By: Brian Gunn
I Want to be Human is the latest game from indie developer Sinclair Strange. It plays out as sort of a blend between an old school run-and-gun game along with modern difficult platformers. As it turns out, however, it mainly takes a lot of the worst inspirations from both genres.
While I Want to be Human is relatively simple in its controls, with very little to do besides jumping, shooting and a dash move, it can be surprisingly frustrating to wrangle. This is due to one thing mainly, aiming and movement are both bound to the left stick, which means aiming at anything while on the move, particularly something at a diagonal angle, is fairly annoying.
This an oversight that could’ve been solved in the way many other games have, either by giving players a button to hold for aiming that stops movement — ala the Metroid series — or allowing aiming to be done via the right stick. Instead, the controls end up hampering the experience.
I actually dig the visual style of the game, though I imagine it will be divisive. Head to toe, the game is like a teenager’s notebook doodles come to life. Everything’s black, white or red, and it feels almost hand drawn, albeit in a fairly crude sort of way.
Character designs reminded me of something out of Invader Zim, a feeling that’s echoed by the game’s sense of humor. Many times when enemies die they get smashed forward in the perspective, and watching their bodies slide down your screen is fairly satisfying.
I imagine a decent amount of interest in the game will come from the soundtrack, as it features tracks from Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence. Most of the music is pretty good, including a punk rock style main theme that even has lyrics as you load up the game, which feels pretty rare.
Unfortunately, sound effects aren’t too well done, with the game often feeling like there’s a lack of feedback when blasting enemies away, seeming to favor the music and the visuals selling that for the audience.
The story of I Want to be Human is silly, involving a vampire girl and her boyfriend that has been turned into a hat. The general thrust of the plot is to cure the boyfriend of his current head-wear state, and you’ll need your trusty shotgun to do that. The game is full of quirky and random humor, and sadly it’s mostly of the annoying variety, though at least a few jokes stick the landing.
Players will have to trudge through a variety of side-scrolling levels, blasting away to reach the end. Most enemies don’t offer much of a challenge and can be handily hamstrung by the game’s dash mechanic, which admittedly looks very cool. While areas are meant to be parts of different themed worlds, very few stand out, with most feeling like ugly thrown together industrial areas.
The game does have platforming aspects, with bouncing blocks, instant fall death pits and the usual staples getting introduced over the first few levels. There’s a score system in place that encourages using combo attacks on enemies as well hitting a variety of bonus blocks, though I don’t imagine many will feel compelled to master the systems involved. The stages are connected via a hub area that allows you to skip some areas depending on your progress in earlier stages as well.
Sadly, the controls really break the experience in I Want to be Human. Combat encounters on an even level can be fun, but once the number of enemies increase or ones are at angles, it becomes a bit of a chore. Bosses do make for some chaotic fun and are probably the highlight of the game when it comes to combat, which needed more variety.
You’re stuck with the shotgun, which feels fairly weak in comparison to the chaos happening on-screen. Oddly enough, the platforming stuff might be the best-rounded feature of the game in spite of it being secondary. Both elements start off fairly easy but ramp up quite a bit over the stages as well.
I wanted to like I Want to be Human more than I did. It feels almost like a punk-style game, very haphazardly taped together, and it has some charms on the visual and audio side. Sadly it’s just not fun enough to recommend from a mechanics standpoint thanks to its shoddy controls.