You Have to Win the Game is a free exploration platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic.
User reviews: Very Positive (3,480 reviews)
Release Date: May 6, 2012

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"When not working on AAA titles at Gearbox Studios, J. Kyle Pittman apparently has the time to make gems such as You Have to Win the Game."
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November 26, 2014

Super Win the Game 33% off!

Thanks for playing You Have to Win the Game! If you haven't checked out its sequel Super Win the Game yet, now is a great time to do so! It's 33% for the next few days as part of the Steam Exploration Sale!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/310700

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About This Game

Originally released in May 2012, You Have to Win the Game has now arrived on Steam with a more difficult remixed campaign and Playable Cat DLC*!!

You Have to Win the Game is a free exploration platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic.

Run, jump, and avoid deadly pitfalls as you explore the ruins of a lost world in search of hidden treasures and rare artifacts!

Experience the thrill of four-color CGA graphics and monotonic PC speaker sounds! Or take a peek at the future of home entertainment with the SIXTEEN-COLOR EGA GRAPHICS option!

Want a tougher challenge? Try YOLO mode! You only live once -- one wrong move and it's back to the start of the game!

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP SP2
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 20 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: 32-bit executable
    Minimum:
    • OS: OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
    • Hard Drive: 20 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: 64-bit executable
    Minimum:
    • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or similar
    • Hard Drive: 20 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: 64-bit executable
Helpful customer reviews
22 of 25 people (88%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.4 hrs on record
Posted: January 23
A free game that is a loving tribute to the platformers and "open world" of the ZX Spectrum/Commodore 64/NEC computer days, where the world was divided between different screens that formed the whole of a world much like VVVVVV was, rather than the scrolling with the character that came with Pitfall and Super Mario Bros. Make no mistake while this is a tribute and love letter to many a classic game in level lay out, early 80s tube computer box outline, and art style for it's game world, it is very much a game for modern design and ease of getting into.

A game where you have plenty of opportunities to learn exactly what to do due to natural and clear explanation of what to do in what is shown and required (touch an enemy and die, longer pit requires to hold the jump longer, etc), and true to it's roots it never gets too confusing in what to do or where to go unless you yourself have lost your way. It rewards mastering the jumps and wall jumps (a power up), it gives the chance for pixel perfect jumping when desired in it's normal mode, nothing is impossible to reach once you know how and can (power ups, 2 of them), and there is never a situation where one can get stuck.
As it is old school it can prove challenging to those who require a clear cut map, as none is provided and instead has one memorising the world and it's lay out until you have a good idea where to go next. As death is never a issue in it's normal mode, with Super Meat Boy like instant-respawn and an infinite number, however one is never punished for exploring and through time you learn the routes to take until they become second nature. Take as many tries as needed, never respawn too far from doing it again or leaving to try something else, it's open to you with the normal mode. As it is screen to screen, a static image as only you and enemies and some objects move in it, you learn what each one looks like with a way to remember them by a quote at the bottom to make each one stand out beyond just it's unique lay out.

Never more than a game about collecting all the money bags in the world and platforming save for one end game puzzle, which you are told how to solve by clues written on the wall, your only worry is your own skill at platforming. You jump, you wall jump eventually, you slide down, you move. The enemies are things that move from left to right or shoot small bullets in a set pattern, nothing to worry about because they never do anything different and thus you can take your time until you master them. Then, quickly speed past them and that may just be the best tactic to get through a specific screen.

As a platformer fan, as someone who loves to explore a game world, and one who enjoys creative designs with limitations on what is actually shown at any given time, I find this to just to be a spectacular and amazing game that does so many things right and is a pure example of a platformer. A game where my first play through was filled with numerous deaths, gave me the greatest sense of satisfaction in earning an achievement (Steam) when I beat the game by never dying, proving that I had mastered the game and knew exactly what to do.

Yet it doesn't even end there. For it offers a Master Quest style challenge, named Extra Spicy Mode, which completely changes up the lay out of every screen, the order in which you travel the world, the challenge offered, and you collect power ups in reverse making it that much more of a different experience. A wonderful thing to go through after I had just "mastered the game and knew exactly what to do". One section required me to do a pixel perfect landing on what normally is death for example, another learning not to jump to keep yourself alive as normal on a vertical positioned platform, and it made me work through it and improve my skill that much more without ever being unfair.

There are issues that can prevent many people from finishing it because it is challenging, those who quit games easily/rage quit may find little to love here as it's all on the player, at times easy for some to lose track of where they are or going due to no map, it won't be for all fans of platformers who want the Super Mario Bros influenced style of always moving right and holding down speed and jumping only, and there is no action/attacking some crave. Yet it is still one of the best examples of this type of platforming, a loving homage to a style very rarely seen today, and of course it's free so there is no loss in trying.

