Super Meat Boy holds a special place in my heart. Not only was the original game one of the titles that got me into indie gaming, but the sequel Super Meat Boy Forever was also the first review the site ever published under the banner of The Elite Institute.

As such, when I saw the announcement for Dr Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine, covering it was a bit of a no-brainer. I may not be big on more traditional puzzle games such as these, but I can’t say no to some meat.

Many thanks to Headup Games for the review copy.

Screenshot

BEATING THE MEAT
Following on from the previous game, Dr Fetus has been gathering data on our meaty hero in order to make his own clone. The problem is that the resulting replications are pretty naff and no substitute for the real thing. Thankfully, his villainous experience allows him to create a series of deadly test chambers to help filter out the bad ones find the real cream of the crap. 

With over a hundred puzzle levels available set over familiar worlds, such as The Salt Factory and Hell, you’ll need to navigate the obstacles and clear each stage by gathering enough genetic points to pass the Dr Fetus’ test.

The game plays out like a Puyo Puyo clone for the most part (much as Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – the game’s namesake – also was), albeit with some key differences. In order to finish each stage, you’ll need to clear a set number of phases. Each phase has a variety of obstacles for you to manoeuvre as you aim to match four creatures of the same colour. Obstacles consist of things such as rockets, ghosts, and – of course – lots and lots of saw blades. Clear enough stages in a world, and you can face off against the boss; these are themed after baddies from the original games and offer an even greater challenge than the standalone levels.

Screenshot

The game’s central gimmick is also where the game falls a little short. Whilst it is a great way to help shake up the Puyo Puyo formula, it’s also implemented a little clumsily too. The problem is that the effects of a trap are dependent on the state of your meaty puyos. If you are in a state of manual movement, touching a trap will result in an instant failure and throw you back to the last checkpoint [should you have them active]; however, the very moment you lose control, traps will simply just destroy any abomination it touches – even if they’re in a state of freefall. It feels really counterintuitive and makes those moments of insta-death feel far more jarring by comparison. This can be somewhat countered by turning on invincibility, which will negate those deaths, but it also makes the traps have no effect on puyos under your control and thus strips the game of any challenge.

Whilst this gripe is more of a subjective one for me, a far more glaring issue with the game is the lack of any multiplayer options. Considering puzzle titles such as these have almost always had some kind of competitive element, there’s nothing here outside of leaderboards. This will probably come as the biggest disappointment for genre enthusiasts, as the game could have been a lot of fun with friends. Hopefully the development team see fit to add it in further down the line. 

These few faults are rather unfortunate, as the game is otherwise extremely polished and it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into it. The animated grossness of Super Meat Boy looks even better than it has ever been, with even your horrendous meat clones animating in a rather pleasingly grotesque manner. Even the music is as crisp and catchy as ever, even if most of them appear to be remixed versions of songs from the previous games. It really is a well-crafted package for the budget price, and I’m sure hardcore enthusiasts of both Super Meat Boy and Puyo Puyo will still get a kick from it – even if I personally felt that the whole trap gimmick felt a little bit off.

VERDICT
Dr Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine offers a unique twist on the Puyo Puyo format, and is incredibly polished for the low asking price. The gimmick may not be perfectly implemented, and the lack of multiplayer is absolutely baffling, but puzzle fans looking for a challenge should definitely look at adding this one to their collection.