I fell in love with the creators of indie game, Super Meat Boy, months before I let my son buy the game. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes’s story of writing, producing, and finally releasing their game on Xbox 360 formed part of award-winning documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which I saw last winter. So when my son asked to buy it over the Christmas break this year I was pleased to say yes (and he was pleased to hear it).
Super Meat Boy has done exceptionally well with game critics and reviewers. IGN’s Daemon Hatfield says it’s “one of the best modern platformers,” adding “[i]t’s infuriating, exasperating, and arduous, but it’s also delightful, thrilling, and hilarious.” And he gives the game two nines (out of ten) in presentation and gameplay.
The ESRB gives Super Meat Boy the rating of T(een):
Super Meat Boy
|Platform: Macintosh, Windows PC, Wii, Xbox 360|
Content descriptors: Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor, Language
|Rating summary:This is a platformer game in which players help an animated cube of meat (Meat Boy) rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. Players run, leap, and cling to walls throughout each maze-like level to avoid a variety of hazards (e.g., meat grinders, spinning buzz saws, propellers). Meat Boy leaves behind gooey red liquid when he lands on these hazards, causing him to disappear in a red spray of blood. Some cutscenes also depict instances of violence: Meat Boy is blown up by a rocket, resulting in cartoonlike blood; a girl stomps and dances on a character named Dr. Fetus, causing puffs of blood to appear. The game also contains an instance of bathroom humor: after a toilet gets flushed, a brown character, Brownie, emerges and emits flatulence. One cutscene also depicts a character who sticks out his middle finger.|
So what does this non-gamer Mom have to say about the game?
While I don’t disagree with the T-rating, I’d allow kids under the age of 13 years to play it, depending on their temperament and their level of exposure to some of the themes in the game. I love Meat Boy’s relationship with Bandage Girl; though it’s his job to rescue her, he’s not just being chivalrous (and reinforcing sexist themes). Meat Boy’s a bleeding mess without her — Bandage Girl’s his strength and he needs her to help him stop bleeding, which to me is a lovely message to reinforce.
Sexual/Adult Themes & Language
While there’s no overt sex in the game, themes of sex and abortion are manifested by the villain, Dr. Fetus, a top hat wearing, black gloved fetus in a jar.
Your level of comfort with the game may depend on how comfortable you are with these topics. In our house, my husband, a cradle-Catholic, is the most uncomfortable with this game specifically because of the presence and role of Dr. Fetus. Abortion is never mentioned, nor is it an aspect of the game. I’m not even sure the game developers were aware of the underlying symbolism in the game — certainly it’s lost on my son who’s only aware that Dr. Fetus is a malevolent, antagonistic, and rude character.
Oh yes, and in case you missed it, Dr. Fetus is also infamous for flipping the bird. There’s no swearing, nor are there any other profane gestures, but this aspect of the game may be a deal breaker for you.
Violence & Gore
As I’ve already mentioned, Meat Boy is a bloody mess. Literally. As he moves through the game he leaves a trail of blood splotches, which can also be helpful breadcrumbs showing players where they’ve been. Aside from Dr. Fetus, Meat Boy faces numerous buzz saws as he makes his way through levels in his journey to Bandage Girl. As you can imagine, Meat Boy becomes a splattering mess when he comes in contact with a buzz saw. And he dies, returning to the beginning of the level. According to my son, “You die a lot.” (said with a certain level of graveness)
In addition, Meat Boy faces the challenge of escaping a hospital that fills with blood. But it’s not just blood that contributes to the grotesqueness of the game; Dr. Fetus also makes a likeness of Meat Boy out of his feces and names him “Brownie“.
As Hatfield says, this game is frustrating (my son concurs). There’s a lot of dying and repeating levels, which can be difficult on some kids. My son loves the game and sometimes dislikes playing it for this reason. If your child has a tendency towards frustration, you might want to reconsider this game.
VERDICT: RECOMMEND FOR SOME KIDS 11 YEARS PLUS