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It was independent games development's darling of 2010, and all who dared cross it risked the righteous anger of its creators and fans. But badass platformer Super Meat Boy still is not available on mobile gaming's No. 1 platform. And I don't think it's because one of its creators got into a pissing contest with Apple.
It's probably because this kind of game really isn't fun with multitouch screen control, a conclusion reached after spending some time with CheeseMan, the best port of Super Meat Boy you can put finger quotes around. Frankly, I'm not sure it wasn't published by proxy for Team Meat. Either way, it's available now for 99 cents on the iTunes App Store.
CheeseMan is, evidently, doing its thing with the blessing of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, the creators of Super Meat Boy. Dr. Fetus, their game's antagonist, is right there staring CheeseMan in the face on the first level, after all. Other Meat Boy characters will appear later. And the same gameplay style is there throughout—you're an anthropomorphized cheese cube instead of a meat wad, zipping through a platform level, avoiding spikes, sawblades and other gruesome instant-death traps, clinging to and double jumping from walls and trying to reach the goal in as little time as possible.
Your strategy evolves as it did in the original Super Meat Boy, too. Basically, you go haul ass into some uncharted part of the screen, die, remember there's a hazard there, and try not to hit it in your next life. Controls are carried out on a virtual game pad of left and right and a jump button.
These are not ideal controls for this kind of game. So much of Super Meat Boy involved technical, perfectly timed jumps that you really need fixed, physical controls that you can feel with your digits through a long gaming session, rather than virtual squares that feel no different when you reposition your hands after picking your nose.
My parkour jumps between walls never went smoothly, even without hazards forcing me to act quickly. Too many times I simply wall-humped my way to the top rather than try to switch my left thumb while hammering the virtual jump button at the same time. This is on an iPhone, whose playing surface dimensions reasonably approximate a gamepad controller. On an iPad, I'm not sure what it's like.
CheeseMan is allegedly published by AlphaNoize, a German shop founded in November of this year. It, like Team Meat, is a two-man outfit made up of Hicham Alloui and Arne Worheide. I have no idea if these are pseudonyms, aliases, alter egos or secret identities. They don't appear to be anagrams. Alloui's bio lists work for Ubisoft in his credits.
Maybe CheeseMan is totally original; maybe it exists with a license from Super Meat Boy. Maybe it is the game that allows Team Meat to reach the iOS without compromising the intellectual stance Refenes took way back in March 2010, when he declared iOS devices to be the "Tiger handheld game of this generation."
None of the intrigue changes the fact that you are still playing an extremely demanding platformer with virtual controls, whether meat, cheese, or something else is involved. Good luck.
We've done a lot of big-budget games so far in our Best Video Game Music of 2011 series, but there were some great indie soundtracks released, as well. One of the very best of those was Danny Baranowsky's dangerous, dark, synthy work on the Zelda-esque roguelike The Binding of Isaac.
Described by our own Stephen Totilo as "A wonderfully warped Old Testament Take on The Legend of Zelda," The Binding of Isaac was a rigidly difficult game that centered around punishing exploration and experimentation as players made their way through a series of randomly generated basement levels in an attempt to help the titular hero escape from his mother's zealotous captivity.
It was a wonderfully challenging, creepy game, but what put it over the top for me was Baranowsky's sinister soundtrack. A dark combination of synths and electronic beats, it took a bit of Danny Elfman, a touch of Muse, a hint of old-school Final Fantasy boss music, and brought 'em all together into something dark and unique.
For this entry in our series, I thought it would be fun to chat with Baranowsky about the process behind writing three of my favorite tracks.
This is one of the first tracks to play in the game, and one of the most evocative. It's got this winding, ever shifting 6/8-ish thing going on, and the melody twists and turns and never quite resolves the way you expect it to. The chord progression almost reminds me of a creepy (or, creepier) version of "The Carol of the Bells," which feels appropriate, given the sinister biblical allegory of the game. Here's Baranowsky:
"Welcome to the basement" was kind of the idea [with "Sacrificial."]. Something brooding, a little "music-box"-y, and inspired by classical choral music (to fit in with the biblical allusion). But at this point the way I write is very based on state of mind, I try to consume the aesthetics of the game and the situation of the track at hand, and just be absorbed in it and just.....go.
