Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine
Big games are great aren’t they? You can spend hours, days, or even longer exploring a deep, rich world that’s full of side-quests and things to find. BUt while they’re great, sometimes I just want to take a break and play something easy that resets my brain, where I don’t have to worry about anything. Typically this takes the form of Tetris 99, or one of those Picross games, but when Team Meat announced their next Super Meat Boy game would be a Puyo Puyo game, I just had to give it a go.
At A Glance
|Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine|
|Positives||+ Beautiful visuals|
+ Catchy soundtrack
+ A unique take on an established formula
|Negatives||– No multiplayer mode|
– Samey boss fights
– Can get exhaustingly tricky
|Played On||Nintendo Switch|
|Also Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine has you ‘researching’ various clones of his nemesis, Meat Boy, in order to create the perfect specimen. By matching four blobs that cascade from each level, Dr. Fetus becomes one step closer in achieving his goal – the trouble is, while this might seem straightforward, this is the same development team that designed one of the toughest platform games ever made, so each level is punctuated with various deathtraps which aim to halt his progress.
Before I carry on with the rest of the review, I have to address the egg-shaped elephant in the room – Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine and the match-four mechanic isn’t exactly a new idea. The best known example is the Sega Mega Drive classic, Dr. Robtonik’s Mean Bean Machine, and (based on the title) is clearly what served Team Meat their inspiration for the game. While both games are almost certainly carbon copies of one another, Dr. Fetus takes the violence to the nth degree. Dr. Robotnik was happy creating his army by using cute animals as portable controllers for his machines; Fetus on the other hand would rather decapitate and disembowel said critters. Comparing the games side by side was akin to comparing Dr. Evil and his son Scott: one had the easily escapable and convoluted plan and the other would rather paint the walls with the blood of Austin Powers and have done with it.
In that respect, Mean Meat Machine bludgeons its way through the established puzzle-matching formula. Except for the opening level, you’re thrown in at the deep end. Hazards that seem intent on causing as much carnage as possible litter every single stage and, much like Super Meat Boy before it, Mean Meat Machine is hellbent on making you work to clear every single level. Despite the aim being to match four coloured blobs together, if just one of them touches a whirring blade, or a sharp arrow, it explodes into a fountain of blood that Sam Raimi would be proud of and you have to restart. During the later levels (read: from the second level), checkpoints are introduced to help stem the frustrating restarts, but even then, the action is always frantic and a definite change of pace. For those Puyo Puyo players looking for a relaxing time… you might want to keep your expectations in check, as this is not an easy ride.
When Super Meat Boy released in 2010 (what feels like a million years ago), the tough nature was a deliberate choice to give players a sense of achievement when finishing a level. The same is true for Mean Meat Machine. Levels are difficult, but never impossible, and with patience, practice, or turning on the optional Easy Mode, I managed to battle my way through each world. Well, that is once the boss at the end of each world was beaten. These take the form of grid filling enemies and can only be taken down by avoiding all incoming attacks and continuing to match the little clone nuggets before they are violently pulled apart. While each fight is distinctive – for example, the hospital level has a gormless looking red head that bounces off the walls like a floating screensaver menu from a DVD player – the tactics remain the same: match four or more blobs until it’s done.
With so much action unfurling on the grid, I was struck by how much the visuals pop out of the screen. Not only are the colours vibrant and the blood gloriously splashed across the screen, the scenery and hazards are clearly defined with brilliant cartoon visuals. While that definitely helped me identify what I needed to avoid, it also removed the legitimacy of my expletive-ridden mouth when I tried to blame the game design for my latest mistake. Mean Meat Machine also succeeds in producing some of the catchiest earworms in a puzzle game. Each world has its own musical motifs and each one is an absolute bop. From the off you’re presented with a catchy Californian surf-track that blasts out during the tutorial before moving to a Banjo Kazooie-inspired Forest Level almost seamlessly. Each tune is delightful to listen to and for me, the levels contained within the Hell world were the easiest to listen to. The theremin filled score combined with what can only be described as that 1980s hard-rock drum beat pushed me through a particularly tricky segment, and even though countless restarts were needed, the music never waned or got on my nerves.
There are a few bones of contention with Mean Meat Machine and that is that outside of the growing difficulty of each level, there is not much else to talk about on a gameplay front. There’s a finite number of stages to battle through, and although they are in plentiful supply and include some very annoying boss fights, once they are done – that’s it. There’s no endless mode to speak of, nor is there any kind of multiplayer, which seems like a misstep for a game that focuses on testing your resolve to the max, and could have really turned the screw on any friendship. Both of these modes would have elevated Mean Meat Machine to the next level. While the downsides certainly don’t break the game, it would have been nice to have the options to give a more complete package.
Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine might be a spin-off, and it might be a bloodier version of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, but everything that made Super Meat Boy an enjoyable (?!) platform game is present here. The match-4 formula has been given a facelift to operate more like Dark Souls than Puyo Puyo, with numerous obstacles not only in your way, but actively trying to kill you. Those looking for a challenging puzzle game will be hard pressed to find anything more frustrating than Mean Meat Machine. That’s not to say that the game can’t be easy – there is a toggle so you can play without having to navigate obstacles – just expect a barrage of abuse from the FromSoftware crowd for turning it on. How you play is of course down to you, and outside of that you have a beautifully disgusting game with an incredible soundtrack; it’s well worth the experience if you’re looking for a game to balance against those open world epics that seem to have flooded the market.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.