the artistry and psychology of gaming


I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden

I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, Gaming on the House turns 1 year old, and we celebrate by taking a look at the newly released continuation of the great freeware game that started us off!

I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden (Act 1)

Copyright of the Sierra Madre. License? We don’t need no stinking license!

Genre:  Episodic Demon Nightmare from Hell Platformer
Link to Game:
Game Info: Released as freeware in July 2012 by KayinWorks (Michael “Kayin” O’Reilley) following a special premier at gaming tournament EVO 2012.

When Gaming on the House began back in 2011, the very first freeware game we covered was I Wanna Be the Guy, the playful, tough as nails platformer from 2007 with copious amounts of retro fan service. In many ways, IWBTG was the perfect starting point for the feature, taking an area of gaming that could really only exist as freeware (there’d be far too many copyright issues otherwise), and incorporating a frenzied style of “out to get you” platforming that many companies would not dare take to market; it’s one of the best examples of how free games can offer something different to an industry that can churn out release after release with little variation. It’s perhaps fitting then, that with a full year since the feature’s launch, we get to return once again to Kayin’s twisted methods of torture and enjoyment with I Wanna Be the Guy: Gaiden (IWBTGG), an episodic side story taking place after the events of the original, this time featuring newcomer The Lad on his quest to find The Kid (who if you’ll recall from the previous game, has become The Guy).

The first act of IWBTGG features 3 new exciting stages, a few new game mechanics, and all sorts of hatred thrown in between. Forgoing the faux-metroidvania style of open-world platforming in the original, content is broken up between three different stages separated mario-style with a line-based overworld map. Of course, the overworld map is not without a few surprises of its own, keeping very much in line with the theme of the overall game (Don’t be surprised if you die within moments of booting up the game). Stages also (mostly) scroll instead of progressing from panel to panel, becoming a bit more linear in their completion than the stages of the past. Personally, I find this approach to be more appealing than the original IWBTG as the virtually impenetrable gauntlets on screen don’t carry the dread of wondering if you’ll need to progress through them a second time; the act of getting through from save point to save point is challenging enough.

Just like in IWBTG, you will die. A lot. With just three stages, you’ll likely be closing in on 1000 deaths before you’re through, each greeted with pixilated gore and guitar riffs familiar to the original. But deaths are part of the fun! To those unfamiliar with the series, the game prides itself on toying with player expectations, and shredding them to pieces at every turn using platforms, spikes, projectiles, enemies, and even scenery to attack the player when they least expect it. It’s through repetition and precise timing that you eventually learn to master the obstacles ahead of you, but not without taking your lumps in often unanticipated and humerous ways. As an example, my personal favorite would be what happens to you if you choose to stand on the right elevator at the start of stage 1-2; not only does it rise up to slam you into the spikes above, but proceeds to hit you again three more times with the screen rattling upon each impact.

The game’s epic opening. Imminent death in 3…2…1…

Coupling with the difficulty is the enjoyment found in the fanservice provided to old school gamers. While Abobo’s Big Adventure (released earlier this year) may have IWBTGG beat for shear volume of nods to other games, IWBTGG is still packed with some nice pixelated additions and characters ripped from popular titles; that bridge in the overworld is from Contra, for example, while a certain trap later on features… you know what, I won’t spoil it. Unlike Abobo, which relies heavily on the nostalgia overdose to keep you going, the gameplay and strategic level design in IWBTGG is its real strong suit, with the peppered references simply being an occasional bonus. People don’t look forward to playing Kaizo Mario because Mario’s in it, for example.

Besides the stage-based progression, IWBTGG further diverges from the original in the abilities of The Lad, who replaces The Kid this time around. While he retains the classic “Cape of Hero,” his double jump, and a similar appearance, his “Very Small Gun” now comes equipped with a charge shot, useful for taking out bigger forces at a quicker pace. In a few places, this factors into the level design where charge shots need to be fired at just the right moment in mid-air and is a noteworthy update to the game at hand.

More importantly is this game’s bionic arm, pulled right out of Bionic Commando, a game the original IWBTG avoided, which was nice to see worked in this time around. The arm is heavily featured into the level design calling for maneuvers to be completed that are right up there with those designed by Capcom, and in fact better than most anything thrown at players with the recent current-gen Bionic Commando (the 3D one, not Rearmed). There’s even a fantastic cross-Capcom moment involving the disappearing blocks from Mega Man that you can only traverse through the use of the arm which really takes the ability into extreme territory that’s as brilliant as it is diabolical. The arm is a welcome addition that allows for the Gaiden quest to distance itself from the original while still keeping in line with the overall experience. It is not known at this time if the grappling arm will return in Act 2, or if the next installment will feature an all new (read: 20 years old) gameplay hook, but either way I’m looking forward to finding out!

Wait a minute… there were platforms here last time!

Act 1 features a small boss at the end of stages 1 and 2, with a larger boss featured at stage 3 to close out (their identities here shall remain nameless). It’s a bit speculative at this point how many acts there will ultimately be, although if the boss of Act 1 is any clue, there could be as many as 10 more (11, if a certain someone from IWBTG makes a return). Of course, this is not a series that goes in the direction expected of it; for all we know, the next major boss could be a giant Goomba with a spread shot.

Unfortunately, we’re not sure when the next act will hit, and it likely wont be anytime soon considering Kayin is hard at work on his Castlevania-styled game Brave Earth. In the meantime, Act 1 of IWBTGG is more than worthwhile to experience, even if you haven’t played the original, and it will have you cursing in fury while loving every minute of it within seconds. It’s still a little buggy (the reset button wouldn’t work a few times, and some sort of runtime error happened when I was in 1-1), but I’m sure patches will occur eventually and the experience will be made even smoother.

As a final note, the game played on easy offers a very different experience.

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