The power of words is a remarkable thing. They can start wars, engage you in romances, win arguments, decide futures and even kill. They can also engage, illuminate, educate and inspire, and in the same breath, anger, annoy and offend. Well that’s enough talk about my reviewing style, so let’s instead concentrate on Brainseed Factory’s hit game, Typoman.
Fresh from its debut on the Wii U in 2015, it’s all about the letters and words that shape our lives, but is it all just a jumble of silly catchphrases, or a prize winning novel?
Typoman is a 2D platform puzzler, much like that found in the world of Limbo or Unravel. You play the hero role, a character made entirely from a mish-mash of letters. You discover the usual platforming tropes like jump, pushing and pulling objects etc… but there is one skill you have that makes you different from the all the other wannabees. This is the power to shape words and create more to effect your environments and beat your enemies. Not bad huh?
The story follows our little HERO thrown into a world defined by words and letters. Creatures are summoned, ready to stalk him from words such as LIE, FEAR and EVIL. You journey through a broken landscape of country, cities and industrial worlds, with your goal being to defeat the big bad creature and become the hero that is inside you. This all works great with an innovative themed world that hints and breathes at many narratives, without the use of any voiceover or spoken word. There are some secrets to discover, which are hidden quotation marks, but these are the only bit of written text,. These are snippets of text that are about the rise of fascism and bullying; two things which seem very potent in the interesting times we live in today. Overall though, it’s basically a story about good vs. evil and how the weak can rise up and defeat the big bad wolf.
The gameplay is great and works really well within its platform constraints. The action is fluid with some sections that require rock solid timing and others which make you want to pull your hair out and tear down the walls, while kicking something rather hard. While there is nothing innovative about these platforming sections, it’s all very well designed and fun to play.
What makes Typoman different from the others is the feature that sees you scramble words to change the environment or progress through the levels. This can be utilised in a very simple way, for example there is a door with an electronic switch that needs to open. You find two letters that spell out NO, which you can pick up and rearrange to spell out ON. Hey presto, the door is now open. There are also levels when you can find word scramble machines. These are machines that have a series of letters in, leaving you, very much like the game of scrabble, to rearrange or pick a number of letters to help you through the next area or solve a puzzle. Another example is a section with a machine gun that is shooting you every time you try to get past. Go to the machine and spell out the words SHIELD from the letters and you have a glowing barrier around you that protects you from the gun.
Now, some of the puzzles are absolutely genius with their concepts and brilliant use of of words. Others are just hard as nails, that have been hammered down by even harder nails. I mean it when I say that you might need a brain like Einstein to even get near solving them. I cheated and looked for help with my old friend the Internet.
In the visual department, Typoman creates a beautiful, but sad and strange world that reminds me tonally of Limbo and Inside. The art design in the way you get to combine letters into objects and environments is incredible. Seeing a bridge made of the word SECURE crumble to the ground is a personal highlight. Typoman also comes with some solid sound effects that work well in the environments and with the gameplay. There is a remarkable soundtrack that has a soulful quality to it and is something I might try to add to my Spotify playlist after finishing this review.
Simply put, Typoman is a superb indie title that I had a brilliant time with. The main campaign may be over in around four hours, but there are a couple of mini games that test your creating skills to the max. The world, the story and gameplay it creates are stunning, with real deep moments of sadness quickly switching to those of hope. Some of the gameplay can, at times, be very hard to work out, especially with certain word puzzles and there are some sections where you might be left climbing the walls, but hey one person’s burden is another’s joy…or something like that.
So get your dictionary at the ready, warm up your fingers and play Typoman.