Typoman: Revised – Review
Platform – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer – Brainseed Factory
Publisher – Brainseed Factory
MSRP – $12.99 USD
(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with the review copy being provided Gaming Instincts)
Originally released for the Wii U on November 19th, 2015, this side-scrolling puzzle platformer is very much is a critical indie darling. This is due to its inventive core mechanic of building words to combat and navigate the harsh world within the game. This “Revised” version has now been released to both Xbox One and PS4 consoles. Due to other high profile releases before and after this, this is one of those games that unless you are specifically looking for it, or comb through gaming websites for games such as these you just might overlook. While I did not play the original game and cannot base my experiences off of that version, the game’s use of its core mechanic in word building, challenging gameplay, and well-polished aesthetics allowed for an interesting diversion to other games that I was playing. Unfortunately, this good game was marred by numerous crashes I experienced throughout the time playing the game and soured my overall impressions at the end of the day.
The game has a very simple storyline that takes about 6 hours to complete (which is probably going translates to 1.5 hours for anyone looking to speed run it after their first completion), but it is one that is very open ended. You start the game as a letter ‘O’ dumped from a truck into a garbage pile of unused letters and during the tutorial stage you start piecing together a body with other letters found along the way. If you pay attention you can get an idea of what the character represents. This will come into play in the end, which I will not spoil. After the tutorial, the game is broken up into three chapters with cut scenes transitioning from one chapter to another. In addition, there are quotation collectibles which are hidden throughout the game that relates to the challenges the protagonist is facing at that particular juncture in the game.
There is a tremendous amount of symbolism, with a lot is being left up to the individual player to interpret. Ideas and subtle nuances are in abundance. Questions such as – “Who is the mysterious benefactor and what do they represent?” “Who is the SHE or THEY that these quotations represent?” “Is the theme just about the power of words, both good and evil, or is there something more?” are just a few items that came to my mind as I played this game. While there was no problem in this kind of open-ended approach to story telling the ending did leave me feeling unsatisfied.
As mentioned the game is 2D side-scrolling puzzle platformer. Part of the game you will find yourself crafting not just any word, but the right word in order to traverse the environment the game has set out before you. These can range from forming a simple “ON’ or “OFF” to affect machinery to spelling ‘OPEN’ to handle doors. The letters themselves can come from either prepositioned words that exist in the world or from letter machines that can generate the letters you select for it to spit out. While these are simple items in the grand scheme of things there are a lot of puzzles that will test not only your wordsmithing abilities but also observing the environment to craft the right word based on what you have been given. There was only one puzzle that left me really scratching my head. Others did make me feel silly due to the fact that what I needed to do was almost hidden in plain site.
While they are minor, the platforming is where I believe the weaknesses are in relation to the gameplay. The controls for navigating are fairly simple with the analog stick serving as your movement, X serves as the jumping, and O allows you to hold on ledges. O also allows for the picking up and placing of letters. R1 moves levers and also allows for the throwing of letters as well. The weaknesses, again which are minor in the grand scheme of things, lies in the execution.
The expectation for this game is that the player will die a lot. There is actually an achievement in this game which is earned when the game is completed dying 5 times or less. To say the least most players, especially those who are playing it for the first time, will die numerous times. While there is a line between hard and punishing, Typoman: Revised definitely plays with that fine line and at times tip toes over it. This especially rang true during segments where time is of the essence at which point the game demands a level of perfection where one misstep, one stutter, one ill placement of a letter can get you killed.
There were glitches that compounded the frustration on being perfect enough. On one occasion when grabbing hold of a ledge the game sometimes would not recognize my button presses to climb up. On another occasion, I tried to put a letter down it would sometimes throw it on top of a word and not beside it. These types of unresponsive controls have caused more than a few deaths to come off as cheap. This made finishing certain platforming segments feel less an accomplishment of good work than it did a relief to get them over with and just move on with the game.
For those that have played games like Limbo, you will definitely see a similarity in the art style. Overall the game artistically is comprised of 3 to 4 layers with the action taking place in the foreground or the near foreground. There is also no more than a few colors at any one given time. The game does do a great job of creating the world, despite having this muted color palette, that is very much alive and is very much threatening to the protagonist, a theme throughout the game. While letters do play a factor in certain parts of the art design, with A’s, for instance, serving as deadly spikes, words being scrawled along certain objects, and enemies being formed of words like DOOM or HATE, I do wish this aesthetic was employed far more than what was shown.
Additionally, while I did set my brightness in the game to be in line with what the game asked of me I felt that at times certain key objects sank into the background and didn’t allow me to see them until I changed the brightness of the game itself. Meanwhile, the art did appear simple I did find it very deep and detail rich adding to the general feeling of dread and despair that game was going for.
Music and Sound
Music was not a major factor within the game. With that said while certainly not memorable, it was effective. When you are doing certain puzzling segments of the game the music is muted and definitely doesn’t take anything away from the action on the screen. When time is of the essence the music and sounds definitely add to the tension and sense of urgency required.
The same can be said for the sound effects. These were definitely muted during slower paced segments but were very noticeable when that tension level was raised. These definitely hit home when the protagonist gets killed, due to the graphic nature of them. Whether the death is through asphyxiation, being impaled, crushed or ripped to shreds by enemies, these sound effects are very pronounced and add to that feeling of defeat every time you bear witness to the character’s death.
As mentioned in the introduction I experienced several crashes as I was playing the game. During just one run through of the game that encompassed 3 separate days (2-3 hours a night), I counted around 15 different times when my game would cut off inexplicably and without notice. I have never experienced that amount of crashes with any other game, both downloaded and with disks, and I couldn’t find a source on my system that would cause these problems. While the game did start you at the last checkpoint and not too far from when the game was cut off it was not enough to be a real saving grace. With that said it became draining night after night to see work being done, to without warning, seeing that blue screen saying the game crashed due to the game itself.
At the end of the day, Typoman: Revised can be summed up in two words. “Yeah…but.” There are a lot of good things that this game has going for it. Good artistry, an interesting mechanic as it relates to building and employing words with some fairly challenging puzzles, and a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Grievances in the grander scheme of things were relatively minor knocks. What was enjoyed was definitely put down by the consistent crashing that I experienced. The game does have a lot going for it but these crashes and the sheer number in such a short time just could not be ignored and as said in my introduction soured my overall experience.