Thursday, 10 May 2012
You Have To Win The Game (PC)
You Have to Win the Game is an indie platformer crafted by one J. Kyle Pittman, an employee of Gearbox Software who has not only worked on many mainstream titles (e.g. Borderlands, Duke Nukem Forever) but also "maintains a semi-regular hobby development cycle." The latest fruit to be borne of said cycle is a gorgeous romp through a heavily cyan-ed and purple-d retro world.
The goal of the game is not entirely clear; just that you have to win it, of course. Controls are extremely simple - guiding your little baseball-capped hero is as easy as direction and jump keys on your keyboard, though a gamepad is recommended. He's a nimble kid; jumps and movement are extremely precise, something that shows its importance later on in the game, and leaves only you to blame for those last 37 deaths.
Similar to superhit Super Meat Boy, players are gifted with unlimited lives in this adventure, surely a necessity given the devious difficulty of certain screens. This brings us to another interesting quality of YHTWTG: the fact that there is no scrolling. Each screen is its own individual entity, with fun titles to boot. If you can't see where you're jumping, that's because it might be a trap (I fell in many of those) or perhaps a hidden ledge or teleport mirror leading to a bag of cash to collect, rewarding players for trying the unconventional route. Panels from early in the game intentionally bump up against places you can only get to later, platforms too high to jump on are introduced only to tease (leaving you to complete another 30% of the game to acquire the item needed to get there) and handy checkpoint bells are peppered throughout so you won't have to start a particularly hair-pulling sequence from the start every time.
At various points, you'll encounter a big bad boss character spewing projectiles at you, usually which guard an important item necessary for further progress. The player is required to navigate through the pattern of these bullet showers, "bullet hell" style, to claim the prize.
These rewards begin with enabling platforms scattered throughout the world, Super Mario-esque dotted-border ghost bricks that fill in with solid colored bricks once activated. Further on, you'll find other fancy accoutrements to help you, well, win.
From the moment you fire up this game, its charm is clearly evident. The 8-bit style sound effects are sparse, but effective, and the playing screen is presented as a very well done, retro-style curved television set--enhancing the immersion, but never becoming annoying. I found myself glued to the screen for many hours, sans music, fully robed in YHTWTG's mysterious caverns, ruins, and lofty mushroom forests.
You Have to Win the Game is available for free (Windows only) and comes highly recommended as an excellent, modern interpretation of old-school platform action, seamlessly blending retro aesthetics with the tried-and-true MetroidVania gameplay model.
Download the game here (from the Pirate Hearts website).