Typoman is a game I’ve had my eyes on a while. Nintendo have pushed it as one of its “Nindies” and after a short delay, it’s finally here. It’s a great concept. It’s a 2D puzzle platformer from Brainseed Factory that has you solving puzzles with words. Don’t let that description fool you, though. Typoman is brilliant.
You are HERO (you’re literally a character made up of those letters) and it’s your job to make your way through a surreal, repressed world and maybe, just maybe destroy the evil that plagues it.
HERO has a special ability that allows him to interact with letters that are laden around the world. Connecting letters to form words makes the ‘thing’ actually happen. For example, you have a door. Connect the letters O, P, E and N together within the vicinity et voila, the door will open. It’s pretty genius.
You can form the letters manual by first grabbing hold of them (via the ZR button) and pushing them together, picking them up with the A button and throwing them, or if the letters are bunched together you can quickly unscramble them via the gamepad touch screen. This is something you’ll need to keep remembering especially in high-pressured situations.
It’s not completely open. In each puzzle situation you’re only give a certain set of letters to work with. It’s not like Scribblenauts where you can create anything you want. There’s generally only one solution to the puzzle at hand. It’s impressive how they’ve squeezed so many brilliant uses for this mechanic into the game.
One of my favourite moments is where it’s raining into a small pond that you need to cross but HERO cannot swim. The word RAIN is spelled out in the cloud above. Conveniently, hanging around somewhere (literally) is the letter D on a rope. Swinging the D in front for the RAIN, will briefly spell out DRAIN. As RAIN is no longer the word, it will cease and the pond below will drain out and allow you to cross for a short moment. This is one of the more simple puzzles of course, but it shows the great wordplay to be found in Typoman.
At times there are GAS leaks in the way. To make your way through without suffocating, it’s best to carry a handy P with you to give you the occasional GASP of air. So simple, so brilliant.
Some puzzles can be more obscure than others, but the game is on hand to help those who are truly stumped. You know, you’ve been staring at these bunch of scrambled letters for 10 minutes and you’re still not sure what to spell out? Well, the gamepad will offer you a question mark icon. Tapping it once will give you a semi-cryptic clue to help you along. Tapping it again will practically reveal the word you need. It’s a nice scaling of clues, for those who still want to work it out without being told the answer.
It’s not only puzzles you have to overcome. Like the genre states, there is platforming to be done, often very precise and tense. In fact it was one of the platforming sections that presented me with the biggest challenge in the whole game. It’s one of those sections where you’re trying to outrun an encroaching menace, in this case a blazing fire. One small imperfection and you’re doomed. Precision jumps and judgement are needed to get past it. I recently played Electronic Super Joy, and this section felt more like it belonged in that game.
I had so much trouble with it I thought I was missing something as it felt just too impossible. I clicked on the hint icon on the gamepad to see if I was being a bit stupid. It said, “RUN”. Thanks for that!
There are even enemies and boss battles. Enemies can be taken out by environmental hazards and even warded off by creating words with nice connotations. GOOD, LOVE, BRAVE, FAITH will create a safe bubble around you that nastiness can’t penetrate.
One small issue I had in this department is that putting letters together could be a bit finicky. Like if I had the word SAFE protecting me, suddenly the E could slightly slip away from the rest of the letters and cancel the word, definitely making me not safe and often resulting in death. It’s a small annoyance.
There’s a prologue and three chapters to make your way through, each one featuring a very different environment. It doesn’t sound like much, but actually I think it’s perfect. It will take you about three hours to see the credits which is just enough to leave you feeling very satisfied. You came, you saw, you conquered. It doesn’t outstay its welcome. It squeezes a lot of different circumstances out of the basic mechanics and it never feels repetitious at any point.
Surprisingly there are plenty of cutscenes in the game. They’re really well directed too. Considering there is no dialogue or text of any kind for the story, it’s remarkably well told and animated. There’s a lot of wordplay with letters that are really well entwined into them to create great imagery. Like when a demon appears, the word LIVE will transform into EVIL. There’s one really great scene where the word SMASH transforms into CHASM and then CHAOS. The words themselves didn’t need to be there, but the choice and cleverness and how they fit with the narrative made me genuinely give a thumbs up while playing. The overall narrative of the game seems to have been polished to perfection. Every detail seems to have its reason or purpose for being present in the environment.
Stylistically the game is beautiful. It’s very monochromatic, with black silhouettes, but there are dashes of colour especially as the game goes on. There’s a bleakness to it all, the background paintings of industrial factories looming on the horizon gives a really menacing feel as you walk by. Everything is animated simply but each asset looks gorgeous. The big bad of the game is revealed slowly and is also possibly the best looking thing in the game, even if he is 90% silhouette.
Unfortunately Typoman doesn’t quite run as perfectly as the gameplay. There are moments where the framerate stutters just a little, seemingly at the moment you are about to make a very precise jump or landing. It doesn’t take away from the enjoyment, but it’s one of the few things that stop it from being perfect.
There’s a lot of depth to the environments. Like during one rather grim area, there are piles upon piles of letters like in a landfill site. Although all the letters are jumbled and tangled, occasionally you can just make out certain words like FALLEN and TRUST through the rubble. Like I said before, everything seems to have a reason for being placed there.
The music is very atmospheric and minimalistic for the most part. Like the artwork, it presents a bleak picture of the world Typoman is set in. It’s slow and moody, almost depressive. There are however, the occasional rays of hope seeping through. Every track suits each situation very well, so during the fast paced action you’ll get more heavy and exciting tracks with lots of industrial sounds to fit the theme. Due to its mostly isolated feeling, it’s not something I would personally listen to outside playing (it’s available to listen to here if you’re interested) but it’s perfect for the game.
Overall, Typoman is one of the best games I’ve played all year. It has a really unique concept that’s brilliant executed. Puzzles and action moments are balanced really well and it’s paced to perfection. The direction and wordplay are something to be admired and you’ll often find yourself quoting aloud that poor bloke from Jurassic Park “Clever girl”.
- It’s brilliant
- Good gameplay balance
- Clever word puzzles
- Lots of style
- Top notch direction
- Sometimes putting letters together can be finicky
- Occasional framerate stuttering
Game provided by publisher