That it ended up being in 9/8 with other parts in 6/8 just kind of happened, I felt like the asymmetry of it would help to make people not get comfortable in any kind of familiar rhythm, while at the same time having sections that were something to ground the track and give people a feeling of progression.
This piece is gorgeous. Nothing says "a moment of calm in the storm" like some wide, wandering ambient chords. I love the natural sixth that turns up in here—most minor tonalities have a flat sixth, but here, we've got an "A" landing while in C minor (kind of sounds like it's over a Bb chord, actually). It's that brightness that gives things a pensive air, as opposed to the driving dread of most of the other tracks on the soundtrack. Which is fitting, since it plays inside of the "safe" secret rooms in the game.
Late in development, most of the music was done, and I had some time to polish/add extra shit, and so I started doing like the "Shop Theme (Greed)" and "Ambush Room Theme (Burning Ambush)", and I felt that the secret rooms (you find them by bombing walls) was a great opportunity to introduce music unlike most of the rest of the game, kind of a contrast to the madness/insanity/evil of the rest of the game.
Indeed it was.
The funny thing about "Respite" is that the idea for the arrangement came to me instantly, and the whole track was sone in about 15 minutes. Not terribly impressive, it's very short, but the funny thing is Omnisphere (the VST used to make it) had some some dumb ass bug that made it POP every time it looped. I spent hours screaming at my buddy Jimmy Hinson (Big Giant Circles, worked on Mass Effect 2 soundtrack) who is kind of an Omnisphere guru and he calmed me down and helped me fix it. and then, to top it all off, because of the way the game was coded (flash) all the tracks have gaps when they repeat anyway, so it didn't even matter....
This track is shit-hot. In my opinion. What starts out as the sort of typical boss-battle-ish driving thing quickly morphs into something more notey and more compelling. Right around 0:33 shit gets real, as the beat double-times with this cool-as-heck ascending sixteenth-note line in E minor, pulling up, up, up and back around to the driving, building main theme. A terrific example of boss-style music done right.
I don't know why but boss music has always been my favorite music from probably anything ever. I can't begin to try and guess how many hours of my life I've listened to the boss themes from FF4, FF6, FF7 and FF8 on loop. I like to think my boss themes are very Uematsuean (i just coined that), which feels like blasphemy to say, but he is by far the greatest influence on my with regards to music in general, and certainly boss themes.
You can download the The Binding of Isaac soundtrack for ridiculously cheap from Baranowsky's BandCamp page, and he has also just released a very cool album of piano renditions of tunes from his killer Super Meat Boy soundtrack. Check 'em both out.
We'll be back tomorrow with another of 2011's best video game soundtracks.
Did that headline get your attention? Good, because you should go and read this super-cool piece by Kill Screen's Lana Polansky about mechanics, practice, saxophone, jazz, and Street Fighter. (It also features the amazing illustration above, drawn by Daniel Purvis.)
Wait, why the heck am I referring to myself in the third person? Ugh. Anyhow, Polansky's piece is tackling an angle near and dear to my heart, looking at how Street Fighter requires a strict, musical mastery of its systems before play is possible:
I can't imagine a more perfect example than Street Fighter for how a game system can treat practice and play. It not only demands a fairly profound understanding of how its mechanics work, but allows players to combine those mechanics in intriguing and unusual ways once they understand them. Once mastery is achieved, the feeling of play emerges.
From there it goes to a lot of super brainy places, like… the work of Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Bit.Trip Beat and Super Monkey Ball.
It's a cool piece, and worth a read. Everyone we can get to start talking about music and games in this way is a win, as far as I'm concerned. The two have so much in common, we gotta get those crazy kids together more often.
Please Try Again [Kill Screen]
We've seen our share of Humble Indie Bundles over the past year or two—independent developers who gather under the "Humble" brand and release a bunch of their games priced at whatever people want to pay.
The latest one, Humble Bundle #4, might be the best one yet—for any price you want, you can get Super Meat Boy, Bit. Trip Runner, Jamestown, Shank and Nightsky. Pay more than the average price (currently tracking at $4.61 on the Humble Bundle site), you get Cave Story + and Gratuitous Space Battles as well.
There's no shortage of gaming to be done this December, but these are all great games, for a great price. And not only will you be supporting indie devs, you'll have the option to give money to either the American Red Cross or Child's Play.
