How do you feel about a video game character openly calling an enemy a ‘dildo head’, a ‘tit’ or perhaps even a ‘tampon’? Being a little immature I actually found it pretty amusing, but if these kind of juvenile insults don’t float your boat then you may want to stay away from I Want To Be Human. On the other hand, if you are the kind of guy who can appreciate referring to an enemy as a product for women’s hygiene after blasting them to bloody pieces with a shotgun, you’ll have some fun with I Want To Be Human – even if the gruesome, action-packed gameplay is far from perfect.
The game casts you as a girl who’s in love with a boy – a recipe for disaster in a video game. However, things take an unexpected turn for the worse when an evil force who want to take over the world capture and experiment on them both, with the end result being the boy transforming into a hat and the girl into a blood sucking vampire. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that outcome either. Equipped with her new boyfriend/hat hybrid, you control the vampire girl as she looks to escape the confinements of her captor’s jail cells and seek revenge, all whilst blasting any adversity to pieces with her trusty shotgun and spouting immature quips along the way.
I Want To Be Human’s premise is utterly ridiculous, but I can appreciate the absurdity. I’m a fan of this kind of dark humour and when it’s captured in a style that wouldn’t look out of place on Cartoon Network I can appreciate it even more.
The story is told through comic book style scenes and whilst they look nice with the game’s ’monochrome with a splash of red’ visuals, I wasn’t a fan of how they were actually presented. You have the freedom scroll through what is essentially each page of the comic, zooming in and out as you please. If I was actually reading a digitised comic then it would’ve been fine, but when I’m playing a video game I’m a little lazier and want the game to tell me the story itself. It was a little frustrating having to scroll through each image and piece of text – I just wish the game would’ve snapped to everything for me.
The game plays out like a side-scrolling action platformer. Armed with just a shotgun and an acrobatic jump and dash, you’ll work through a constant stream of levels as you find collectibles, evade a series of dangerous hazards and blast enemies into a pile of bloody remains. These bloody remains will come in handy too – don’t forget you’re a vampire after all. Your health is represented by a blood meter that when dropped to zero will result in your death. Thankfully with the amount of killing in the game you won’t be running low on blood anytime soon, though that doesn’t mean you won’t suffer be spilling plenty of your own along the way either.
You’re only equipped with a shotgun in the game so you have to get up close and personal with enemies if you’re going to take them out. It’s a shame there’s not a larger variety of weapons on offer, especially given the close-range restrictions of a shotgun. It’s also pretty difficult to aim – aiming is controlled with the left stick and given that you’ll need to control your character’s movement at the same time as aiming your gun it can make everything feel slightly awkward and cumbersome.
The same can be said for your abilities in-game – you’re limited to double jumping and dashing, though you are able to wall jump too. Levels are designed in such a way that you will be bouncing up and down between walls and platforms all whilst shooting at the same time. It can get pretty hectic, especially during some of the more tricky levels that might see you avoid hazardous pits or jumping between launching missiles.
Unfortunately, some of these hectic jumping sequences led to a few deaths that didn’t feel like they were my fault. Whilst it wasn’t too common an occurrence, my character would sometimes seemingly stop responding to my actions in the middle of a jump. It didn’t happen too often, but when it did it’d usually be during a moment that needed pinpoint accuracy and reactions.
When everything works fine you’ll have quite a bit of fun with I Want To Be Human. Enemies are satisfying to kill andcome in plenty of different shapes and sizes. Whilst there’s the standard ‘guns blazing’ fodder you’d have been used to in any other action title, you’ll also come across more unique enemies such as floating game controllers that attack you with As, Bs and D-Pad buttons. It’s pretty sweet – whilst I’m used to using the Konami Code to gain the upper hand, it’s literally being used as a weapon to kill me in I Want To Be Human.
You’ll also get to take on some pretty cool bosses throughout the game. Given I Want To Be Human’s previously mentioned immature humour, it’ll be no surprise to learn that one of the initial boss encounters is against a foe named ‘Towel Jerk’ who battles you in a prison shower, his special attack being the powerful ‘drop the soap’ move. Don’t worry, you’re not going to get bummed to death – you’re just going to have soap thrown at you. Don’t look too disappointed…
There are plenty of levels to work through in the game, though not much changes between them. The game doesn’t feature enough different gameplay mechanics to keep you hooked in, with most levels just consisting of flicking switches, finding keys and getting to the end of the level. Whilst I enjoyed playing through the levels, I never felt like I was doing anything different between them. I had no incentive to replay them either, even if there is a ranking system at the end of each level that challenges you to improve your score.
I Want To Be Human has plenty of charm in it’s design, with neat little features like the coffin shaped checkpoints or the ghosts of your enemies floating away when you kill them. The game breaks the fourth wall with some of it’s conversations in-game too, though the little speech bubbles that pop up next to your character are a little hard to follow when in the middle of a shoot out with some enemies.
Aesthetically I Want To Be Human looks great, featuring hand drawn visuals that adopt a black and white style with a bit of red thrown in for good measure. Whilst the style didn’t feel entirely unique, it worked incredibly well with the tone that I Want To Be Human is going for. It’s dark, it’s bizarre, but it’s also really charming and managed to border on cute at times. There’s a great variety of environments that levels are based across too, so you’re constantly seeing something new.
I’d been expecting big things from I Want To Be Human’s soundtrack given that it’s been heavily advertised as being composed by Mindless Self Indulgence’s front man Jimmy Urine. It’s lived up to my expectations, with a high tempo chiptune soundtrack that matches the action on screen. Plus, the pop-punk opening title theme song is awesome too – it’s been stuck in my head from the moment I started playing.
Whilst I Want To Be Human features a neat premise, the gameplay won’t keep you thrilled for too long. It’s not that the game is bad – it’s just doesn’t do enough to keep you entertained for long periods. If the controls were a bit more refined and levels offered a bit more variety then I Want To Be Human might’ve been easier to recommend. As it stands though, there are just too many better side scrolling shooters out there.
– A neat visual style
– A great soundtrack
– Calling an enemy a ‘dildo head’
– Controls can feel a little awkward
– A lack of variety in level design
– Only one weapon available
Developer: Sinclair Strange (www.sinclairstrange.com)
Publisher: Rising Star Games (www.risingstargames.com)
Release Date: 15/04/2016 (PC) TBA (Playstation 4, Xbox One)
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Playstation 4, Xbox One