This is a hard game. It should make you want to throw the pad across the room, get up to retrieve it but then change your mind and stamp on the cat.
It's a 2D platformer where you guide a little blob of meat through mazes of sawblades, lasers, lava balls and explosives to reach his helpless girlfriend, where every other surface you touch means instant death, and where there is no such thing as a checkpoint, a power-up or a health bar.
Once you have them figured out, levels may be over in a matter of seconds, but this does not save you from failing dozens of times beforehand. Your nemesis is Dr Fetus, whose babyish appearance and monocle conceal spectacular evil. The controls are basically perfect and the game plays out phenomenally fast.
By default Meat Boy moves and jumps fast enough to give Mario a stitch, but when you hold the run button you have to cling onto him with your fingertips to stay in control. You need to master walljumps and momentum and short jumps and long jumps and portals and platforms and dying over and over and over again.
Every time you die you're plonked back at the start in a split second. Super Meat Boy may be intense, and at times viciously difficult, but it's also a sort of KGB training course for your thumbs. Rather like Trials HD, another game where the goal is to reach the end of sadistic obstacle courses quickly and without error, the weight of experience gradually flattens your muscular impulses into the exact grooves of success, so that each sequence you find impossibly difficult is suddenly a doddle once you've done it successfully. You notice this happening, too, so that even though every level looks impossible at first, you immediately know that it isn't, and even the most elaborate and mischievous combination of barriers holds no fear, only anticipation.
It's a difficult game, then, but it's designed to improve players rather than simply repel them. Key to this is that all the levels are fair. There are no booby-traps. There are themed worlds - hell, a salt factory, the end of the world, etc - but wherever you are you know that a surface which looks like it will kill you if you touch it... will kill you if you touch it. Super Meat Boy is an indie game that loves being an indie game, for sure, but its retro stylings are more than just window dressing. All the warp zones, the chip-tunes and Insert Coin prompts are tributes, but they can also be worn as badges of membership. What little there is that doesn't work or falls flat, like the odd annoying boss fight, is quickly forgotten, because for the majority of the time this is a game where you can feel the spirit level resting on the supporting beams, just as you could with the old masters like Super Mario World.