Review – Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine

Milking a franchise for all its worth is the sad truth in today’s world of iconic characters and marketing. You can’t just have a standalone IP with nothing forwards or backwards. Sure, some of the most beloved games and movies of the 80s, 90s and even early 2000s were one shots, but how do you get more money out of those? I’m thrilled you like The Road to El Dorado, but where is the mobile game, the breakfast cereal, the Chel outfits to buy off the rack? No, we need to make sure we fully, deeply, nearly offensively take from a modern brand until everyone can barely remember why they liked the original in the first place.

Super Meat Boy was and always will be one of the champions of the indie gaming scene, and its influence is undeniable. Team Meat’s impact is highly recognized, which is why the Meat Boy himself appears in so many crossovers, from Bit.Trip Runner to Ori and the Blind Forest. Then you get an official sequel like Super Meat Boy Forever and it’s…okay? I think that the game is fine for what it is, but fans were, understandably, disappointed: I think they wanted more Mario Bros. Lost Levels and less Super Mario Run. But it was something, and trying something new is what keeps developers and game characters going. You can’t just retread something again and again and expect it to keep selling.

Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine Cutscene

Me, trying to figure out why Nintendo won’t accept my new Pokemon submission.

Which I believe is the crux behind Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine, which does equal parts homage, parody, and personal flair on the tile matching puzzle game genre. The player is in the mechanical hands of Dr. Fetus, who is attempting (and failing) to clone the Meat Boy. So now you have all these adorably ugly things sitting around, and the only solution is to get rid of them. Dr. Fetus realizes that combining them will yield a more perfect clone over time, and, as such, you need to merge them. But he also has all these awesome traps he didn’t get to use in Super Meat Boy Forever, and those blades will just rust if you leave them be. What’s a doctor to do? Abandon traps in favor of clean, easy and only questionably ethical science? Absolutely not: it’s time to make mincemeat out of these meat monsters.

Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine is ambitious in what it seeks to achieve, wanting to marry the ideas of both grueling platforming with puzzling. The idea is to get four of the same color clone to touch and activate an explosion that’ll generate energy for the clone analysis machine. However, if your meaty rejects touch any of the obstacles – buzzsaws, spiked rollers, eventually rockets and worse – the clones are destroyed and the level needs to be restarted. If you manage to trigger a chain of two or more, you can freeze certain obstacles and render some harmless for a short period of time (but not everything: a stopped saw blade is still very sharp). It’s a match tile puzzle game with the same all or nothing sensibility of Super Meat Boy, and that is…well, it’s definitely something.

Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine Saws

Well then, fine, I guess I won’t put down anything anywhere. FINE.

Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine is an experience that asks players to really keep double perspectives in mind while also disregarding some others. On the one hand, you have this puzzling game that takes the core idea of the hardcore game – twitch reaction and memorization of patterns/problems – and incorporates them into a world that has its own randomness to it, namely how the player can react with the colorful pieces. Being able to figure out where to stack, how to use gravity in your favor to separate pieces for different stacks, and pivoting quickly as the levels progress. Each “stage” of a level will bring on more obstacles, and some levels will have up to five stages of calculation that act as both waypoints and markers for increased difficulty.

Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine Ghost in a Straightjacket

Aw, a ghost! In a straight jacket! Which implies…oh no….

Once you get these ideas in mind, it’s exceedingly fun and addicting. The aesthetic captured keeps you in the wildly bloody, utterly grotesque yet endearing world of Super Meat Boy, especially as the clones continue to merge and give hope and promise for the future. The evolution really feels like watching a Pokémon reach a new form, complete with music and animation for when it happens between levels. The blood splatters on the backdrop only get more intense with each failure, and, rather than discourage players, the red paint of life gives you that satisfying feeling of knowing what worked and what didn’t and plotting as such.

Not to mention the biomes are pitch perfect for what the franchise demands. Starting out in the lab, moving onto a creepy hospital (complete with ghosts) and going through multiple areas that eventually bring you to Hell is exquisite and fun. The “boss” levels are fantastic, having overpowered machinery and, later, failure clones attacking you gives the purest sense of the fusion of these game genres. There’s nothing quite like trying to figure out where to put a yellow and blue piece while actively also guessing the trajectory of increasingly irate, giant chainsaws.

The Hospital

Honestly, it looks better than most Sandal’s.

However, it’s not perfect, and the off moments pop out at you like a jumpscare. For one, it’s difficult, which we all know. Yet, because it’s in a different environment, the frustration that comes is a different flavor that feels very bitter on the tongue. When you work so hard to reach the first stage waypoint and miss it by a single reaction, now you’ve got to start again, and that sucks. Additionally, it’s a different kind of muscle approach to getting the clones to fit in the right spots while actively avoiding traps and madness. Sometimes you get levels that don’t feel gratifying when they’re done: it’s just an eye roll combined with a begrudging move onto the next level.

Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine World 1-3

This is somehow going to work out great, I can feel it.

Additionally, you have to mentally remind yourself this is a single player game, and that’s baffling to consider when you note the source material. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine was such a wonderful Puyo Puyo clone because it had charm, it had Sonic characters, and it was on my Genesis and I didn’t have other puzzle games. For Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine to be single player only is an understandable choice, but a disappointing one nonetheless. I can’t figure out how to make this work in a two player mode other than to neuter the traps entirely and just make a pure block-drop game, but maybe that could have been a standalone, versus mode? If you can cook in a permanent invincibility mode, you can put two screens together and have people slap it out for a bit in a distasteful bit of puzzling.

Accessibilty Options

Yeah, it’s called the euphoric blockbuster and it’s supposed to make Special K look weak. Take it.

But, for the most part, Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine does exactly what it needs: it tries something new with the Super Meat Boy franchise and does it well. It’s tricky, it’s gory, it’s exciting, and it carves new thinking pathways. There’s fun to be had and it’s got gorgeous animation, a bopping soundtrack and is perfect to pick up and play here and there. Putting it on invincible totally defangs anything challenging or interesting about it, so please only turn it on if you cannot get past something and you’re in danger of damaging your console. Otherwise, I think Team Meat has realized they can take their visions in some new directions, and I, for one, hope to see even more ambitious swings in the future.


Graphics: 9.0

Amazingly bright colors and well designed from top to bottom, you can really appreciate the abominations and bloodwork as these graphics pop and disturb.

Gameplay: 7.5

The execution of these puzzles with ever increasingly difficult obstacles is a stroke of brilliance and pays proper homage to both the source material, the game world and the originality therein. Some points off for lack of replay value or multiplayer mode.

Sound: 7.0

Solid if forgettable soundtrack to help capture the world and the vibe overall. Some good squishy sound effects and a lot of comic punctuation through the soundscape.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Though I had to keep putting down my Nintendo Switch in frustration, that’s more a nod to everything the game was doing right and everything I was doing wrong. Highly recommended, especially for the single player crowd.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series X|S.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine was provided by the publisher.