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Super Meat Boy Forever and the return of Team Meat


Nearly six years ago, Super Meat Boy co-creator Tommy Refenes prototyped a mobile version of the game on his laptop, working in a hotel room just before GDC. It was rough and early, but as he worked the game grew from the idea of a straight port to one designed – maybe even improved – from the original.

It was the genesis of Super Meat Boy Forever, the upcoming sequel set to hit smartphones, PC and consoles at some point in 2018. Forever is built around the idea of an auto-runner with minimal controls, but comes with a cool system of changing levels each time you play. It is also, of course, rock hard. Eurogamer played it at PAX this year and came away impressed.

But why has it taken so long? Refenes’ mobile Meat Boy prototype was shown but never released. After announcing it was in development, the gestalt entity of Team Meat later said it had switched focus. Team Meat, made up of Refenes and fellow Meat Boy co-creator Edmund McMillen, decided oddball cat simulator Mew-Genics would be its next project. Over the next year, they released an early trailer and gameplay snippet, before Mew-Genics too was shelved.

The duo had ridden a wave of post-Super Meat Boy popularity and regularly courted headlines for talking straight and putting the games industry to rights. Team Meat also featured prominently in Indie Game: The Movie. But as McMillen worked separately, releasing The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and Afterbirth (and Afterbirth +), the status of Refenes and McMillen as Team Meat became increasingly unclear.

This weekend, I caught up with Refenes at EGX 2017 and played Super Meat Boy Forever for myself on Switch. I wanted to find out what had held it up – why fans had been waiting so long for another Meat Boy – but also what the current version of Team Meat looked like, now Refenes and McMillen had seemingly gone their separate ways.

It’s taken a while for Meat Boy to come back, and yet you’ve long had plans for a mobile version. What’s taken so long?

Tommy Refenes: Right, it was at a time where anyone would buy anyone would buy anything on the App Store. I remember an experiment where I made a game – Zits & Giggles, it was gross – which started off at a dollar. Every time someone would buy it I increased the price. And it got up to $399 and three or four people bought it at that price… [Refenes used the game as an example of how the App Store was broken, and used his GDC talk to berate Apple’s attitude to games on it. Apple swiftly pulled the game shortly after.]

But when Super Meat Boy came out in 2010 everyone asked when there would be an iPhone version – I took it to heart… I just thought… ‘you don’t know what you want’. I had an epiphany – you don’t want this game, but you want a game which feels like Meat Boy on your iPhone. [Laughs] It finally got through my thick skull. So in my hotel room at GDC 2011 I prototyped a one-button Meat Boy. He just ran and then you could jump off walls and change direction but the only button was the space bar. I thought that, maybe, this could work.