I’m always a bit wary when people start throwing around Super Meat Boy comparisons when some new, indie platformer is set to make its debut. To me, Super Meat Boy will always be its own thing, a much needed shot in arm of the ailing platforming genre that provided a nice dose of nasty to a genre that had long lost its teeth. Now, whenever someone needs to hype up an upcoming indie platformer that has the slightest amount of difficulty to it, it seems like Super Meat Boy is the go to comparison. Most of the time, that comparison is complete nonsense and it feels more like some little kid is stomping around in daddy’s shoes pretending to be all big and tough. We were recently able to get our hands on Electronic Super Joy (currently available via Steam), and while the Super Meat Boy comparisons have already been floating around for a while, this is the first game that I think really deserves it.
Electronic Super Joy is classified as a platformer, but it really should be more closely put aside the new, burgeoning sub-genre of platformers that have exploded since Super Meat Boy was released. Call them hardcore platformers or hell platformers or mean or whatever you need to so that people know this is the kind of platformer that has no qualms about spreading the many corpses of your character generously throughout all of its levels. This game wants to kill you. A lot. It revels in your death, dubstepping all over your corpse and taunting you to get up and try again. The levels start out fairly simply, and the entirety of the moves you have at your disposal is a simple jump and a downward smash attack. Although there are plenty of twists and new ideas along the way, these are essentially the only tools the game gives you to get through the gamut of insane challenges it has in store.
Each level seems to introduce some clever new idea, and the challenges are nicely varied and don’t repeat too frequently. One level might be based vertically and give you some reduced gravity to play around with, while the next might slowly scroll automatically horizontally while peppering your character with a nonstop barrage of missiles that must be carefully navigated. Level design overall is a strength of the game, as it seems to take pride in coming up with clever new ways to kill you. Each area is capped with an interesting boss fight that does a nice job utilizing the minimalist mechanics of the game. The first boss is the pope (no joke) which unfolds in a big, multiform encounter with a slew of different challenges along the way. At first you must give chase after him before eventually flying through the sky to combat his pope-moblie and finally finding someone else to fire a rocket launcher at him while you avoid his rockets and lasers. It is as insane as it sounds, but is also really clever and fun and creative (even if you weren’t fighting the pope).
The game also does a great job being challenging without becoming frustrating. It boasts this absolutely brutal difficulty, and some levels take an absolute pleasure in killing you over and over. However, the penalty for death is always relatively minor as checkpoints are littered throughout the levels. While some levels fill the screen with missiles and require timing on jumps to be nearly perfect, the challenge never becomes unreasonable as one life flows fluidly into the next. There are no onerous loading screens, no pauses for a game over, and even the music doesn’t start over. It all feels like one continuous attempt, and by minimizing the penalty for dying the game provides a legitimate challenge while still maintaining a high level of fun.
Presentation is another strong suit, and the music featured in the game is outstanding. There are over 35 different music tracks along the way, with enough electronic dance music to satisfy even your the most extreme of club-goers. The songs are memorable, high energy, and fit perfectly with all the insanity that will undoubtedly be unfolding on your screen. I’ve always wondered what the perfect music track to accompany being chased by a dozen missiles, and Electronic Super Joy has managed not only find it, but distill it to its essence and pump it straight into your brain. The visuals are also interesting as well, and while the game adheres to a fairly minimalistic approach when it comes to graphics, it works quite well and complements the gameplay nicely. This is just one nice, solid, complete package where everything from the level design to the music has been fine tuned and optimized to give one entertaining experience.
Electronic Super Joy is both super and joyous, and is a remarkably well designed title that absolutely demands perfection out of you. It takes sort of a minimalist approach in both style and gameplay, but is big on challenge and entertainment value. “One more try” quickly turns into “seriously last time” and eventually “what the hell when did it become Tuesday?” This is a slick, brutally difficult and undeniably fun platformer. It’s not quite a Super Meat Boy killer or heir apparent or anything like that, but it is at least in the same neighborhood, and that is about as high of a complement as I can give this sort of game. It is currently available on Steam for a measly $8, and that gets you access to 45 different levels and all the heart pumping, electronic funk you can handle. Fans of platformers would be silly to ignore Electronic Super Joy as it offers a unique, enjoyable experience from start to finish.