As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers.
Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Team Meat) had a vision when they decided to go all out and create a full game out of their flash game on Newgrounds. Working sleepless nights resulted in the release of Super Meat Boy to massive fan and critical acclaim. Their goal was to make a difficult platformer that felt like the old games they had played when they were kids. What fans received was the complete realization of a creators dream with nothing lost in translation. Super Meat Boy is unforgiving, but at the same time very addicting, and the game makes you think on your feet. It forces your mind to reason out how to live through the next couple of seconds, while at the same time getting your instinct and ingenuity in on the fun.
No great game is without a great soundtrack, however. Danny Baranowsky was given total creative control on how he wanted the music to sound. Perhaps McMillen figured that by giving Baranowsky full control, he would invest himself completely in the project. He delivered.
The forest is World 1, so there’s no reason for the game to be as in your face with the music. It’s catchy and grooves really well, but isn’t too complex of a song. It mirrors the fact that at the start of the game, the player is beginning to learn the basics of Super Meat Boy. The music isn’t overly aggressive, and besides the stationary saw-blades, there is nothing really hyper dangerous in the forest. Because of this, and I was made to think the game was easier than it actually was. It’s just an introduction, but it shows the persuasiveness of good music. It’s not like the forest is on fire or anything, oh, wait…
Lil’ Slugger is the boss of World 1, and he represents the chaos that is soon to ensue in the world of Meat Boy. The fight is comprised of a chase sequence from a giant robot that is just basically a chainsaw and legs. The music does its job of raising your adrenaline, but at the same time, you can see it playing out in the background of the level. Dr. Fetus (the villain, an evil fetus in a robot suit that kidnapped your girlfriend) lit fire to the forest and brings machinery and destruction to the peaceful world.
I’m not saying that Team Meat are environmentalist, but I will say that the burning forest and squirrels running into saw-blades probably represent the pure evil of Dr. Fetus, and start to give you an idea of how dark this game is. Art-wise, this is McMillen’s preferred style, so it’s great for the game that the soundtrack matches his vision so closely. This song denies you any sense of peace or happiness, so the only thing Meat Boy can do is delve deeper into the madness in order to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl.
World 2 has a unique theme. Obviously, hospitals are generally supposed to be helpful areas – places of healing. Not so here. Nothing like an abandoned hospital to make someone feel alone and creeped out, and the theme of World 2 helps to create somewhere quite uninviting. The melody at 0:29 to 0:44 sounds like mock pity. I can imagine someone injured, and while the theme makes it sound like it feels sympathy, I know that it doesn’t actually care at all. Any implications of hope are torn away from the soundtrack steadily. It doesn’t help that the main environmental hazard are used syringes.
The Hospital (Dark World)
I don’t really have a lot of introspection on this song. The dark worlds each have some kind of inversion or remix of the light world counterpart, so that “singular” melody makes a form of reappearance here. Really, I just like this song a lot. These posts are for songs that stand out, and while I don’t have anything really analytical to say about it, I just really dig a good guitar riff. I love the Dark World Hospital theme the most of the Dark World songs (even though there is plenty of e. guitar to go around in this soundtrack).
After Dr. Fetus kills Meat Boy in a cutscene, he sends him to World 4: Hell. As you can imagine, Hell is a chaotic kind of place. The song sets that up just fine with the rhythmic bass section. The bursts of music and sound periodically reflecting bursts of flame that makes up the underworld of Super Meat Boy. One thing I really like about this song is how it just starts without any build or lead-in. It’s like Meat Boy just dropped into Hell and the demonic activities have been going for a while. Call me crazy, but few soundtracks have captured Hell in music like this one.
Once we reach The Rapture (World 5), we see that the world has finally totally converted into the mechanized future that was hinted at in Lil’ Slugger. We’ve reached what appears to be the home base of Dr. Fetus and the source of all the machines. The pounding and orderly drums make one think of a world under a totalitarian dictatorship, where humans are no more and the planet is operated by machines with no emotions and cold efficiency.
It Ends is a representation of something that Meat Boy and the player would like to avoid. Cold skyscrapers and deadly machines populate The Rapture. You are fighting against a world represented by this theme, both of which want to keep you down and in line.
As an added note, this song as a retro remix got drilled into my head after so many attempts to get The Kid as a bonus character. Team Meat, I hate you, and at the same time, you are amazing.
Like I said, Baranowsky delivered a sick set of songs to Team Meat. Clearly, their faith in him was well placed, and we were privileged with an awesome soundtrack. Super Meat Boy has been out for a while, and if I was the first one that you heard of it from, I would be genuinely surprised. The game is so good and popular that most of the people I know have at least played it once. If you haven’t though, I would get on it as soon as possible. Prices drop routinely during any Steam sale, offering even the poorest of us the chance to play.
Let me know what you thought of the post or your favorite songs that I might not have mentioned in the comments below. Chances are good that I’ll respond to them. I’ll see you all tomorrow for a new game!