I was interested in ‘I Want to be Human’ right from the very first trailer, and with hearing that Mindless Self Indulgences’s frontman Jimmy Urine would be handling the music to the game, I was sold. The art style was intriguing and the gameplay looked fairly solid, what could go wrong? Well, a few things actually, but lets further discuss the game first.
As I storm the level with my shotgun, as it seems to be my only choice in weaponry, my character’s hat, which used to be her boyfriend, starts swearing and cursing, while her, his girlfriend, the petite vampire she is, starts blasting enemies into chunks as soon as they are within range. The aiming is a bit off as I’m playing with a controller and it’s not really designed for one, so both moving and aiming is all on the left stick. My shots miss a few times, but thankfully to the fair amount of health I have, I take them all down. I run past their corpses and collect the chunks of flesh off the ground, I think I see a knee cap, or part of their spleen, or maybe that’s just brain tissue.. I’m not sure.. but it heals me all the same.
So yeah, she’s a vampire and he’s a hat, each turned into these forms by the evil corporation, Smile-Tech. This story is one of revenge and destruction and chaos.. and madness.. and revenge. Oh wait.. I said revenge. Yeah, well.. it’s mostly one of revenge. The game tells its story through wonderfully drawn comics, done in a scratchy, almost notebook style inspired comic, the kind you’d draw while bored in class. The main problem with some of the story elements and most of the dialogue, is it feels childish, despite being a game very much not meant for children. There is some humor here for sure, but not all of it lands, and most of the dialogue can border on offensive to just downright awful.
The game, as well as its story elements is told in three colors. Red, Black and White. The colors suit the game but sometimes the background and foreground can blend a bit too well together and the level design can get a bit confusing. The punk/emo feel to the game suits the art style well, as does the music. While not all the tracks playing in the background are winners, most of it is fairly catchy, if a bit too repetitive sometimes. I love the character design, especially your main character and the bosses.
Bosses are extremely fun and usually have a few mechanics to memorize, or at least a visual cue of what move is about to come next. Each world has a boss battle that is complete with some comic scenes that further the story. These were sections of the game I looked forward to the most.
Explored through a hub world, where you can jump in and out of 5 different worlds, each world has several missions to complete that offer a different level variety within them. Some of the levels are easily better than others, with a few of them being incredibly hard due to some insane timing to jump from platform to platform. You have a dash, but I never felt that it was responsive enough to fully count on. The game has a bit of a learning curve of getting used to mechanics like the glide, which is what your boyfriend hat can do, and that dash, which is what she can do.
One level has you jumping from missile to missile to get to the end, and it can feel like you are on an obstacle course at times. While I didn’t care for the levels with that type of design, its more basic levels were great and more fun to play. One design element that I just didn’t care for were the bouncy cubes as hitting them at the wrong angle would cause your character to just ricochet in the wrong direction and either fall to your death or into a group of enemies to just get slaughtered. Some levels use platforms that fade away after touching them, or blow up with a timer upon standing on them. There are also switches that make platforms solidify when pressed, or disappear when pressed again, much like Mario, in fact this game borrows so much from Mario it’s ridiculous.
The checkpoint system is also not terribly great, as it is spaced out far too much in most levels, making you redo large portions of them if you die or fall to your death, which can often happen due to the dash not working correctly or responding in time. Thankfully not every level is massive enough for this to be an issue, but the larger more complex and harder ones, this can be an issue.
The shooting is ok, but can be a bit tricky to play with a controller. I found I missed more than I would hit, but since the shotgun has such an impact on close range, I’d usually just get in close and keep blasting. You can get angle shots and play it Contra style, in a way, but overall, just get in close and keep shooting and you’re good. I was surprised that there were no upgrade systems to make your weapon more powerful or give it a variety in how it kills. Even upgrades to yourself, boosting your dash, higher jumping or taking more damage is just not here.
While ‘I Want to be Human’ acts like a punk version of Mario with lots of blood, violence and language, it still manages to find a voice of its own. Not all the design features are solid, with a few making the game more difficult than it needs to be. The story is enjoyable, well told with its notebook style comics, with some fun entertaining boss battles that for the most part don’t disappoint. As a whole, I Want to be Human is fairly decent but failed to keep my interest a few hours in. The visuals and music can be catchy, fun, well put together and give this title a very unique first glance. If you’ve enjoyed other games similar to this like The Dishwasher or even the art of Jhonen Vasquez, who is best known for Invader Zim, then you’ll have a blast with I Want to be Human.