Title: Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine
Developer: Headup Development
Release Date: June 22, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Headup Publishing
Even after all these years, Super Meat Boy still remains one of my most memorable gaming experiences. The sheer simplicity of its gameplay cycle helped instill fortitude into my young gamer mind. It also, by correlation, aided in my love for demanding action games, so I have a special place in my heart for it. But I had no idea what to think about a puzzle game spinoff of the IP.
At first glance, Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine may seem like a nothing burger solely crafted for milking the Super Meat Boy name for all it’s worth. However, I was shocked at how much fun it was to play as the hours flew by.
Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine features the titular protagonist, Dr. Fetus, on a quest to make the perfect clone of Meat Boy. That’s about all the premise is, and that’s all it needs because the gameplay is what does all the talking. Players will complete countless stages where they must match four of the same icons, so the foundation is pretty basic. But the game ensures that the cycle never becomes dull thanks to its brilliant level design. The primary goal of each stage is to fill a gauge to the side by performing a certain number of matches.
But each time you do so, the obstacles increase in number and severity. From rotating saws to wandering ghosts, there’s a great variety of traps to traverse. Plus, how you deal with them relies on your reflexes while icons are descending. Since you’re able to move left and right, increase falling speed, or slow your descent, it gradually becomes evident that the matching gameplay here isn’t approached in a typical manner.
Instead of trying to reach a high chain as you try to achieve a high score, your real goal is to survive with enough pieces intact to pull off matches in the first place. After all, the traps that appear can not only destroy icons already placed on the ground, but they can take you out as you’re trying to set down a piece.
And if you’re taken out, you’re forced to restart at the previous checkpoint, which is usually when the latest array of obstacles first spawned. Although if you reach multi-chains, time will halt temporarily, enabling you to place icons at your leisure. Still, this element of retrying with carried-over knowledge and experience alongside brutal difficulty in the later stages embodies the Super Meat Boy DNA.
In fact, I was impressed with how much this game genuinely felt like Super Meat Boy in a differently applied genre. The hand-crafted levels also aided in this general ambiance, contrasting with Super Meat Boy Forever’s procedural generation; a title I enjoyed yet didn’t quite have that same Super Meat Boy spirit after numerous hours of playing.
Admittedly, the world themes can become stale after a good chunk of stages, but they drastically change as you reach new worlds. Aside from new aesthetics and traps to deal with, the music also alters. Speaking of, the soundtrack of Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine caught me off guard.
The songs all contain catchy beats, highly bolstering the addictive nature of the game design. Usually, with these types of titles, I find myself playing tracks from my own personal playlist, yet I never found the need to do so here because the songs are just ideal in ambiance and encouragement.
There isn’t much to say about Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine that you wouldn’t gather after a few minutes of playing. Still, that isn’t to its detriment. The puzzle gameplay loop here is excellently embraced, at times feeling more like an action platformer, hearkening to the IP’s roots. Even at points where I began to grow somewhat tired of the level themes, the promise of new thrills on the horizon made me eager to keep going, which the soundtrack undeniably contributed toward.
If you’re yearning for a fresh, inventive puzzle experience that’ll demand tight reflexes and proper timing, then Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine is the way to go. Fans of Super Meat Boy may also find enjoyment here, as this title exhibits the identity of the original game in both mechanics and game design.
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