You wait for an indie 2D platform shooter to come along and before you know it you’re inundated with the blighters. I Want To Be Human is a resolutely indie tile and sees you control a girl and her boyfriend as they slaughter everything in their way. Oh did I mention that the girl has been transformed into a vampire and the boy a hat.
What struck me most about this game is the overall rebellious sense to it. From the rough and ready comics, bookending the levels, through the anarchic music and scratchy, in your face, graphics. I Want To Be Human has a cocky swagger about it which screams of rebellion and is all the better for it. It also has a punk rock price tag of less than £2, which is a good thing.
The art direction is very eye catching here as everything is black red and white. It kind of looks like a nightmare of teenage emo angst. It’s also violent in an over the top ridiculous style with enemies exploding in gouts of blood when defeated. Sticking with the rebellious teenage feel is some colourful language as you call people a range of names when you kill them. It’s all pretty well judged and felt stylistically consistent throughout. Unfortunately this riot of design actually gets in the way of the gameplay a bit. As there are only two colours used things can become unclear and the decision to make some of the scenery overlay the action, as if it was stuck to the lens of the camera, is an odd choice as this just ends up obstructing the action.
Control is basic with a jump a dash and a fire button. You can also aim your shotgun in an arc around you which could allow for some great dynamic action. Unfortunately both movement and aim are on the same analogue stick and this just results in control being a bit fiddly, I don’t know what the solution would be here but the existing control scheme isn’t great. This is a big flaw for a game like I Want To Be Human as the focus is definitely on some very tricky platforming action. This is the kind of game which revels in being difficult and, unlike Super Meat Boy where the death new run loop is quick, each level can last for a couple of minutes and death feels unfairly punishing as checkpoints are few and far between.
For a game with such a gory style there is a distinct lack of any weapon upgrades. I would have expected there to have been ever more convoluted weapons available giving more gory and violent deaths. Oddly this isn’t the case and the game ends up feeling a little empty because of this. I had zero interest to go back and play through the levels once I’d finished them.
There is a lot of game to be had here and there are four areas with around 15 levels in each area. The levels are split between different themes and some of the design of these is interesting. There are levels based on retro games where you’ll face off against retro consoles and levels based around prison where you’ll have to hit switches to open corridors. The range of design of these levels is pretty good and the bosses and mid bosses are intelligently designed. Each level is graded once completed and the score is based around a number of factors such as speed and number of enemies killed. To keep your score high there are little boxes scattered liberally through each level which act as combo extenders, a really skilled run can see you bouncing from enemy to combo brick in an almost unbroken stream keeping your score maxed. There are also hidden areas in most levels where collectible floppy discs are hidden.
This is an inherently simple game, run through levels kill everything you can and try not to die. Disappointingly though I Want To Be Human never quite gets it right. The fiddly controls and busy graphics ensures many of your deaths will come at no fault of your own and the lack of any proper upgrading cycle means you’ll always be firing the same shotgun. Whilst this might be visually striking, and cheap as well, it just isn’t a good game to play.
+ Cheap price point
+ Great sense of energy about the design
- The graphics get in the way of the action
- A lack of any upgrades makes the game feel empty
- Some of the platforming sections get far too difficult