Hopefully, you’ll have the same love/hate relationship with IWBTG as I do. I Wanna Be the Guy is not for everyone. You have probably never heard of this game. If you have, you might be too scared to play it or tried it and gave up. IWBTG is a freeware PC game developed by Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly. The game has had a cult following ever since it was originally released in 2007. The community surrounding IWBTG has even gone so far as to create some 2300 freeware games based on the original. This genre of “impossible platformers” has become so popular that the main character, “The Kid”, has been featured in the indie platformer Super Meat Boy alongside BiT.Trip Runner and Steve (Minecraft).
IWBTG | Story
I Wanna Be the Guy is a tough-as-nails 2D platformer where you take control of “The Kid” on his quest to become “The Guy.” The story is simply a means of framing the gameplay. As for what the significance of becoming The Guy is and The Kid’s relationship to him, you’ll have to play it to find out. In order to face The Guy, The Kid must travel across the game world defeating six bosses and collecting their orbs to unlock the path to The Fortress of The Guy. Along the way, there are many hilarious pitfalls, traps, spikes, and pieces of ‘delicious’ fruit.
IWBTG | Gameplay
Borrowing from classic platformers of the 80’s and 90’s, the game play will immediately be familiar to genre veterans. The Kid has access to his trusty gun and cape, handed down to him by the late “Grandfather The Guy,” which allow him to double jump and shoot. There are secret items, but no other gameplay mechanics. You must conquer all 8 bosses in the game with these tools alone. There is no health bar, which means touching virtually anything is certain death. Thankfully, the controls are very tight. The only thing that might trip someone up is that there’s no input buffer if you run off a ledge instead of jumping off (comparable to rolling off a ledge in Donkey Kong Country). When you start falling off a ledge, you lose your double jump.
IWBTG | Difficulty
When I said this game was tough, I meant it. The World Record at the time of this writing is 00:29:41, but it might take you days to beat it the first time. Trolling is something IWBTG does like no other. Feeling a sense of accomplishment for making some hard jumps? Better watch out, background elements might secretly be hazards, the moon might fall down and crush you, or some spikes might fly out of the wall. You’ll die and die and die again as you make your way through this game, attempting to navigate screen after screen of things whose only goal is to commit child murder gleefully and repeatedly. The death counter at the file select screen said I died around 2500 times, and that’s considered low for a first playthrough. Luckily, dying is quick and painless. Pressing R will jump you immediately back into the action without skipping a beat (Pressing S will also skip boss intros). A restart puts you back at the last activated save point. On Hard, the default difficulty, there is a save point roughly every two or three screens. On easier and harder difficulties there are more or less save points respectively. This is the only difference between difficulty levels aside from The Kid wearing a pretty pink bow on Normal difficulty so everyone can see how masculine you are. That aside, I still suggest anyone starting out to play on Normal for their first time.
The structure for progression is simple enough. There are six bosses that can be completed in any order. After all six are defeated, the path to The Fortress of The Guy will be unlocked. The relative difficulty of the path to each boss and the general structure of the layout suggest there’s an “intended” order. Without Metroidvania-style progression, there’s nothing stopping you from doing whatever you want.
IWBTG | The Breakdown
- High Difficulty
- Tight Controls
- Nostalgic Music and Bosses
- Familiar Gameplay Elements
- Voice Acting During Cutscenes
- High Difficulty
- Prone to Occasional Crashes
- Did I Mention High Difficulty?
- Short once you surpass skill requirement
If you’re a classic gamer, there are parts that will make you feel right at home. You will die often, get frustrated, and be tempted to quit. I say you owe it to yourself as a gamer to give this game a chance and kill at least a few bosses. Your reputation is on the line and The Guy is calling you out.
After having spawned an entire indie genre, future titles are better in more ways than one. Compared to newer games like I Wanna Be The Boshy or I Wanna Kill the Kamilia 2, IWBTG falls short. In the wake of games with 5 hour tutorials and instant win buttons, IWBTG serves as a great introduction to this style of nearly impossible platforming game.
If you want to watch skilled players tackle this and other games like it, check out The Wannabes on twitch.tv. Feel confident enough to take on the game yourself? Download it for free here. Good luck! You’re gonna need it…