Also you can play as a cat.
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26 of 33 people (79%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
11.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 8, 2014
Very retro is true! I felt nostalgic playing this and did make me think of old arcade games. Idea and look was great but I need to admit that for me some levels were too hard to pass. I watched in Youtube how people did speedrun of whole game but for me that seems impossible and I do not have to win this game. Fun to try but after constant death the fun was over.
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12 of 14 people (86%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: March 29
You Have to Win the Game is a short but sweet exploration-based retro platformer seemingly designed with the sole purpose of plunging a bullseye arrow into my nostalgia heart. The game has the look of the early PC games I grew up on, complete with CGA graphics (you play it through an in-game CRT monitor emulated on the screen), but designed with the modern pixel-perfect platforming sensibilities of games like VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy. Thankfully, it's not nearly as hard as those games, and can be easily completed in around an hour or so with a little bit of determination. Checkpoints are liberal, and there is no penalty for dying. And for those who enjoy a tougher challenge, there are harder modes available, along with a collection sidequest for 100% completion.

And the best part? It's absolutely free. Seriously, as in no-strings attached, no microtransaction bull$h%t, 100% free. One might think that may mean the quality probably isn't that great, but I assure you it's rock-solid, and clearly made with love and care by someone who was inspired by those early days of PC gaming as much as I was. If you're a fan of 2D platformers, or games having a retro-style with a bit of challenge to them, check this one out.
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10 of 12 people (83%) found this review helpful
4.5 hrs on record
Posted: March 23
There are lot of rubbish on Steam for money. This is a good game for free. And in this rare case free means really free, not a free to loose, pay to win bait as usual.

Maybe those who born in the GHz era cant really value it. I dont know. I played games like Alley Cat when that tech level was recent so it brought back old memories. :)

Imho if you are 2-3x times older than the typical cs:go player and played on PC decades ago you should try out You Have to Win the Game.
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17 of 26 people (65%) found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
2.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 20, 2014
I won the game.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
10 of 14 people (71%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 6
You can play as a cat, that's insta-winning the game. :^)
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7 of 9 people (78%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
3.9 hrs on record
Posted: February 1
You have to win the game
Minor Key Games

Game vlogs, 4Loko flavors and pixelated retro looking platformers - some things just seem to be endless. The fact that the term "indie game" itself is even starting to become synonumous with 8-bit style games is getting a bit annoying to be honest, I mean technically even Skyrim is an indepedent production since Bethesda releases their own games. Ok, I will probably catch some flack for that one and there are many factors to consider when labeling something indie or AAA, but my point is that it doesn't have to look, feel or be retro to be considered indie. Developers should put their effort in conveying their visions, stories, ideas or feelings through interesting, scary, fun or crazy gameplay. Not just make yet another crappy platformer where you can jump and collect coins and, well yeah, in many cases that's it, but at least it looks cute and has alot of retro looking pixelart right? No, I'm sorry but I just can't survive on nothing but pixels and air.

Games like this aren't necessarily wrong though, if made properly and put in the right context retro style games that aren't really retro can be very fun to play. A textbook example of this is the subject for this review - American indie developer J. Kyle Pittman's You have to win the game (YHTWTG). Pittman have a background in game development and used to work for Gearbox on stuff like Borderlands and Borderlands 2. In the credits section of YHTWTG however, he explains how he used to play games on an old Commodore PC10 when he was a kid and how he felt that leaving the industry made it possible for him to make games he really wanted to make instead - games that encapsulate what games and gaming should really be about. These feelings are very obvious and well communicated through the game itself and the whole thing is nothing but a very well executed declaration of love for gaming, before it became a huge industry.

You have to win the game is a classic Metroidvania, it's a 2D-platformer where you start out with very limited abilities, you can move around and you can jump. The game doesn't have levels like in Super Mario or Mega Man, instead it's more of an open world like in Metroid and the player is free to roam and explore it. The thing is you have to explore it the right way, you'll run into obstacles pretty fast and to get past them and gain access to new areas of the world you'll have to find certain objects or powerups. These objects will give you new abilities such as the wonderful double jump skill that everyone takes for granted today, other objects will activate invisible ghost blocks that bridges gaps you couldn't jump earlier on, not even with the double jump...

Note however that these items will only make certain room transitions possible, you still need lots of patience and skill to use your new powers. I guess you could compare it to real life since finding a hammer and a saw alone wouldn't give you the skill and know-how needed for building a house.

