STAFF REVIEW of Typoman (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Typoman Box art All those years of playing Scrabble and Words with Friends are finally going to pay off in Typoman Revised, a slightly altered version of Brainseed Factory’s hit from 2015. While you may be fooled into thinking that the core mechanic is based around the wordplay contained within, which there are parts of, the majority of gameplay is platforming based. One question remains though: "Are there enough improvements that make Typoman worth the literary journey this time around?"

Typoman’s premise is a simple one, and one that has been told endless amounts of times before. It is a tale that is essentially about good versus evil. The backdrop is a unique world where letters make a bulk of the environments, creating a dreary and dark world that should be a simple black and white; however, it is anything but once you fulfill the role of the HERO. I spell HERO like this as your character is a mashup of the letters H-E-R-O and he is trying to survive in a harsh world filled with hostiles, EVIL, DOOM, and more.

While HERO may be small, he has a very unique ability that allows him to rearrange letters in the environment, crafting creations from letters that form specific words. Oddly enough, for a game that revolves around words, there’s no real narrative or dialogue contained within, as you’re left to interpret what’s going on and why. That would normally be a big detriment for a game, but oddly enough it seems fitting here, as letters seem to act more as objects in the world, that is before HERO is able to manipulate them.

While you may be expecting large changes and improvements in Typoman Revised, provided you played the original when it was a WiiU exclusive, it seems as though there’s been some small tweaks here and there. After completing the game I watched a few walkthrough videos of the original and saw very minor differences for the most part. Some small features were improved, and environments altered, but it’s largely the same experience without much extra content added.

At its core Typoman is a 2D platform puzzler. The majority of your gameplay requires you to jump from area to area, climbing ladders, swinging on ropes, jumping, and figuring out how to pull levers, but there’s also the puzzle aspect that revolves around HERO’s ability to manipulate letters within 4 chapters (prologue plus 3 chapters) contained within the campaign, each lasting roughly an hour or so depending on your word creation abilities and reflexes.

Things aren’t as simple as crafting any words you want, much like Scribblenauts, but instead figuring out the generally pre-determined word solution that can help save you from enemies, open doors, raise platforms and more. Sometimes puzzles are as simple as moving a letter to the end of a word, or simply switching “NO” to “ON”, while other times you’ll have to deal with a handful of letters to find the specific one you need, then use a LIE to craft the opposite word, using those letters for your initial solution, but more on that shortly.

HERO’s path starts out easy, simply trying to find an escape exit after being created from discarded letters, but soon you’ll run into monsters and creatures that are formed from words like EVIL, FEAR, DOOM and more, who are out to destroy you. Generally you simply need to survive and escape from these creatures, as you don’t have any real offence or attacks to thwart them their efforts. This is where word creation will come into play. There are also handfuls of secrets to find in the form of quotation marks, and these will give you a snippet of a much larger tale. It’s an interesting take on collecting secret items and they aren’t very hidden or difficult to get until you near the final chapter.

As for the platforming sections, most of them work very well and have obvious solutions. When you’re making your way across the screen it feels fluid and natural, though there are times, especially in the final half of the game, that you’ll want to completely give up. Certain sections are incredibly difficult and require absolute precision and reflexes when jumping, causing many deaths and restarts. Thankfully the automatic checkpoint system is very plentiful and forgiving, not setting you back very far from your mistake.

The feature that makes Typoman unique though is its wordplay elements, allowing you to scramble letters and create objects, or events, with words. This is much easier to explain with a few examples, so let’s say there’s a locked door blocking your path, but a jumble of letters placed nearby. If you have the appropriate letters to spell OPEN, and move that word near the door, voila, it will magically open. If there’s a switch that’s locking something that you need to get past, but the word beside it says NO, simply rearrange them to say ON and it will power up and allow you to progress. There are sections where gas fills the area, and you can only walk through it for a short time before you die, but bring along a letter P to put at the end of the word GAS creating GASP, and you’ll have a safe-bubble to breathe in.

These types of puzzles are fun to figure out and solve, though by the time the credits roll you’ll have most likely noticed that there are really only a handful of puzzles like these, and they are utilized over and over throughout the adventure. Since you’re always given a specific set of letters, you also need to figure out the developer’s solutions, as there’s not much variety to create more abstract words for unique results.

In the final stage you’ll come across a completely different type of puzzle, one where you’re given access to a machine with a certain amount of letters. You can use the machine to create any words you want, not just using the letters once like you may have done previously, so some sections become much harder with these as you may need to use a letter more than once as you’re not under the same restrictions as before.

My biggest complaint is that the controls for manipulating the letters is not very intuitive, having you rely on using the Right Trigger to move or discard letters rather than the standard A button. Even at the end of my journey I was constantly making mistakes hitting the wrong button when in a rush to craft a word.

The last noteworthy mechanic that’s introduced in the latter half of the game is the LIE creature. Sometimes these creatures are already in the world, requiring you to use them properly, and other times you’ll be given letters to summon a LIE. LIE’s are tiny little creatures that aren’t hostile, but will suck up any word and spit out the opposite word, killing itself in the process. So say you need a set of specific letters to OPEN a door, but you don’t have one of the letters, you would then create a LIE, make a word, have it spit out the opposite word, hopefully containing the letter you require. If that sounds confusing, it is, and one of the puzzles before the final boss requires you to do this word swapping numerous times to find the correct words.

The world of Typoman is a dreary and dark one that emits sadness, but it is beautiful in its own way. Seeing the world around you react and crumble is what gives it its own character, and even though the world appears to be dying, that’s what makes it look alive oddly enough. The only issue I had was that there were numerous times that there were visual stutters when new sections of the levels seemed to have been loading. Nothing that caused any unfair deaths, but noticeable enough to be worth mentioning. As for the audio, it fits the mood of the world and gameplay well, and I highly suggest checking out the game's soundtrack online.

I really enjoyed the first half of Typoman, but as HERO’s adventure goes on you will notice that you’re relying on the same small handful of words and solutions to the majority of the puzzles within. The LIE creatures could have been explained a little better, as the final area before the boss almost made me completely give up. To top it off, the final boss fight wasn’t anything I expected, and it feels a little anti-climactic once you learn how to avoid and defeat it.

Overall I did enjoy Typoman for what it is; a fun, short 2D platform puzzler. It may not have a long gameplay length or much replayability, aside from achievement hunting, but I enjoyed the majority of my time with HERO. Well, at least the times I wasn’t dying repeatedly or standing around trying to figure out what word I needed to create to get the opposite word, so I could construct a different word, and the opposite of that, to solve a puzzle. Its biggest downfall is that you’re essentially shoehorned into solving the puzzles in a way they were specifically designed, not allowing much freedom or the ability for your own creative solutions. Typoman may be a short one-off adventure, but its best parts are fun and work well, making up for its those sections that bring frustration.

Overall: 7.7 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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