I’m one of those WiiU owners who primarily uses the gamepad’s screen instead of the television to play. I don’t even have my console connected to anything but power most of the time. So when I fired up “Typoman”, a WiiU exclusive, I was surprised to see that the game didn’t allow me to play away from my big screen. Needless to say, my first impression was a bit soured. Sadly, this was the beginning of a downward spiral of my experience with this game. Although the art style is gorgeous and it has a genuinely original idea, the frustrating control scheme and “learn by failing” approach made this three-hour game feel much longer.
The concept behind “Typoman” is such an awesome idea. It’s a 2-D platformer with a slight twist. Much of the world of the game, including the main character himself, is made up of actual typed letters. The player
can interact with these letters to spell out words that, in turn, affect the environment around it. So when the word “rain” gets an extra letter to form “drain”, a storm cloud dissipates and the small lake that had formed because of it seeps through the bottom of the screen revealing an open path to the next area. Not all of the puzzles are quite as simple, but they get progressively more clever, almost becoming an interesting, albeit rudimentary, lesson in how the English language works.
The frustration begins with the character movement. The hero’s movement feels very muddy, which simply doesn’t work in a platformer that has more than its fair share of precise jumps. Not only that, but most of the time I died while playing felt like it wasn’t my fault, like I had to die in order for the game to teach me how to be prepared on my second attempt. In games like “Super Meat Boy” or “Ori and the Blind Forest”, that formula works since that next turn is instantaneous, but the load time in between deaths in “Typoman” makes me want to reach for my smart phone.
Imagine you’re making your way through a maze. Now imagine that every time you make a wrong turn, you have to start over at the beginning of the maze and memorize the steps you took to get to where you left off. You wind up repeating the same steps over and over again until you finally memorize the steps of the maze and reach the finish. What I’ve just described is my experience with both the escape sequences and boss battles in this game. When I finished these areas, I found myself feeling relief that it was over instead of satisfaction.
That’s not to say that “Typoman” doesn’t have its merits. The art style is very reminiscent of “Limbo” in its dark tone and shadowy backgrounds and characters, but still stands on its own. It’s definitely more playful than moody, especially with its theme of the power of love
overcoming hatred and doom. The game has something to say, and it conveys it very beautifully. Unfortunately, that message gets drowned with the frustrating nature of the gameplay mechanics.
“Typoman” is wonderful idea that needed better implementation. I feel like this game would have benefited from fewer platforming sections and more word puzzles to help flesh out the world and the minimal story. It’s too bad, because I really enjoyed bits and pieces and genuinely hope that the developer will make another attempt at this concept. Please don’t squander this idea, guys; it really is a solid one.