The art style, level design and sounds of YHTWTG are that of computer games from the 80's and early 90's. You play it screen by screen and must figure out which way to take and when to take it. I'm old enough to love it all, even the sounds. My girlfriend who's quite a bit younger had another opinion. For me the bleeping jump sound was a real joy, she asked me to put on headphones after just a few minutes and for reference, she doesn't even look up from her phone when I play Call of Duty and empty a 200 rnd machine gun cartridge of noisy 7.62 mm bullets into a chopper until it blows up, with the surround system maxed out. As for the graphics, I haven't played around with any of the PC10 installments from Commodore that Pittman mentions but it sure reminds me of the games played on computers made by Sinclair and Amstrad back in the day. Pittman even incorporated the feel of an old monitor, complete with light reflections in the corner and warped graphics towards the edges of the screen - and he did it well.

To be honest, I was going to write about some other things aswell, but I've talked so much about this now so I'm just gonna finish this up, post it and then have another go at the game. I've finished it two times with "different endings" but I'm still only at 98,44% in the treasure department and I haven't played the DLC yet. So yeah, game on, and since the game is actually free and available both as a stand alone build from Pittmans webpage Pirate Hearts AND as a free-to-play game on Steam, you really have no excuses for not doing the same thing. Failure is a Nth chance!
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11 of 17 people (65%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.5 hrs on record
Posted: December 27, 2014
You have to play this game
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
12 of 19 people (63%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
0.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 10
Holy F### this game is hard!

"You Have to Win the Game"? I think not, lol.

Seriously, it is actually a well crafted game, and for people who are good at games like Electronic Super Joy, Love, and so on, this game will provide a fun challenge. If you are like me though, the 100th death or so is the point where I had to decide just how much I valued my gamepad. Turns out, I value my gamepad a whole lot more than I value this game, so rather than smash the controller, I deleted this game.

That said, the quality of this game cant be denied, and it happens to be free as well, so there is no reason not to play it and decide for yourself. It is designed to make you angry but also get a sense of achievement when you finally do get your timing down and do something. you also get a very real sense of frustration when you fail to do so and end up having to try the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................♥♥♥♥!
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5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
10.2 hrs on record
Posted: April 15
Fantastic game, a perfect example of how PC platformer games were and felt back then.
Probably the best 8-bit free-to-play game on steam.
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7 of 10 people (70%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
23.9 hrs on record
Posted: February 9
AUDIO: N/A                                                     AESTHETIC: Simple
MEMORABILITY: Nostalgic                            WORTH: It's free!

PROS: Can't argue with a free game, can you? It's pretty entertaining too, as authentic as it is in it's retro limitations. The controls are solid, the enemies are fun to navigate through, and the end-game puzzle is a doozy. It's worth checking out if you can enjoy games like this.

CONS: Turn off the special effects in the options menu IMMEDIATELY. That dumb CRT monitor frame with the bubble effect + hideous glare is a cheap effect and detracts from the game. You'll thank yourself for turning that junk off.

OVERALL: If you're looking for a reasonably-authentic 1980's platformer, YHtWtG will keep you from having to try and make your old copy of Montezuma's Revenge work... A blessing, considering Window's Compatibility Mode is doing no favors for us.

                                                    
SCORE: 7/10
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.2 hrs on record
Posted: February 28
Haven't beaten it yet, but I feel like the story is deeper than the cryptic graphics are letting on...

This is one of those games where your progress depends on the item you get. Think Metroid with checkpoints and unlimited lives. Every time you get a new item, a new area becomes reachable, so you have to memorize all of the areas you can't reach to go back to them later. I also enjoyed all of the options to make the game window look even more like an old Commodore 64 computer. A true blast to the past.

Overall, a great free game and worth the disk space. Gamepad recommended.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
16.6 hrs on record
Posted: January 30
The cats don't know the secret word.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.4 hrs on record
Posted: March 4
Uh... somehow I played this game and couldn't stop. I don't even remember downloading it!
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.3 hrs on record
Posted: March 6
Absolutely amazing and addicting. Better than most expesive games
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: March 6
I don't know what intrigues me about this game but i'm in love with it. When I first downloaded this off Steam I didn't really think much of it, but now that i've completed it I can fully appreciate the work on the game and it's style. The retro themed graphics in the game are eery and encourages that sort of nostalgia from actual old games, and the sound effects join to the effect. I hope that at some point I can get 100% achievements because this game is something to boast about.

