I love indie game devs, because they’re some of the most creative people out there right now. Not only do they come up with interesting new worlds and settings, they provide us with clever, challenging, and fulfilling means of navigating those worlds. But there are some indie devs that try to make their games a little too “indie”, utilizing things that are common to some indie games, such as pixel graphics, hand drawn cutscenes, and potty mouth, while forgetting to add something to make the game, y’know, fun. I Want to Be Human, developed by Sinclair Strange, is one of those games.
I Want to Be Human claims to be a lot of things on its Steam page. In fact, because this game has put me in a sour mood, let’s go through each of those claims and measure them against the actual game, shall we?
“Blast your way through a violent platforming tale of vampire/hat love, betrayal and endless destruction, all drenched in pixelated gore!”
To call this game’s story as such is a bit generous, since it’s really more of a “framing device”. A lad and a lass love each other, and because love is illegal for some reason, they are kidnapped by a world-ruling pharmaceutical company and transformed into a hat and vampire, respectively, because science. After the lass escapes through some vaguely described plan involving a burrito, she finds her beloved hat-man, picks up a shotgun, and goes to wreck the company while searching for a cure for their conditions. That’s about all the story we get, and it’s told through still images of comic book page JPEGs that you have to manually scroll across, which is quite possibly the laziest storytelling method I can think of, short of mailing me a piece of paper with the illustrations on it. As for that pixelated gore, I’ve seen some pretty messed up games in my time, violence-wise, and this one is rather tame. There’s barely even any “gore” to speak of, all of the enemies just poof into little red splotches. Saw, this ain’t.
“Go crazy with your trusty shotgun and take the fight to the minions and massive bosses who hold the cure to your kick-ass condition!”
Well, it’s a good thing you’re excited about that shotgun, because that’s all you’re getting. Shotguns are cool, there’s no denying this, but a shotgun is a situational weapon, intended for close range combat. When it’s all you have, it just gets annoying when it can’t reach anything. Though the shotgun does have a decent range, the bullets it fires are completely random. I had to take ten shots at a single enemy I couldn’t get close to because of a hazard, and even though they were well within the shotgun’s range, the random spread made the bullets miss every time. Speaking of enemies, there’s only maybe four or five types of enemy, and the majority of them are functionally the same, save for how many hits they take. I eventually started ignoring the enemies altogether because I didn’t actually need to kill them to get through the level, that’s how nonthreatening they were, and considering how much mobility you have, including wall jumping and double jumping, this isn’t a difficult route to take. The bosses are equally bland, with the first boss just being a dude with big arms who bounces around and occasionally stops to shoot homing missiles at you, all while spouting stereotypically hipster lines about chai tea and whatnot. Speaking of annoying lines…
“Discover a world packed with off-the-wall dark humour and a unique art style from the twisted mind of Sinclair Strange!”
I know it’s kind of an oxymoron to say “I take humor seriously”, but wow, this game is remarkably unfunny. It’s not even offensive or anything, it’s just… bland. The enemies and your little hat buddy must’ve read the same toilet stand book of quips, because they both run out of new ones in about ten minutes. I can only hear (or see, since it’s all in text balloons) “you’re a dildohead” from my hat and “you smell like onions” from the enemies (which I don’t even get) so many times before it starts getting on my nerves. Also, having a world where there’s a bunch of junky game controllers and consoles sticking out of the ground and then turning to the camera and saying “oh look, the ironic retro level! I hope we aren’t being too pretentiously indie!” isn’t funny. That’s like a joke Bubsy the Bobcat would make, and that is NOT a compliment. The game’s art is really the only modest praise I can offer, since there are some neat backgrounds and such, though it’s hampered by the red, white, and black color palette, which started to hurt my eyes after a while, kind of like a Virtual Boy.
“Featuring music tracks by electropunk sensation Jimmy Urine from Mindless Self Indulgence!”
I can only assume ol’ Jimmy U was working for scale here, because I only noticed a grand total four tracks: the main menu theme, which was the only one with lyrics, the overworld theme, the level select theme, and the theme that played through every level I played. If the level themes were different, I sure as hell couldn’t tell.
I concede that I only played up to the second world, after having beaten eight levels. The problem was, after beating those levels and the first boss, my apathy was palpable. I wasn’t having fun, the story was nonexistent, the jokes weren’t funny, and the art hurt my eyes. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I have disliked a game this much. It’s most definitely not worth the fifteen bucks they’re charging for it, and I don’t even think I could recommend it at five. If I had to pick between being a talking hat for the rest of my life and playing any more of I Want to Be Human, I’d pick the hat.