Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine Review – Where’s The Beef?

Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine Review - Where's The Beef?

There was a time when Super Meat Boy was one with indie gaming. From its starring role in the famous documentary on the subject to its main hero’s appearances in adventures from other developers, gamers of a particular stripe couldn’t escape Meat Boy’s iconic bandaged red face. Those days are pretty much done, and the series has found it hard to expand beyond that excellent original game in the 13 years since its release. Following 2020’s disappointing Super Meat Boy Forever is Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machinea game that can only be described as another lackluster brand extension.

The game’s conceit sees the villainous mastermind of the series testing various traps for his next campaign against Meat Boy’s family of swift platforming heroes. This test chamber explains why the Meat Machine’s puzzle-matching Puyo Puyo-esque action suddenly has more hazards than a car chase in Hazzard County, Georgia. There’s not too much in the way of narrative expansion beyond this, but you do get a repeated pokemon reference every few levels that seem to exist solely to remind you that Super Meatboy also had video game references.

Copypasta With Meat Sauce

In fact, the one thing Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine does right is repeatedly discovering ways to compare itself to its source material. It’s a complete Super Meat Boy pastiche, from the level structure of the campaign mode to the brutal level restarts whenever you scrape by one of the good doctor’s dangerous devices. This could be seen as a job well done, and it does have some upside, I enjoyed the recognizably cartoony design on the anthropomorphized puzzle pieces. However, some fun character design can’t overcome aspects like the drone, repetitive score that reminds me of meatboy‘s lackluster replacement soundtrack.

It may be apt to say that Meat Machine is the Vince Vaughn Psycho of video games. Just like that ill-conceived feature film, Dr. Fetus goes out of its way to adapt its source material without really understanding why people sought out Super Meat Boy in the first place. Sure, it’s faithful that one hit will restart a level no matter how long you’ve been playing, but that doesn’t make it fun to be one match away from victory and then see your progress wilt in the name of franchise accuracy.

Blocked By Buzzsaws

The entire point of a puzzle game like this is to build up amazingly long combos with a well full of blocks, but most levels constantly remove blocks via buzzsaws, chainsaws, and other dangers. You’re always fighting against the tide to get a single two-part combo and earn the valuable reward of turning off those hazards and letting you play a puzzler like you want for a brief window. It’s difficult, but I just don’t get the same dopamine hit from conquering a Tetris board that I do from grabbing an out-of-the-way bandage thanks to a well-timed jump.

Someone behind the scenes seemed to recognize these problems, or at least the need for some way to practice for players who really want to dive into the Meat Machine meta. There is an out-of-the-way option to make yourself invincible to damage and the perilous restarts that come with it. However, the game doesn’t have a leg to stand on without that gameplay hook. The presentation on offer is barebones, there aren’t any exciting side modes, and there are several better versions of match-4 on offer no matter where you want to pick this game up. Unless you are a Super Meat Boy completist, this isn’t the game for you, no matter how you butcher it.

Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine | Final Verdict

The build to victory in the puzzle genre is incompatible with the instant satisfaction of throwing yourself against a kaizo nightmare. Trying to achieve that in a meatboy adaptation is an admirable goal, but it just does not come together into a fun experience. It’s not even that this is an impossible goal, as 2021’s Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon thread the needle between faithful franchise fodder and innovatively fun puzzler. The developers at Headup get points for trying, but the end result is an, unfortunately, middling package resting on an untenable gameplay hook that wouldn’t be particularly enjoyable even as a side mode in a bigger meatboy adventure.


Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine was reviewed on Xbox Series X over the course of 10 hours of gameplay with a copy provided by the publisher – all screenshots were taken during the process of the review.

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