9/10 Would be killed by crabs again!
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
0.8 hrs on record
Posted: March 6
Like old classics I used to play on my CGA PC.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
0.4 hrs on record
Posted: December 27, 2014
Me, personally, enjoyed the game very much. However, if you didn't know, this is very similiar to a "rage game" as it can definitly be frustrating and difficult to complete, hence its name. But, in my opinion, this is also a great thing as it brings a hard challenge that you wil try desperatly to overcome and achieve. The retro art style is definitly of interest and gives you a slight nostalgia. It really has no story, but then again,based on the title and its genre, you probably wern't expecting a storyline as great as Final Fantasy VII or Metal Gear Solid. Overall, this is a great game compared to most platformers and other rage-inducing games. If you like a challenge, buy this game right now, it's free. Its pretty straight forward, just beat the game. Otherwise, stay away from "You Have to Win the Game." - 12 year old Sean Castor (Seasync)
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: January 29
This platformer's pretty cool! Even though i'm kind of a steam newbie, i'd recommend this.
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4 of 6 people (67%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
7.6 hrs on record
Posted: March 2
This game has hardcore prawn in it! The really nasty kind, too! We're talking hardcore prawn that will throw so many balls at your face! You will be overwhelmed trying to avoid all the balls at the climax!

Hardcore prawn aside, You Have to Win the Game is one of those cool new video games all the kids are playing these days with their backwards baseball caps, CGA graphics, and CRT monitors. What? You haven't got a CRT monitor? That's okay, YHTWTG is such a cool guy, he brought one along for you to play on.

Alright, dialing down the flippancy for a second, this is an 8-bit nostalgia trip, but it gets some points from me for going balls to the wall (literally: see the above mention of prawn) with the style and mimicking the curve and scan lines of a CRT monitor. The harsh magenta and cyan palette will send you screaming back to the C64/early Macintosh days and every screen has its own title invoking some games of the era like the DIzzy games and a few that escape my mind since you're asking me to remember back to a time when I thought basic multiplication was rocket science that only super old people like third graders could do.

But YHTWTG is not just some kind of Atari game that has beep booped its way into the modern age! There are actually some pretty contemporary things going on. Some of them are subtle, like having more frames than are carried in a man's wallet so the platforming is nice and smooth. Others are part of the game's larger design, like including copious checkpoints and infinite lives on the default mode, so that anybody can win the game, not just masochists. It's also quite fair, unlike its predecessors who seemed to think you loved to leap of faith into spikes and every unsignposted doom ball from off-screen was an extra quarter for them. YHTWTG is filled with hard challenges, but all of them are right out there. Just swinging in the breeze. In all their naked glory. Like the hardcore prawn.

You will die. You will die a lot. But it will always be your own fault for not being fast, observant, or precise. This isn't I Wanna Be the Guy. And that leads nicely into the gameplay: it's a pure platformer. Your only tools are jumping and reflexes. The game does have some Metroidy aspects, where you can roam freely between the screens and collect items to expand your ability to jump and open up new areas. However, your only tool to deal with the obstacles in your path is, and will only ever be, slick evasion.

You'll evolve as you play YHTWTG. You'll go from struggling to grasp the weight and precision of the platforming, to losing more bodies to flying bullets than all of World War I as you desperately push for the next checkpoint. But slowly, inevitably, You Have to Win the Game. And by then, you'll probably feel a little awesome. Maybe even awesome enough to take on the big guns: cat mode (nine lives) and YOLO mode (one life). And then you'll be some sort of Neo-esque bullet dodging demigod where you walk through a "boss" room in half a second without breaking stride as if to say, "Hollow King, you ain't nothin' but a ♥♥♥♥♥." There will be moments of utter zen as you move directly through the challenges you've completely dominated, broken by the extreme tension of those that can still wreck your ♥♥♥♥.

I freely admit I have not overcome my problem with hardcore prawn (as you can no doubt tell), but man is it satisfying to say that I have even seen the hardcore prawn while YOLO!

So, You Have to Win the Game is a free, fun, full-on nostalgia trip. There are only a couple reasons I might not recommend it to somebody. You should probably stay away if you really can't stand the idea of even trying a hardcore platformer. Though know that it has gone out of its way to be easy enough that you can win by sheer attrition. It does have one possible design misstep where it confronts you with a cryptogram at the end that you have to get hints for by exploring. If you're not into cryptograms as I am, I could see that being pretty maddening (though you could always just walkthrough that part). And, if you're just put off by 8-bit nostalgia, this is not for you.

Otherwise, definitely go and win the game! You have to. It said so! And I am also telling you now!
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