I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden
Ever been so mad at a game you wish you could punch the developer in the nose? Do you have a stack of controllers that are so broken and mangled hidden away in one corner of your house that invokes feelings of pure rage? Do you swear at the screen because you died, rip out the power cable and go punch a baby?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (I seriously, seriously hope you didn't actually go punch some babies-that's frowned upon in most cultures), then IWBTG:G is definitely NOT a game you should play. This free little gem has haunted many a person to the point where the mention of it's name invokes screams of rage and impossibility. It's as though Satan himself spawned a sequel to a game so bad that Satan couldn't take credit for it. Well, looks like someone must be a masochist or really stupid, if he's putting up a review on this game then eh? Maybe you're right, read on and find out!
I'm the kind of man that occasionally gets it in his head to do stupid things, sometimes these stupid things can be rather difficult. I'm not a very competitive person-so it seems out of place when it does happen-but now and then I see someone do something (usually in a video game) and think to myself "I wonder if I could do better than that". It's from such a case that this particular review bleeds forth - youtube some videos of IWBTG or it's sequel and you'll see precisely what I mean - the people that are just doing normal "Let's Play" videos of this game end up looking horrible as they play these dastardly devices of terror. How could so many people not even get off the very first level of the game? They must be hamming it up and over-acting right? Well, sad answer is no, those particular people aren't hamming it up, and the happy answer is yes, those are just a select few people who've played the game and are just bad at it.
You see, IWBTG series is hard in the sense that the original Contra was hard: it's very easy to die. It's not necessarily a game of skill, as much as it is a game of memorization - if I move here, then this happens, if I do this, then this happens, and much like the game Dark Souls , every time you die you are expected to learn from this and eventually figure out just how to beat the given segment. On the other hand, the deaths handed out to you are downright vicious ambush attacks that are usually of the cheapest amounts - literally everything in these games are out to kill you, including the apples hanging from trees and the very platforms you jump on. You might get by a particularly hard point, just to get nailed by something you thought was scenery - and although it's hysterical to watch, to be that person it can be quite rage-inducing, and lead to incredible amounts of having to replay a segment. This game thusly becomes the ultimate test of patience .
Gaiden adds a new mechanic to the game - the bionic arm! It's a grappling hook that you will be forced to use at various parts to swing across sections of the game and even kill yourself (as you will undoubtedly find out on accident trying to make some of the required swing-jumps), as well as the ability to "supercharge" your wee little pellet gun. At first, it seems a little useless (considering that all it does is let you kill some bad guys with less shots), and then (if you happen to be like me) you discover that a fully charged shot will cause you to swing while on a stationary grapple hook (if you were to grapple something straight up, for example). This becomes quite valuable knowledge at one point (at least it did for me), although it gets a bit tricky when you realize that although it seems like there is only one way to do the levels and survive, that people always end up beating it in different ways somehow.
Graphically, the game is about as retro 8 bit as it comes. Pixels pixels everywhere, although we do get treated to some nice 16 bit sprites as well, with famous characters making appearances to thwart your progress as well. Everyone will recognize Chun-li and Zangief from Street Fighter, as well as Sagat (god I hate his appearance here), and most the enemy sprites are recycled from other games (the first even used Castlevania sprites). As old-school as they are, some of the stages also feature items that seem almost hand-drawn, and the entire thing has a certain amount of charm to it, when it's not all trying to kill you in grisly, aggravating ways.
Playwise, the controls are smooth as silk. When you die, it's not the controls fault, almost entirely either your fault or the game's devious ways (what do you mean that grapple falls ?). With how relentless this game is, the fact those controls are so responsive are a necessity, so it's very good to see them be such. The controls are also really simple : Move, Shoot, Jump, Bionic Arm, and Reset. Most are self explanatory, and the reset is the button used to return to the checkpoint after you die or when you know you just messed up badly (probably the most used button in the game).
Combat is usually something very brief - you kill a bad guy before he shoots, or you generally get killed trying. The boss fights usually take some pretty thoughtful techniques to defeat them - such as using Donkey Kong's own barrels against him - which in turn renders your weapon useless (look as those little pellets just reflect off that pure monkey muscle mass). This all helps to add to the challenge, and with some experimenting (assuming you can avoid rage quitting long enough) you will eventually figure out what to do through trial and error - usually . I won't lie, some people are probably going to need help figuring out how to beat some of these guys, if not some of the sections of the game, just because how quick the anger of repeatedly dying without seeing any real results can build. Just to throw out an example, beating the boss of Sagat when he shows up took me upwards of 50 tries, and probably a minimum of 30 minutes. Sure, I kicked myself when I realized how simple a solution it was, and then immediatly died from a surprise in the next room and had to do it all over again.
Checkpoints are spread throughout the stages, and most seem to be reasonably distanced from each other although the difficulty might make some really, really wish they were more frequent. A humorous note on difficulty - there is a selection at the start of the game as to what difficulty you want - and if you don't pick hard the game opens up a browser link to silly things equivalent to barbie's summer fun time. A very nice little laugh after you no doubt get brutally murdered by this game for so long.
Music is pretty entertaining, being mostly rather upbeat techno/rock. The 'game over' screen (which you will see a lot) has a particularly cool guitar riff jam, although after the 50th death it starts to lose it's charm (thankfully, those quick on the reset button won't hear much of it). Sound effects sound like you would expect form how the game looks - very cartridge-era 8/16 bit. It blends with the aesthetic charm nicely, and with the seamless looping nature of techno, it helps to not drive you as crazy when you hear the song for so long.
At the moment of writing this, I have upwards of 100 deaths, and roughly 2-3 hours plugged into the game (I catch on relatively quick for the most part, results may vary). Replay value is relatively small, in the sense that after you beat this thing I don't think you will really want to go back (although with the number of times you replay sections trying to beat it you may as well be considered to have played the game tens, if not twenties or more times) and replay it again. I have made it as far as the final boss (or at least what appears to be the final boss), but am still working on figuring out the patterns and what exactly it is I need to do to defeat him. It's not something I can easily recommend a person to play, as the extreme difficulty is a turn off for a large part of the population, even though the game is free.
Final verdict for IWBTG:G is rough. I enjoy the challenge of it, the sheer difficulty, but at the same time the only major amount of fun from this game comes from the humor in the sheer amount of deaths you experience. For the average person, it will be more fun to watch someone play then to actually play it, and the most exhilarating experiences I've had playing it so far are the moments when you finally get by a part of trouble - usually nearly immediately thwarted by the next moment of difficulty. Beating a stage makes you want to throw a party for yourself, having finally escaped from a torture room and sticking it to your captor. I expect that when I fully have beaten this game (assuming I'm capable of such a thing without looking elsewhere to figure it out) I will feel vastly prouder of myself for having the strength of character to persist through the ordeal, as though I was some sort of survivor of an apocalypse or something. I'll post a link of where the game can be downloaded - it is free, and it doesn't take much in the lines of requirements from your PC - but I have to reiterate:
THIS GAME IS VERY HARD. IF YOU ARE EASILY FRUSTRATED OR UPSET, IT PROBABLY ISN'T THE RIGHT GAME FOR YOU .
On the other hand, it's a great way to punish someone for being bad.