I Want To Be Human review - A bloody mess in every sense
I Want To Be Human made me wish I wasn't human, but rather a cat or perhaps a garden snail, just any creature that lacked the brain capacity and appropriate appendages necessary to play video games would do. That way I would have never had to endure the hours I spent with the game. I might be exaggerating slightly; I Want To Be Human isn't completely awful, just mildly terrible.
The game is a 2D action-platformer which sees you take control of a girl who, through genetic manipulation by an evil corporation, has been turned into a vampire. With trusty shotgun in hand, you're on a mission to save her boyfriend (who is now... a hat), and exact your revenge on those responsible. It's not exactly a strong story, although that doesn't stop the game trying to present it through crude, scrollable images of drawings and text. That's ok though, this is obviously not a narrative-driven experience; the problem with the game is that the rest of I Want To Be Human manages to be just as weak.
Something 'bugs' me about this game
From the get-go, you are immediately assaulted by a dated punk song straight out of the 90's, blaring out at headache-inducing volume levels. I can only assume this is intended to disorientate players in the hope they will overlook the game's many flaws in their confusion. Changing the volume in the options menu lasts until you get into an actual level where it will ramp itself back up to maximum.
This bug of reversing any settings changed also extends to the controls, which are bizarrely set as arrow keys to move and mouse to aim by default, instead of WASD. Using a controller instead doesn't solve many problems. For starters, there's no d-pad support, a strange thing to omit considering this is a side-scrolling platformer after all. Secondly, aiming and moving are now as one. Want to kill that enemy to the right? Well you better be running towards them then since there's suddenly no way to aim and move separately, because who even uses that other thumbstick? And what is a trigger button?
It's all irrelevent anyway, there's no saving the awful, unwieldy controls of I Want To Be Human. As a platformer, you'd think that would be an area of the game that would receive particular attention, but no, they are awkward, clunky and unresponsive. Then there are mechanics in play where the character will stick to walls slightly, presumably to make traversing them easier. The problem is this only seems to work about every time you don't want it to and never when you do.
It's a shame because there are lots of nice, hidden away areas to find in levels and some decent platforming sections thrown in here and there. They become frustratingly difficult to navigate at times, however, due to the game's cumbersome controls.
Even I Want To Be Human's visual design is out to get you. Although the game has a nice art style, it's often impractical. The game uses a monochromatic colour scheme with prominent use of red, mostly to accentuate the blood of exploding enemies. A nice idea in theory, except I Want To Be Human has some issues when it comes to creating contrast between its visual elements. This lack of clarity only serves to further the exasperation of playing the game.
In addition to this, there was also rare occasions where the foreground would actually obstruct my view of the bottom of the level as I frantically spammed attacks in the hope they would hit the enemies I couldn't actually see. It's just bad design, plain and simple.
One of I Want To Be Human's few redeeming features comes from the pulsating electropunk soundtrack, provided courtesy of Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence fame. While there's a couple of duds and it can get repetitive, for the most part it serves as a good fit for the action.
A bloody mess in every sense
The word "action" might give you the false impression of excitement however, which is something I Want To Be Human is unlikely to provide. You're outfitted with a shotgun right at the start, and that's all you ever have throughout the whole game. There's no upgrades, it's slow, inaccurate, and it gets pretty old pretty fast. Any difficulty in the game feels manufactured out of poor design and controls rather than being a genuine challenge.
There's collectibles and a high score system to add replayability, but it's hard to imagine anyone spending much more time with the game than they have to.
I Want To Be Human is essentially just a glorified flash game, which makes sense given lone developer Sinclair Strange's previous works. One game of his in particular, The Devil's Daughter, which was made in a 72 hour game jam, seems to be the inspiration behind I Want To Be Human. Ironically The Devil's Daughter turns out to be a more competent piece of work, despite its limitations, than this $14.99 release. There's a hundred games just like it on Newgrounds that won't cost you a penny.
At least I Want To Be Human manages to be slightly less obnoxious than it's predecessor. Slightly. The game declares itself as being "packed with off the wall dark humour" which apparently means being ladled with 'amusing' insults like calling enemies tampons and 'don't drop the soap' jokes.
It's hard to see, and may sound odd to hear given everything I've had to say about the game, but somewhere under all the bugs, clunky controls and dodgy design decisions I can't help but feel there was a good game waiting to be made. I Want To Be Human, however, fails to achieve on almost every front.