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Video Game / You Have to Win the Game

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Says it right there in the title.

You Have to Win the Game is an exploration platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic, made by J. Kyle Pittman aka Minor Key Games.

As such, it's extremely hard.

You are a stylized boy who explores a massive labyrinth to obtain precious treasure. Since you cannot attack, you must dodge the deadly traps in the way. Progress is saved via bells, which act as checkpoints. Eventually you can run across items which give you extra abilities and allow you to progress further in the castle.

The game can be found here. Two years later Pittman made a sort of sequel named Super Win The Game, which can be bought on Steam here, starring the same character who can find the same abilities (and many others) but this time with a proper plot and extensive setting.

Not related to I Wanna Be the Guy or You Have to Burn the Rope.

This game contains examples of:

  • Cats Have Nine Lives: Finding the Secret Cat Level unlocks a new game mode wherein you play as a cat, with 9 lives to complete the entire game. Good luck!
  • Double Jump: One of the upgrades.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The game doesn't have a plot, you just have to reach the end and win it, quite literally. At the Point of No Return there's a mirror labeled "Lose", and entering it causes you to lose the game. However, you need to enter that area to attain 100% Completion.
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: Every screen has a different name, just like in computer platformers of old.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Not actively malevolent, just like every other danger, it's more of an obstacle standing in place and spraying around deadly bubbles/bullets.
  • Guide Dang It!: Sometimes even telling where to go next can be difficult, as nothing hints that some areas wrap around.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: A couple cases, for example the money bag hidden in the foliage of a tree in the very first screen.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Playing in the CRT monitor mode can make for some very wonky hitboxes.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Some rooms display something resembling oblique lore, specially near the end. However, the game has effectively no story.
  • Painting the Medium: The game window is designed to look like an old computer screen, complete with a CRT monitor's curve. This can be turned off.
  • Permadeath: "YOLO Mode", where checkpoints are disabled and you only have one life to complete the whole game.
  • Platform Hell: It's pretty close to the definition in some places. The sequel less so, but some optional areas are pretty hard.
  • Retraux: Inspired by old IBM PC games as well as Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum titles.
  • Schmuck Bait: One room has a sign telling you it's a bad idea to go left. It's not kidding, as doing so takes you to the beginning of a previous, very difficult room.
    • Also the "Lose" gate. It takes you to the beginning of the game, and takes away all your powerups. You need to go there for 100% completion, however.
  • Sequence Break: With practice and a bit of luck, you can land on the one safe pixel on the edge of an upward-facing spike. This isn't quite as useful as it sounds, however, and trying to get the money bag in Hops and Skips without the Springheel Boots this way can make the game Unwinnable.
  • Shout-Out:
    • As mentioned above, the whole game is itself a love letter to ZX Spectrum-era platformers, like Jet Set Willy.
      • And by association, the more recent VVVVVV.
    • The Secret Cat Level is one to the Secret Cow Level from Diablo.
    • One screen features four snakes and is named "Obvious Movie Quote". Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?
    • One screen wraps around in strange ways and is called "Euclid Shrugged".

The sequel contains examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The Subterranean Waterways are an equivalent.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The Underworld qualifies, but is unique in that you don't have to complete the game in order to access it. After spending 30 gems to get the Skeleton Key, you can spend another 20 to get a map that will teleport you to The Underworld, which contains several dungeons that are all harder than those found in the main game.
  • Dem Bones: The Hollow King, just another random obstacle in the previous game, here a major part of the plot. An evil wizard stole his heart and broke it into six pieces that need to be retrieved.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The six pieces of the Hollow King's heart.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The protagonist's name is never said, but everyone calls them "the Wayfarer".
  • Fake Trap: The desert ruins has a wall of spikes. One section of the wall is marked by both a sign, and an arrow painted on the background, indicating it's safe to pass through. Another section is marked by a split arrow in the background.
  • Grimy Water: The toxic waste in the Waterways. The ability to swim in caustic substances is needed.
  • Hub Level: Subcon, which allows you to quickly traverse the map once you find the corresponding door in the overworld.
  • 100% Completion: This time there are 128 gems to find.
  • Ice Palace: Glacier Palace, also an example of Slippy-Slidey Ice World.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Until you can buy the Skeleton Key from the shops. There are shops that will lend you a key if you have none, but you will incur in a debt, which does absolutely nothing.
  • Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid: After you find the ability to swim in dangerous/caustic substances.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Realm of the Hollow King, at least looking at the overworld map, and The Underworld, even if by that point lava should no longer be an issue (see the trope above) and the spikes are still the main concern.
  • Retraux: This time the source of inspiration are NES games instead of computer games.
  • Shout-Out: To various well-known NES titles.
    • Super Mario Bros.: Scenery elements such as clouds and bushes with eyes, the not-Thwomps, etc.
    • Super Mario Bros. 2: The hub area is named Subcon and is seen as black silhouettes over a monochrome background.
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: The overworld map is very similar to the one in this game, and Lakewood Dungeon has a visual aesthetic lifted straight from Zelda II's palaces. Additionally, the protagonist's green outfit resembles Link's, albeit with a backwards baseball cap rather than a pointy hat.
    • Metroid: The Waterways look like they're caverns straight out of this game.
  • Womb Level: The Hollow King's heart and The Bonehoard course in the Hall of Speedruns are composed entirely of bones, complete with ribcage-like rows of spikes and wallpaper resembling blood vessels.