Check out their (endearingly cheesy and reference-laden) trailer above. It's funny, I was quoting that bit from The Rock all last weekend for some reason.
Humble Indie Bundle #4 [Humblebundle.com]
Following in the footsteps of the Humble Indie Bundle, today only you can buy the Game Music Bundle for as much as you'd like to pay, from $1 to $10,000. (Yes, there is actually an option to pay ten grand.)
The soundtracks include most of the best indie game tracks from the past couple of years, including Danny B's killer Super Meat Boy OST, SoulEye's VVVVVV soundtrack, and C418's Minecraft: Volume Alpha. If you play $10 or more, you'll get seven bonus soundtracks, including the soundtracks from The Binding of Isaac and Extreme Road Trip.
Any way you slice it, that's a hell of a lot of music for very little dough. Even if you're participating in Buy Nothing Day, well… surely $1 towards independent game music composers wouldn't be the worst way to break your fast?
Indie Game Music Bundle [gamemusicbundle.com]
Edmund McMillen's The Binding of Isaac managed to be one of the creepiest, most f-ed up games come out in quite some time. So, it's especially fitting that the co-creator of Super Meat Boy's offering a sizable update on All Hallow's Eve for his action-RPG shooter. Here's what the update adds, from McMillen's blog:
-Added chapter 5 (unlocked after 10 mom kills)
-Added 3+ new bosses
-Added 4 new enemies
-Added 20+ new items
-Added one new unlockable character (Eve)
-Added one new "FINAL" ending.
-Added 6+ new achievements
-Added 2 new music tracks
-Added updated collection viewer
-Added 4 new tarot cards (finishing the major arcana)
McMillen promised that he'd be rolling out fresh Isaac content if the game garnered a sizable following and this update follows up on that pledge. You can get the game over on Steam right here.
The Binding of Isaac Halloween update! [Edmund McMillen]
The Binding of Isaac, the latest gruesome game from Edmund McMillen - one of the creators of Super Meat Boy , is out on Steam for both PC and Mac for $5. Pick it up.
One of the guys behind Super Meat Boy has a new game. This is it! I enjoyed their last title (review here), and am looking forward to this, Binding of Isaac.
Heading to Steam (PC and Mac) this September, the game is a randomly generated, action role-playing game shooter. It'll cost $5.
Super Meat Boy is no joke. That's a hard game, and that's part of its appeal. Put it in the hands of the maker of another, harder game, and it collapses into a singularity of motherfucker-what-do-you want-me-to-do difficulty.
There's now a playable flash game of Super Meat Boy done in the style of VVVVVV, by the creator of the latter, Terry Cavanagh. Cavanagh says Team Meat asked other indie devs to draw warp zone titles, as if they had made Super Meat Boy. "After several attempts I didn't like and scrapped, I figured it would just be easier for me to make a little Super Meat Boy fan game in my own style, and make something around that," Cavanagh said. And so he did.
He cautions that the game is "only actually a couple of screens long and very broken." Oh, that's good. See, I thought I couldn't get past the purple part because I was a pussy.
"We always wanted to release a basic level editor, but the idea started to balloon when we decided to buy servers and program a fully automated level portal (Super Meat World) to support these levels as a bonus chapter for the PC version," developer Edmund Land told Kotaku in an email.
Here's a run down of what you can do with the free level editor:
-Users have the ability to create anything they have seen in game, minus bosses and warp zones.
-Users can then upload their levels to Super Meat World where they can be played and voted on by the community.
-Users can also take their uploaded levels and create full chapters with par times, custom titles and music.
-Users can choose from a full cast of 20 characters to play as in their levels and chapters, regardless of if they have unlocked them in the main game.
-Awesome chapters and levels will be hand picked by Team Meat and become featured as "recommended chapters".
-The level editor is FREE, a final gift from Team Meat to the fans who have supported us.
To launch the level edit just go into Tools on Steam and select the 1 MB SMB level editor download.
Super Meat World is unlocked by completing two full chapters or collecting 20 bandages in the main game and appears to the left of chapter one on the overworld map.
"We will be doing one more update to SMW next week adding a few missing features and fixing up a couple editor bugs," Land said. "After that we will be closing the book on the PC version, porting SMB to Mac and swiftly moving on to game number two (because we cant seem to stay happy without working on something constantly)."
There won't ever, Land adds, be a Super Meat Boy 2.