A game that certainly has a way with words.
After more than three decades as a gamer, I’m a little bit cynical about games and the current state of the industry. I can rant endlessly about the lack of innovation, about corporate politics, about monetization, and most of all, about how gaming seems to have lost the draw it once had. The indie scene is not excluded from my judgement: it too is flooded with its own banal politics, endless legions of clones, and far too many examples of big ambition with not enough talent. But every now and then, a game comes along to remind me why I fell in love the medium in the first place, and Typoman: Revised is one such specimen.
Typoman: Revised began life on the consoles and has since expanded onto Steam, hence the “revised” addendum. It sees players take on the role of a hero, whose body is literally made up of the letters h, e, r, and o. The exact story is somewhat ambiguous, but it appears that the hero’s world has been ravaged by war and calamity, the negative influence of which gives rise to malignant entities and energies. Traversing a reality where letters have tangible influence on the environment and can become sentient, players need to solve assorted word puzzles interspersed with traditional platforming gameplay.
For example, players may encounter a machine that requires activation to open a door or call a lift. Players will have to arrange letters to form the word “on” in order to trigger the activation. Various other words will also register, and you’re encouraged to find alternate words for puzzles, though this is mainly for achievements and is not essential for progression. Another example is when the player encounters an impassible body of water with a cloud above it, inscribed with the word “rain”. You’re expected to join the word with the letter d to form “drain”, draining the water away temporarily and allowing safe passage. Along the way you’ll also find that certain letter arrangements will bring the words to life and potentially endanger your life, or perform an obscure function. Players are expected to exercise caution when forming words like “doom”, “hate”, “death”, and “lie”.
Speaking of the word “lie”, in the game’s final chapter, the use of lies becomes a necessity. A lie will turn a word into its opposite: “sun” will become “moon”, “evil” will become “good”, and so on. This is a crucial trick to remember, because it’s possible you won’t be given the letters you need, and relying on a lie becomes extremely useful. An included mini-game actually makes extensive use of this mechanic, challenging players to form specific words by using a lie to turn unrelated words into their opposites.
Typoman‘s world has a somber, grim, and melancholic tone bubbling just underneath the surface. Themes of decay and destruction are rampant, with cracks and rubble being a constant reminder of this place’s ugly history. Objects provide a stark contrast to their backgrounds, with desaturated, earthy tones to further convey its message of dread. Still, even in this bleak world, themes of love and goodness stick out strongly, both in the words that players create and the presence of a muse that acts like a guardian angel. On the audio side of things, the music is a collection of assorted ambient tracks that utilizes weird, droning effects to instill in players a sense of strangeness. It fits the mood perfectly, and I recommend the soundtrack as a separate purchase if ambient is your thing.
“That’s all fine and dandy, but tell us about the game’s faults!”, you might be saying. Well, sorry, but I’m at a bit of a loss to come up with any. That’s not to say Typoman: Revised is the perfect game; not by any means. It’s enjoyable, well-made, and superbly balanced. If I were to knit-pick, I could perhaps say that the length is too short, or that one or two of the puzzles are too obscure, but these are really grasping at straws and entirely subjective. It’s simply one of the best puzzle-platformers released in recent memory.
Typoman: Revised is a fantastic little experience that demonstrates how gaming still remains a fertile ground for clever, inspired ideas. Striking just the right balance between cerebral puzzles and action platforming, it’s a rare breed of game that manages to appeal to vastly different kinds of players without sacrificing its integrity either way, all while projecting a distinct mood and identity. It comes recommended to anybody seeking something arty and different, yet underlined with solid and engaging gameplay. Pop over to the official Steam page here to snatch your copy now, or to at least download the demo before you buy.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Wii U, Xbox One; Publisher: Brainseed Factory ; Developer: Brainseed Factory ; Players: single-player. ; Released: 15th of August, 2016.
Full disclosure: this review is based on a Steam code for Typoman: Revised given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.