You Have to Win the Game

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Steam title card.

You Have to Win the Game is an platformer adventure game developed by J. Kyle Pittman and published by Pirate Hearts on 2012-05-06 for Windows as freeware, and later ported to Linux and Macintosh. It's the first game in the Win the Game series. The graphics and sound are purposely designed to be retro (using CGA and PC speaker) and the game play features the now common theme of placing save states all over the map. As you explore the region you must pick up bags of money and find clues to decipher a code to beat the game.


I first saw this game in a video about game programming. I remember appreciating the CGA graphics and wanting to play the game, but I didn't remember the title (or if it was even mentioned). Later, while searching through Steam's Metroidvania category, I saw the game and remembered it from before, and was pleased to see it available for free.


The game is freeware. I have beaten the normal mode with 100% completion, though I needed a hint for the final puzzle.


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5 5 4 1 6

Best Version: Windows

— This section contains spoilers! —


  • Despite being limited to single-screen maps and CGA graphics, the game is pretty attractive, and the maps are quite interesting.
  • I always enjoy seeing harder portions of the game when I'm still too weak to deal with them. That's good level design.
  • I like how each room had its own name, often with nerd-related jokes, although some of them seemed unnecessary.
  • While there are some more complicated jumping puzzles, nothing ever became too frustrating.
  • The ability to display the game in a retro CRT monitor, with custom amounts of glare, overscan, etc., was a nice feature set.
  • I like how you can "upgrade" to EGA colors.
  • The addition of different hard modes (extra spicy, cat mode, etc.) is a nice addition for those brave enough to try them.


  • In general, there isn't much for the player to do. Other than the end puzzle, the entire game boils down to simple jumping puzzles, with the occasional difficult one.
  • There is a fair amount of back-tracking. Each time you get a new power-up, you have to return to old areas to get the bags you missed.
  • With only a tiny amount of monsters, the game world seems rather empty. It would have been nicer to see more living things in the game, like if some of the spikes were replaced with monsters or platforms and moving walls were neutral monsters that could be jumped on.
  • One of the room names actually points out a design weakness, the over-used contrived lock-and key progression mechanism. It would be better if the game used additional power-ups to open larger areas of the map rather than two sets of filled platform.
  • A lot of the background informative signs were unnecessary. The spikes will kill me? Really?!


  • The lose option which resets your power-ups is dumb. All it does is force you to redo a large section of the map again for no real reason, and it's mandatory for a 100% completion.
  • The audio was a bit dull. Even when limited to PC speaker emulation, more effort could have been added. Several more short jingles would have added a lot to the game.
  • The clues to identify the magic word are extremely vague and, in my opinion, don't offer enough information to decipher it.




Fan Art


Longplay - Default settings.
Longplay - EGA, Extra Spicy.
Longplay - Cat mode.


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