This game definitely left me with a lot of mixed feelings and I don’t even know where to begin. There’s not a lot of games I can really relate to, but Typoman was definitely one of them and here’s why.
Typoman is very similar in visual style, feel and gameplay to Limbo. Basically a 2D side-scroller, with puzzle elements and a very dark setting, the game takes us on a writer’s journey. I’m not sure it was what I imagined it to be when I picked the game up (I hadn’t played the original Typoman) and I was definitely expecting more typing than I was provided with. Here’s how it basically goes. You can manually re-arrange words with you character by picking the separate letters up and placing them in the right order, which is one way to do – and I would rather say, definitely the slower way to do so. There is also a fast and for those of us which are plain lazy, easy way to do the re-arranging. It is done with a mechanic called the wordscrambler. The game opens up a little menu where you can easily and swiftly (which by the way is kind of important, since there certainly are some places where you need to craft your words very quickly) arrange the desired word. There are two spaces in this wordscrambler, where one the game calls the place to craft the word and the bottom one is to place the excessive letters, which we do not need. However, you can basically craft on both fields and legitimately both generate words.
Beside the scrambler there are different machines throughout the game which generate letters (and of course, being a puzzle, you get a set amount of specific letters), which you open up the interface and either type the word you want generated or go all wombo-combo on it and spawn random letters like a boss. These machines are great when you want to discover new words and just play around and quite frankly I myself got captivated and most of the time was doing it subconsciously.
This in itself stretched my playtime with the game significantly, which was a plus. I was enjoying Typoman very much, but sadly, it is a very short game. If you don’t mess around with words, I’d say top it off to 3 hours maximum and that is still if you collect everything. And here I was enjoying the game so much and when the final boss hit me at chapter 3, I was definitely like “wait, that’s it?” I did spoil myself from the achievements that there are only 3 chapters, but I was definitely expecting it to be longer. In its shortness, however, the game did provide me with a very enjoyable set of 3 hours.
The only set of collectables is in the form of quotations, spread amongst all chapters. At first, I thought they were random quotes, but when I actually found out the scrapbook in the menu, it dawned on me. And beginning to follow these quotes one by one, the story came to me as well. Straight on, the quotations are pretty easy to find. This is because the game utilizes the point of no return checkpoint system. There are a lot of places where you cannot return back from, once you proceed forward (lucky me for the chapter select option, because I did f*ck up a few times by accident). The chapter select, definitely helps, because, you can actually restart the game from every checkpoint in every chapter and they are a lot trust me, for the length of the chapter itself. So, if you miss anything, don’t hesitate to restart … a lot … as I did. Getting to my point, the game is pretty linear and when it provides a second path, usually you’re used to the fact that it would most certainly contain a quotation at its end.
Okay, for those of you, who do not wish to be spoiled or anything, I will say spoiler alert because I wish to go in depth about the plot. This is because as a writer myself, this was the moment I most related to.
The player controls HERO, who is the main character and the embodiment of the in-game writer (this is how I will call him). HERO tries to collect his whole body, but sadly we are left without one arm, and our goal is to retrieve it. Along the way MUSE – a very peaceful and bright, angel-like figure, helps us and protects us, until she meets her grim end. Finally we battle FENRIR and prevailing, we get our muse back.
Let me elaborate. For all I know, I’m not certain that the developers of this game intended the story to be understood as I did, but here is how I personally interpret it, based on events in the game and reading all quotations. Basically the main character is actually a writer, who is facing a writer’s block and everything the player experience is how the writer feels during this writer’s block – something like his inner world and how grim and devoid of positivity it is. His muse tries desperately to protect him and help him overcome this, but the block in itself devours her completely until she disappears for good.
To some this might seem as a very depressive state, it is similar, but not quite. As a writer, this is relatable for me, because in my whole life I’d been in a writer’s block once and I’m not talking about days when I’m plain lazy to write or just have no ideas, but a real writer’s block and it’s something scary. You lose your connection to your inner world and your creativity just fades away. Suddenly from a writer with decent knowledge of the English language (or whatever language that is) you go back to first grade where writing a simple sentence is a struggle and to top it off, you just stride along this abyss not knowing when the muse will come back to save you. I myself wandered for about a year, feeling like the least productive piece of s*it ever, but when the flow came back it was oh so good.
Maybe this is the reason why I enjoyed the game so much, because it was so relatable but story-wise 10/10.
Next up – puzzles. Ok, I admit, I cheated a few times, but it’s not my fault I suck at puzzles! I was born this way! For me personally, the puzzles were engaging and interesting, but I do feel as if they get repetitive. This section would have struggled a lot worse if the game was longer, but since it’s not, it didn’t bother me that much. I know it wasn’t something breathtaking, but sometimes there’s something about that “simple is better” ideal. Most puzzles, if not all, revolve around writing a certain word and positioning it at a certain place in order to remove the obstacle in the way or turn a device on, or lower a ladder. However, I felt as if my creativity was a bit obstructed. I say this because when I picked up Typoman, I thought that the game would freely allow me to type whatever I wanted, but contrary to that belief, it gives me the letters and I just re-arrange them. Sadly, most of the time, it’s pretty self-explanatory when you have to type stuff like lower or down to lower a ladder or open for gates and on for switches. However, I must admit, there were some cases where I was actually really puzzled. On this note, I would have really preferred to have a bit more freedom than I did.
Setting and music are the last things I’ll mention, before moving on to the verdict.
The setting is dark, gloomy, suffocating, evil, deserted and all those pretty little depressive words that come to mind, but it was actually very well made. It consists of black, dark in general, grey palettes and a bit of coloring here and there to showcase the positive stuff or some background areas, which is something I really enjoyed. Truly, a writer’s block would look like something similar if visualized. Enemies are hell-a-creepy-as-f*ck. I mean when the DOOM chases me, I feel as if it’s eating my soul from a distance. It was probably the creepiest of all. But, but, but, but the little LIE!!! Aww, that has got to be the best thing ever. I actually found a companion in LIES, because they do help out! They basically eat a word and spew out the opposite and I know they can f*ck stuff up so badly, but if you use them right, they are life savers … you know, turning HATE to LOVE and FEAR to BRAVE. I also really enjoyed when I was stabbed by those syringes and, as I like to call it, made drunk or high. Gosh, do high people really see stuff like that? It was really amusing. Sadly, the second stab kills you, but oh, well. Why are games afraid of putting death counters? Just like in Lumo, I needed one here too! There was a section where you have to run from a fire. I bet at least 40% of my deaths are from there and I wasn’t even drunk! That section kind of reminded me like something similar in Ori and the Blind Forest, except there you run away from water.
Music … oh God, the music. Kudos to SonicPicnic for doing an amazing job with the soundtrack. Similar in their dark and sad tunes, they complement the setting in an excellent way and yep, pianos get me every time. I can definitely say that here the music is like 50% of the experience and if you want to experience Typoman 100%, use headphones and turn up the volume. You’d be surprised how quickly the game immerses you.
Okay, verdict time! 7/10 would be appropriate as a verdict. I really want to see more out of this game, because it’s so beautiful. I can definitely recommend it to everyone and also support the soundtrack artists too. But some flaws do hold it up from getting to the top and that is a shame, because it deserves it. For me Typoman felt like a journey and to some extent a deja-vu, because it was a path I had walked before. A beautiful and touching journey, which I wish everyone to take in the game, but wish upon no artist ever.