I think Team Meat might be evil. Truly evil.
I had that suspicion when I first played Super Meat Boy, the developer’s ultra-punishing platformer that has players dying a million bloody deaths. But now I’m 100% sure of that fact, thanks to Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine. Created in collaboration with Headup Development, the puzzle spinoff takes a delightful concept and runs it through the meat grinder. It’s essentially Puyo Puyo for masochists.
When I played a few levels of the upcoming game at this year’s Game Developers Conference, it felt like I was being punished for my sins. A puzzle game format that I loved had turned into a weapon designed to destroy my soul. I spent a good 15 minutes cursing Team Meat’s name as I struggled through it – and I loved every second of it.
Puyo Puyo Hell
I went into Mean Meat Machine completely blind, knowing nothing about it. Judging by its title, I figured it was a riff on Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, a Sega classic that reskinned Puyo Puyo with Sonic characters. Sure enough, that’s what I’d find when I booted up the first level. I began dropping colored meats into a well and chaining together enough combos to fill a vial and complete a level. It was the same satisfying puzzle fun I’ve come to know and love over the past few decades.
I knew there had to be a catch.
Sure enough, there was. I’d quickly hit a level that placed a spinning saw blade in the middle of the well. If I moved a piece through it, that was game over. “Son of a…” I mumbled to myself before regaining my composure and working around it. A rude obstacle, but I could work around it and focus on my color-matching combos.
Each level would begin ratcheting up the twists from there, dialing up my rage a little more each time. One level saw me working around gigantic spinning saws that circled the top and bottom of the screen. I learned to move around them, but I’d soon learn that they could cut through my placed pieces and destroy any combos I had in the works. I’d have to work very quickly to match four of the same color in time before the saw rotated around and shredded the pieces I’d placed. I could feel my teeth starting to grind.
A later level would find me working around missile launchers at the top of the screen, which would blast away pieces I placed. To make matters worse, gray junk would fall into the well from time to time too, just to make my life that much harder. It was at this point that I turned to the demoist and exclaimed, “Why are they doing this to me?”
Don’t mistake my rage for criticism, though; it makes for a devilishly fun puzzle game. It plays on players’ established knowledge of a match-four puzzle game, testing how well they can work around an increasingly frustrating set of obstacles. To beat levels, I’d need to work both fast and carefully, fighting back my innate desire to show off with fancy combo setups. If I got too fancy, I’d be punished for my puzzle game hubris, thanks to a stray saw.
I’m interested to see how far the idea can go in the final release. I imagine there are a ton of other obstacles I’ve yet to see, but I’m also curious to see what an infinite puzzle mode could look like or a versus mode. I’m not sure if either is currently in the works, as the current version is more of a level-based parody of the genre, but they could make it a perfect game for Puyo Puyo die-hards who want a new challenge.
Whatever the final release ends up looking like, I’ll make sure to pray for Team Meat. It’s surely going to Hell after this one.
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