Typoman Review: Fleeting Wordplay

Typoman is a beautiful game. Like a lover, it lures you in with its seductive charm and intriguing features. You’ll find yourself enamored with the promise of engagement, finding it hard to pull away. Sadly, the passion fades quickly, and you’ll find the promises to be hollow, leaving you with nothing but a cheap one night stand.

The striking aesthetic really does sell this game.

Typoman is a story-driven puzzle platformer, drawing inspiration from Limbo and Braid. You play as the Hero, who is literally the word “HERO” spelled out in letters. You are dropped into a world made up almost entirely of letters, and it is your job to make your way through this world forming them into words. For example, Hero can find the letters “ARSIE” scattered across an area and sort them into the word “RAISE”. Doing so will create a bubble around the word, causing any platforms around it to elevate upward if able. The opening presentation and ways in which the game teaches you these mechanics are top tier, truly one of the best tutorials I’ve seen in a long time.

When I first came across this mechanic, my mind raced at the possibilities of what could possibly come next. I immediately thought of Scribblenauts, and how many crazy ways I may be able to solve really creative puzzles! Sadly, for the most part, this never comes to fruition. By the game’s design you are never really given the freedom to go crazy with this mechanic, as you are limited to whatever letters they give you for every specific puzzle. Usually the letters given are enough to spell only the words they are looking for. Sometimes you can make other words, but they will either be ignored by the game, or will give you a one-off joke that doesn’t help you proceed.

Typoman is a very linear game, baring small secret nooks for “quote” collectibles. You are going to find nearly all of your time spent walking to the right, while jumping occasionally and maybe climbing a ladder or swinging on a vine. This is not really a bad thing though, as through its linearity, the game does tell a story, utilizing its beautiful environments, as well as some clever, dialogless cutscenes. The story the game tells is pretty standard, but the way in which it’s presented is what keeps you going. Sadly, I found that the story completely falls apart in the 3rd act, taking everything it worked towards and turning it on its head. What felt as though it should have been a story of overcoming major adversity instead devolved into an annoying and poorly designed boss battle at the end.

The solution is obvious, but getting to it is the trick.

Puzzles in the game are limited to cordoned off sections of the map. The Hero is almost always trapped with a few letters scattered around. They need to find the letters, bring them together and spell out a specific word to move on. There are some exceptions to this formula, and when those exceptions come up you get a glimmer of hope again that the game may be moving in a new, fun direction. Sadly, those glimmers don’t last long, as at its core the game will always be about finding one specific word to moving on to the next one.

Outside of the puzzles, the game occasionally throws challenging platforming sections at you. Some of these are “chases” in which you need to avoid falling too far behind or be forced to do it all again. I found these chases in particular to really drag the game down, as before these points the game is a slow, methodical puzzler. Sure, you have infinite lives, but the chases are meant to blend into the story, forcing a sense of urgency on the player. If the player is having trouble with these sections, then they find themselves replaying them over and over, completely destroying that initial sense of urgency.

Things aren’t always as safe as they look…

Typoman seems like a game with an identity crisis. It’s not quite a platformer, but it’s not quite a puzzler. It’s not quite a narrative game, but it’s not quite an action game. It’s not quite a bad game, but it’s not quite a good game. It has it’s moments, and at times those moments can really shine through, but they are gone in a flash leaving you mourning what could have been. The game can be completed in about 2-3 hours, with a couple of minigames available after the fact. For $12.99 on Steam, the price is right, even if the adventure leaves something to be desired. In retrospect, I think Typoman would have made a great movie. Instead, we have a game that wears out its welcome, if only slightly.

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