Titles appeal to diverse audiences

Allistair Pinsof

Super Meat Boy – Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Mac
If “Super Meat Boy” doesn’t give you an aneurysm, at the very least it will give you post-traumatic stress disorder. In what has to be one of the most difficult games commercially released in years, “Super Meat Boy” is a strangely addictive, minimalist platformer. Its creators, Team Meat, are sadistic pranksters. Their heart belongs to the ’80s — the game’s worlds open with cinematics parodying intros from classic games, and some levels imitate Game Boy and Atari 2600 visuals — but the game’s clever, refined design suggests they aren’t stuck in the past. In fact, the game includes 12 playable characters from recent indie hits, such as “Braid” and “Bit.Trip Runner.” “Super Meat Boy” is a sequel to the 2-year-old Newgrounds flash game “Meat Boy.” The spirit and mechanics remain the same: You run and jump across 350+ stages that are typically beat in under 30 seconds. Above all, you die a lot. A whole lot. One of the most amusing additions is the replay video you are shown at the end of completing a stage. In it, you see every attempt you made overlapping each other. It’s a cathartic moment of victory as you watch 30 or more failed attempts running into buzz saws, as one determined Meat Boy makes it to the end. As charming and well designed as the game is, the game’s rapid-fire level design and disjointed structure keep it from being elevated to the level of “VVVVVV,” a very similar game released earlier this year. As it stands, “Super Meat Boy” is a flawed love letter to all things retro and indie. It’s a tough love that will leave your thumbs sore for days.

Grade: B

Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Wii
Kirby is for the children and it’s not because he is an adorable, pink amorphous blob. The “Kirby” series has always been easy to a fault, with the exception of the brilliant “Kirby: Canvas Curse.” The latest entry in the series is as amiable and harmless as ever. All is not right in Patch Land. Kirby has been turned into yarn, and as a result, remains impossibly cute, leaving you wanting to hug the screen. The yarn aesthetic gives the game a unique look. Even more impressive is how the game embraces the concept, letting Kirby traverse behind fabric, swing on buttons and unweave enemies. Like a perfectly cooked meal without seasoning, the lack of challenge has ruined what is an excellently designed game. You cannot die; instead of feeling tension, you are taking a leisurely stroll to collect gems and other collectibles. This wouldn’t be so bad if the collectibles weren’t obviously placed, feeling like busy work rather than the brain-twisters of “New Super Mario Bros. Wii.” With no reasonable incentive to play beyond its cheerful, creative visuals, I have to conclude this is a game for stoners and your little sister.

Grade: C