REVIEW: I Want To Be Human

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

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I Want To Be Human Title Screen
Title I Want To Be Human
Developer Sinclair Strange
Publisher Rising Star Games
Release Date April 15, 2016
Genre Action Platformer
Platform PC Steam
Age Rating ESRB M for Mature
Official Website

What is one vampire girl to do when her boyfriend gets turned into a weaponized hat? That age old question is the subject of this action platformer, I Want To Be Human. And this turned out to be quite the experience, even beyond that crazy concept. The developers took an interesting story idea and combined it with a very eye catching visual style and then wrapped it all together with a great soundtrack produced by Mindless Self Indulgence’s Jimmy Urine. The theme song is most definitely a punk rock song in the vein of Green Day, but the rest of the music is chip tuned synth beats. Those are a lot of interesting elements to combine together into one game.

I Want To Be Human | Vampires versus Hipsters

The immortal fight between Vampires and Hipsters.

So, basically, you are this vampire girl, and your boyfriend is a weaponized hat, and you are out to destroy the corporation, Smiletech, which made it all happen. That is pretty much the story, and one of the strangest video game stories that I have ever heard. But, thankfully, they embrace that strangeness and the various bosses of the organization are quite the motley crew of individuals. The story remains nonsensical and rather mysterious, but in the end this is a platformer, so story is almost never the focus for those types of games.

I Want To Be Human | Grunt Quotes

The grunts are a rather chatty bunch, and your Vampire girl has a few words of her own.

But, especially for that genre of games, the art design matters more than the story itself, and this game truly has a unique one. It has a very hand drawn style that looks pretty great on the screen, and definitely fits in with it’s punk rock aesthetic. It’s mostly black and white, but red definitely is also a focus. The color red not only frequently appears on outfits, but blood and gore are an important part of this game for both the look and for game mechanics. You see, when you destroy an enemy, they splatter in a shower of gore (unless they are made of bones or machine parts), then you can walk over those nasty bits and the blood will restore your health gauge. Pretty gross, but an interesting mechanic. Most of the time your vampire also has some choice insults to throw at the bad guys as she obliterates them. There are only a few quips that she rotates between and they are all pretty adolescent insults. But, hey, no one said your vampire has to be a scholar.

I Want To Be Human | Airship

Nothing to see here Nintendo, this airship level is not at all like Mario 3.

And how does she blow apart her enemies into juicy bits? She does it with her trusty shotgun. While a cool design choice, it also does present some interesting problems, and you are only ever going to have that shotgun, so you will have to get used to using it if you are going to finish the game. Unfortunately her weapon has a very tight effective window and is also not very accurate. There is a minimum distance where if she’s right on top of an enemy it won’t hit them, but also a definitely maximum distance because the bullets do not travel very far. You can change your shot angle but you can’t hold a button to change the angle of your shots without moving, like you can in Super Metroid. Unfortunately you can’t jump on enemies to damage them, so really this became a huge impediment to completing the game for me. However, unlike the shooting, where the controls are really good is in the movement. Her jumping is pretty tightly controlled, she can double jump, wall jump, her hat allows her to float down slowly like a glider (a technique you will have to use a lot in order to avoid spikes), and she also has a dash that you will need to learn how to use in very tight situations. While many stages allow you to dash avoiding enemies entirely, and a few require you to do so, other stages will require you to kill a certain amount of enemies before you can leave them.

I Want To Be Human | Boss Fight

The boss fights were the highlight of the game for me.

That does sound like a lot of variety, but in practice the stages all look and behave so similar that it can be a bit monotonous. Thankfully there are several boss fights to break up the action, think of the Super Mario World format, only instead of a generic mid world fortress you will have a mid boss and then a final boss stage. Thankfully the bosses are large enough that your shotgun’s inaccuracy is not as much of an impediment, although most of them did summon smaller enemies that you will have to defeat. They are all a bit more complex than a Koopa fight, bearing more in resemblance to a large Castlevania Boss fight. Much like the many Mario games, since Super Mario Brothers 3, the worlds are separated into different stages, and some of the stages are secret and have to be accessed by meeting certain requirements. In fact, this game also has super secret colorful stages that reminded me a lot of the Rainbow Road stages, but in this case they are far more difficult with moving rows of blocks that will instantly kill you if you touch them.

In general this game is pretty brutally difficult, even compared to other platformers. This can be a bit like Super Meat Boy or 1001 Spikes, only with much longer stages (thankfully often with one or two checkpoints) and with enemies that you will need to destroy. That wouldn’t be so bad, though, if the shotgun were more useful. So in practice it can be a bit frustrating. The only other major complaint beyond the gun controls is that even though the art style is cool, it can also make the stages blend together and all look the same, as well as often obscuring the action or obscuring important parts of the environment such as portals. So the art style is a mixed bag of great ideas but so-so implementation. The music, however, is a total win for me. The title punk rock song is very catchy, and all the stage music is really well done. I do hope this title sells well enough to encourage that artist to do more with games in the future.

I Want To Be Human | Pretty But Brutal

The secret stages are pretty, but horrifyingly difficult.

If this review feels a bit bi-polar, it’s because this game made me feel very bi-polar about it as well. It can be really great at times, and quite terrible at other times. The stages wouldn’t run together so much with just a little change here or there to the art style, or by making less than 60 stages in a game, but I hate to punish someone for putting so much effort into making a large game. The stages themselves wouldn’t be so difficult if the gun mechanics worked better or if you had a selection of different guns to use, but I also hate to be too critical of games trying to demand more from their players and not being able to be easily finished. So, I’m just torn on this one. For the MSRP of $14.99, you are definitely getting a lot of game for your dollar. Even if you did finish each of those stages the first time through them, it would still take you several hours to beat the game. But I would generally plan on about an 8-10 hour experience in all. You just have to be prepared for what you are in for with this game, a very cool and interesting design that will brutally punish you for wanting to play it.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided By Publisher

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.