There’s something special about Super Meat Boy. Never has a game caused me to curse as much (swearing per hour of game time (s/phg)) as this one. Never has a game been so fun and fluid, yet so punishingly hard and impossible to play while inebriated. Yup, there’s something special about Super Meat Boy.
In Super Meat Boy, you play as Meat Boy, a giant square of meat with arms and legs. He has a girlfriend named Bandage Girl, and when she’s captured by the evil Dr. Fetus, he sets out on the tried and true adventure of “saving the damsel in distress.” What makes Super Meat Boy different from Super Mario Bros or any other “damsel in distress” game is that Meat Boy rescues Bandage Girl at the end of every level, only for her to be swept away and captured again.
This makes Meat Boy a rather interesting hero as he’s both surprisingly good at avoiding all kinds of dangers and rescuing Bandage Girl, yet terribly inefficient in that he can never keep her rescued.
But, while Meat Boy always saves Bandage Girl at the end of a level, I’ve now begun to question his prowess at “knight in shining armor.”
At the end of every level in Super Meat Boy, the player is greeted with seeing every death Meat Boy succumbs to before finally completing the level. There are many of these deaths. This is fundamentally important as most video games do not show you your deaths in a cruel yet amusing montage. In this way, I believe Super Meat Boy is a prime example of the Multiverse Hypothesis, though more specifically exemplifying Alternate Realities.
The Multiverse is the hypothetical infinite amount of universes that make up everything and every possibility. Our present universe consists of established physical laws and constants, but other universes within the Multiverse might forgo these laws and constants for something more interesting. We cannot pass the speed of light, but perhaps the speed of light is considered slow by the standards of a differing universe. Perhaps a differing universe lacks a dimension or has an extra one.
Now, Super Meat Boy never delves into such categories, so we must narrow our scope to Alternate Realities. An Alternate Reality is a direct copy of a current universe with something changed, and there can be an infinite amount of these as well. There exists a direct relationship between Alternate Realities, and in the case of Super Meat Boy, the relationship is when and how Meat Boy dies.
Every death of Meat Boy is a very real death in a differing Alternate Reality.
The player is greeted with this montage of deaths as a kind of reward for mastering a difficult level, but the character Meat Boy physically died over and over so the one correct reality could exist: the one where he saves Bandage Girl. The better you are at Super Meat Boy, the less Alternate Realities there will be, but there always be some since this game is excruciatingly difficult.
It’s not probable or possible for Meat Boy to have an infinite amount of lives. His coming back to life every death via reincarnation goes against all of the philosophical and religious views of reincarnation. I suppose Meat Boy could live in a universe where at least one of those things is true, but that opens up a different kind of philosophical discussion. It also opens up a new kind of physical discussion as Meat Boy always reappears in the same place after his death, and that would make no sense even if he did have an infinite amount of lives or was being instantly reincarnated. It makes more sense that he’s simply dying over and over in Alternate Realities.
The game even has its own evidence of this. Whenever you complete a level under a set time limit, you unlock a Dark World of that level. The Dark World is based off of the normal version of the level, though harder and sometimes physically darker. The idea of a Dark World is well used in other media, as is the idea of an evil clone from an Alternate Universe. Meat Boy’s Dark World clone is merely a different copy of him living in a much harsher world with a more evil Dr. Fetus. Bandage Girl most likely nags him more for not saving her fast enough.
Meat Boy is a creature that we should both respect and pity. Love is a powerful emotion that gets people do to crazy and dangerous things, but I’m not sure it has motivated someone to go through a torture hospital and Hell, one right after the other, for a woman. At some point, the hero just has to realize that his specific woman isn’t worth the effort. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as the saying goes, and surely 99% of them aren’t as danger prone as Bandage Girl. And yet, Meat Boy never comes to this conclusion, and the power of his love drives him through every kind of physically terrible situation imaginable. And these terrible situations kill him in thousands of Alternate Realities until the one special Reality where love conquers everything but common sense.
Now, in every level of Super Meat Boy, you leave a trail of meaty blood as you walk, jump, and touch anything and everything. This is a persistent trail and continues on from one life after the other. If these were Alternate Realities, one might ask, why is this trail of meaty blood always there and always growing? Surely these aren’t Alternate Realities.
This is a good point, but I must retort with: would you want to play this game without some kind of way to judge your mistakes? For the first few lives of any level, this meaty-blood trail is useful in gauging when to jump. It eventually becomes a kind of macabre paint, but for the player’s first few lives, it really is useful. Super Meat Boy is already difficult, and I can’t imagine playing the game without even this small bit of assistance, even if the assistance comes from my own mistakes.
I don’t think the meaty-blood trail is really there in front of Meat Boy. This trail of failure is for the player only, residing outside of Meat Boy’s reality. If Meat Boy constantly saw the pieces of his well-being thrown about the entirety of an area, he’d be forced to realize that this adventuring just isn’t worth it. Failure is its own motivator, and seeing the failure of a thousand deaths should motivate even the most insane and stupid person to stop. If this trail were real, at some point in the game Meat Boy would yell to Bandage Girl, “you know, maybe we should just see other people.” If he’s nice, he’ll follow with, “you can keep the ring,” but the player wouldn’t judge him if he followed with, “can you just mail me the ring back? I’m not going to jump through 30 saws and 12 lasers to get it.”
There’s a reasonably biological argument for the meaty trail of bloods nonexistence as well. Everything Meat Boy touches is doused with his own liquids, and such a creature leaving such a profound trail would eventually die from liquid loss. We also never see this trail of meaty blood during cut scenes, and if this trail were a persistent part of Meat Boy, it would surely show up there.
I’ve put a solid 20 hours into Super Meat Boy, and I’ve died 4593 times. Even the most star-crossed lover who has ever professed his life for his love would find that to be excessive. I find that to be excessive, and I’m the one who made Meat Boy die that many times.
There are 4594 Alternate Universes to my game of Super Meat Boy, and Meat Boy only lives happily ever after with Bandage Girl in one of those. That’s either incredibly profound or incredibly shoulder-shrug worthy. Perhaps both.