Guess who’s back? Back Again. Meat Boy’s back… in Dr. Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine. Tell a friend. At least, that’s the concept. That ‘orrible little toe-rag is attempting to clone the greatest skinless hero of all time, but in doing so, sends all the cock-ups via a pseudo torture chamber.

Super Meat Boy is one of my favourite games… ever. 10 out of 10 favourite. When Super Meat Boy Forever was announced, my carnivorous traits kicked into gear, only to be somewhat disappointed with the ‘runner’ mechanic introduced. Still, it looked pretty. 

Fast-forward a few years, and Meat is back, well, Dr. Fetus, and they bring their own style of play to the series in the form of a Tetris/Columns/Puyo-Puyo rendition. Scratch the surface (or the membranes of Fetus’ failed clones), and we’re looking at a title that redefines brutal in gaming.

Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine
Source: Steam

Dr. Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine Review (PS5)

I’d rather battle 10 consecutive Tree Sentinels with a wet sock in Elden Ring than face some of the stages in Dr Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine. It’s so shockingly sadistic that I wondered whether the review code provided was a prank. How the ‘f’ in Hell can this be completed? It’s impossible!

A bona fide puzzle game – tile matching, if that’s the correct term – the core part of gameplay is matching different types of Meat Boy clones in rows, blocks and, ideally, chains. Each of the 100 stages has a target to complete before unlocking the next stage, and the gameplay very much plays out like that throughout.

And now a big fat hairy ‘but’: instead of the conventional timers and extra blocks piling up to throw you off your guard, familiar buzzsaws from the Super Meat Boy series appear, as well as lasers, traps, enemies, and of course, bosses. The introduction of these environmental hazards makes the game ludicrously challenging.

Dr. Fetus Meat Mean Machine Review - Filing
Filing. Source: PR

Clone Wars

There are no lives in Dr. Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine, but should one of your clones get killed on the way down, you’ll have to restart the stage (though it’s almost instant). Blades will cut into your rejects, or they’ll turn to stone. So, besides stacking strategically to put chains together, you also have to dodge all the hazards.

Honestly, this is really trying, but not consistently. Each world has about 20 stages each – all of which should be familiar to Team Meat fans (Headup have done a great job here). Though some of these stages are rage-inducing, they aren’t consecutively impossible. Therefore when you do beat a stage, there’s some mild euphoria of completion but also a little breather in the subsequent stage.

That’s not to say it doesn’t test your patience. I love this type of game – more so that it’s Super Meat Boy, but the difficulty is so punishing at times that I didn’t enjoy it. The overall score you’ll see here represents the difficulty side more than anything, plus, at the time of writing, I haven’t been able to finish it. The original game was notoriously difficult, but fun, too. Dr. Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine is fun, but some stages are simply too much.

Dr. Fetus Meat Mean Machine Review - Clone wars
Clone wars. Source: PR

I’m Sorry, What?

At one point, I wanted to bail because, in one stage, each time I put some clones down, a buzzsaw would chop them up. To say that there’s a sense of urgency here is a massive understatement, but I had to take a break as I was getting irritated. On closer inspection of the menu, there’s the option to toggle an invincible mode. So I did for a bit.

An invincible mode has always meant ‘God Mode’ to me, and that means being unable to die, completing a game with zero effort. Bragging rights, perhaps, but that would spoil the experience. Surprisingly, this didn’t completely ruin the experience as it’s still very possible to cock it all up, but I noted that it was best to switch it off and only use it as a last resort. Even then, it doesn’t guarantee completion.

With plenty of achievements and opportunities to complete in a faster time, rating, or score, Dr. Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine has a lot of potential for replay value. In truth, it’s a really enjoyable game besides the extreme level spiking. But that’s subjective – perhaps you could ace this in one sitting? This might be just a bit out of reach for the casual gamer.

Verdict

Dr. Fetus’ Meat Mean Machine is one of the best-looking, best-sounding titles in this sub-genre, and without a doubt, it’s a very very good puzzle game. However, some stages are too extreme, and this difficulty can be too erratic. As a result, it did taint the experience for me. If there were just a teeny bit more balancing, this would score another point. Keen to try it out? 

Score 7.5

There’s a demo on Steam now!