I can’t remember ever having heard someone called a tampon or a dildohead before my time with Sinclair Strange’s I Want to Be Human at PAX East this past weekend. Strange’s action-platformer puts you in control of a shotgun-toting girl on a sanguinary revenge mission. You see, some terribly evil force or another has turned the girl into a vampire and her boyfriend into a hat. As you might imagine, she’s feeling ready to distribute vengeful shotgun shells and vulgarities in near equal measure.
“It’s definitely a little bit un-PC in that regard, and the bosses get a bit crazy,” says Samuel Elphick of publisher Rising Star Games. “I think there’s a Sargent — I don’t want to say his name just because I get it wrong, but there are some pretty…inspiring boss designs, let’s say.”
I didn’t get to see any boss encounters in my 20 or 30 minutes with the game at PAX, so the jury is still out on just how inspiring those designs are, though it appears from the trailer below that one of them is some sort of giant, weaponized Game Boy. But Strange promises that they’re “kind of like Dark Souls-esque where it’s all about learning their attack patterns and how to get past incoming attacks, and they’re definitely eccentric, to say the least. Very full of character, all hand-drawn and very different.”
What isn’t up for debate is that I Want to Be Human is one crude game. I don’t mean that in the second definition way of lacking in polish or completeness — in fact, the game is out on Steam right now, so it’s all finished, though an Xbox One release won’t happen until later this year.
What I mean, then, is that it’s not uncommon for the vampire girl to take damage and call her aggressor something crass. If you’re easily offended by foul language, this is not the game for you. If not, the potty mouth is pretty amusing, though it’s impossible to say if it will remain so over the course of the full game. That will likely depend on just how many naughty words are in the vampire girl’s dictionary and how varied they are.
According to Elphick, there are enough of these insults and they’re creative enough to have caused some localization problems for the team. “We really got to know just how crazy it is when we had to take the translation documents and take them from English and translate into Spanish, French and German,” says Elphick. “You start having to look for crazy language that imitates the English.”
The little vampire who just wants to be human again will have plenty of reason to scream profanities on her quest: I Want to Be Human is not an easy game. Bottomless pits, giant laser beams firing in sequence, cannons and trigger-happy baddies were the main obstacles on display in the PAX demo, and each did an efficient job of doling out death. I imagine none of them would have been overly difficult on their own, mind you, but all of them come together to form what can only be described as complete anarchy.
In fact, there is often so much happening on screen — all of it being restricted to a red/gray/white/black color palette — that the biggest enemy is your inability to see clearly what lies ahead. This got so crazy in one section that I repeatedly died by walking merrily into oncoming cannonballs purely because I couldn’t see them as they blended in with the litany of other moving objects on the screen. In a way, this was a bit frustrating, but never so much that I wanted to just put down the game and stop playing. Instead, this felt like one of those games that you’ll want to keep jumping back into to show it who’s boss. Apparently, that’s kind of the point.
“When you watch [Strange] play it, he’s like really intense and quick. It’s definitely one of those games where the more you play it the more you get used to the incoming stuff and dodging around it, says Elphick. “It’s pretty chaotic, just from that sort of alternative/indie platformer angle that is definitely intentional. It gets a bit crazy.”
Indeed it does, particularly in a level cleverly designed to look like you’re playing a malfunctioning Nintendo Entertainment System game, with artifacts being frozen on parts of the screen and bits of code and other elements popping in and out of existence. So faithful to the 1980s experience of playing such games is this level, that I was tempted to try alternately holding in the nonexistent power and reset buttons and blowing into the nonexistent cartridge reader slot.
Of course, the one-part-nightmarish, one-part-nostalgic experience comes to an end pretty quickly when the player-character calls someone a dildohead. I don’t remember Mario, Mega Man or Simon Belmont ever using that line.