
There are also hidden bandages in a few select levels that will unlock new playable characters over time, and the hidden retro-style warp zones that place you in 3 terrifyingly hard 8-bit levels and gives you only 3 lives each to complete them with. Since each level takes a fair amount of time and a large amount of screaming to complete, it is excellent value for money. This game was beyond me however. It was fiendishly tricky and infuriating, and after just one evening of playing for a few hours I’d lost 10 pounds through sweat alone…possibly a slight exaggeration. What really confused me then was that I suddenly realized I was enjoying myself, and just had to fight my way through a few more levels to save my medical themed girlfriend!
A similar thing happened a few weeks later when I got my hands on Terry Cavanagh’s newest game Super Hexagon. Having loved his previous game VVVVVV (a 2D gravity-flipping-fun-filled-adrenaline-fuelled-adventure-in-space), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what he would do next. It turns out that what he did comes in the form of an incredibly hard game. Super Hexagon places you in control of a cute little triangle at the center of the screen orbiting a smallish hexagon, which you have to maneuver around an obscene amount of glowing beams that move in towards you, of course whilst listening to the compulsory thumping electronic soundtrack. Survive for 60 seconds and you complete the level, with the option to survive longer for brag rights. Now I know you’re thinking “well that sounds easy enough, you must just have arthritis from playing too much Call of Duty!” And while that might be true, each level is crazy hard and you know the game knows it, having only 6 levels in total. That’s 6 minutes total potential game time if I can do math (I can’t).
So, let me tell you why I love these games, and why the Internet loves them too for that matter, both scoring over 85 at Metacritic. It has been a long time since the era of truly challenging games reminiscent of the original Tomb Raider, where you’re just dumped to fend for yourself with little or no instruction from the game. Games have become a linear mish-mash and rehash of the same formula over and over again, afraid to change too much or make the game too hard because they won’t attract a large audience. Now I like shooting Zombies as much as the next guy, but nothing makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside like a challenging Indie game not afraid to do its own thing, and while in some countries games this difficult are probably considered a method of torture nothing satisfies ones gaming thirst like a piece of meat dodging 30 billion saws at once, or surviving 1 more second on super hexagon, and in all honesty I don’t have a bad word against them.