God damn, I wrote my review of You Have to Win the Game six years ago. I was either 19 or 20 when I wrote that review. More time has passed since I wrote that review than has passed between the original release of You Have to Win the Game and its sequel, Super Win the Game. No, that’s not a jab saying that the game was made too quickly after the original, it’s a two year gap. It’s just… time goes by so slow yet so fast.
So I recently decided to check out Super Win the Game to see if it’s any better than its predecessor. Super Win the Game is, in fact, better than You Have to Win the Game. While neither game is a must play by any means, it is nice to see that a lot of the issues I had with the previous game were resolved in this one.
The most significant improvement is the level design, which is not only nowhere near as frustrating, but it also makes much better use of the frequent upgrades you receive in the game. One of my key criticism of You Have to Win the Game was that the upgrades you received would not make searching the previous areas for collectables any easier, which was unfortunate considering the amount of irritating jumps you needed to make.
Super Win the Game has learned from this by designing its world in a way that incentivizes exploration and outside the box thinking, and it is less linear than its predecessor. While I did have some fun trying to see the stuff the devs could slip past me, it does also make things a lot more confusing when you inevitably get stuck, and the game isn’t very clear about which order you need to complete each level. This has resulted in more than one occasion where I got halfway through a level, only to figure out I didn’t have the right upgrade to progress.
Similarly to its predecessor, Super Win the Game tries to imitate the games that inspired it to a fault, and this results in a lot of those guide dang it moments where you have no clue where to go or what to do. Unlike its predecessor, Super Win the Game is trying to imitate games that hold up remotely well by today’s standards, so it is nowhere near as frustrating as the previous game.
I initially had positive impressions about this game and was going to recommend it, but I started to feel a bit more “eh” about it as I went on. I am finding it difficult to find out what about this game didn’t click with me, but I think it’s because there just isn’t anything special about it. You can clearly see a lot of visual references to NES games like Zelda II and Super Mario Bros 2, but Super Win the Game never really captures the feeling of what made those games special.
The visuals are perhaps the most prime example of this. Upon seeing the visuals, my thoughts were “I like these because they remind me of Zelda II, which was a game I liked,” and even after having played the game, I can still look at a screenshot of this game and think of Zelda II instead of the game they are from. It kinda reminds me of a rom hack in that I can’t get it out of my head that this doesn’t feel like it’s own game.
The music certainly sounds like what one might expect from an NES title, and some of the songs are pretty catchy. The downside is that most of them are also 20 second loops and can get repetitive as hell. Much like the rest of the game, they aren’t bad, but there’s only a few tracks I’d listen to on my own time. On top of this, some of them are as ill-fitting as hell. I want you to listen to this track here, and before reading the next paragraph, guess which type of level you think it plays in.
Would any of you have guessed that this track plays in an ice area? This very… warm sounding song? And I don’t even mean warm as in “soothing and inviting” but warm as in temperature wise. If I close my eyes and listen to this track, I imagine it in a fire/lava level, which is the exact opposite of what it was going for. I admit that I’m not nearly well versed enough in music theory or composition to explain WHY this doesn’t fit as an ice area theme, but I know enough to point out that ice level themes don’t really sound like this, and that this is an ill-fitting track, even if it’s not bad on its own.
There’s also the issue of the story which is… just weird. I can’t even remember what the story was other than something about dreams and a wizard, and it was a jarring shift from the non-existent story of the previous game. The story is not intrusive or anything, but it doesn’t really compliment the world around it. The NPCs speak in stilted lines as if they were awkwardly translated from Japanese, despite the fact that this game was made in English.
As for the gameplay, it can be best described as a poor man’s Celeste that existed before Celeste did, and that also doesn’t have the beautiful visuals, story, music, or setting. There’s a decent enough challenge involved that isn’t too hard or too easy, and there are frequent check points as well.
You could certainly do worse than Super Win the Game, but it isn’t the type of game I’d suggest people go out of their way to play. Just about everything positive with this game has been done better in another game, and you won’t be missing out on much. But at the same time, this game often goes on sale and you can get it for pretty cheap. And if you bought the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality a few months ago, then you also already have it, so you may as well give it a go.
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