If you want to, or at least until you smash all the controllers in your house, Super Meat Boy Forever can indeed be your forever game. Each time you start a new game (or New Game+), you’ll get a different, randomly assembled collection of levels through which you must guide your hero, a red square of meat. With the exception of a few fixed levels and memorable boss fights, no two playthroughs will be the same, making this the truest test of reflexes you’re likely to find in a hardcore platformer. And yes, though Forever takes on the guise of an autorunner, with Meat Boy (or Bandage Girl) constantly running in a fixed direction, it is still very much a platformer. It’s just one in which you must now play at the game’s hectic pace as opposed to your own; 2010’s Super Meat Boy feels downright leisurely by comparison.
Losing the ability to move freely seems like a fair sacrifice in exchange for all the clever bells and whistles (or buzz-saws and warp-pipes) with which designer Tommy Refenes has filled this game. It’s as much a turbo-charged puzzler now as it is a pixel-perfect platformer, as players must figure out how to use the walls, enemies, and items scattered along their path to futz with their momentum. Each twist builds upon the last; once you’ve gotten used to punching in mid-air to boost your speed, you’ll start punching enemies, which allows you to punch an additional time before landing. By the time you reach The Clinic’s levels, you’ll be ready for the ghosts that, upon being hit, immediately rematerialize elsewhere, such that you can chain together a whole series of elegant, spectral fisticuffs. And while it’s true that Meat Boy normally only runs horizontally, areas like The Lab feature hooks and gravity fields that provide vertical shortcuts, while The Other Side is filled with physics-defying abilities, like blocks that can be summoned in mid-air, or one-time boosts that allow Meat Boy to change direction without pushing off of a wall.
Though Super Meat Boy Forever is extremely difficult, it is filled with generous checkpoints designed to give you a second or hundredth chance to figure out how to circumnavigate these grinders. Think of it as a madcap marathon, but one that’s stitched out of individual sprints, each equivalent in length to a level from the original Super Meat Boy, albeit with crisper, more colorful graphics, and a much wider variety of obstacles to contend with. In fact, think of Super Meat Boy Forever as improving upon Super Meat Boy as much as that incarnation did upon the original Meat Boy. There are so many creative twists–particularly in the boss fights and late-game world that distort space, time, and even computer programming–that the autorunner design almost feels like a deliberate handicap. But the animated opening sequences that nod to Metroid and Kirby, or the bonus (and well-hidden) warp zones that recreate moments from Mega Man and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! hint that Forever isn’t holding back so much as it’s building upon everything that’s come before. To Refenes, the autorunning isn’t a limitation; it’s an opportunity.