Typoman is a game with an interesting history, especially with Nintendo. It was originally touted as one of the first Nindie games when the Wii U was ailing, especially in the physical releases department. Released as an exclusive, I reviewed it back in the day and loved it. It did have its problems though, and it eventually made its way to other consoles with a Revised Edition subtitle. It’s finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch, so do I still think this word-based platformer is great?
The story is pretty simple; it’s a classic case of good versus evil. 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. Everything about the story is told with dialogue-less cutscenes and plenty of them. 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.
In this world made up of words and letters, there’s a lot of wordplay in the environments and characters with letters that are really well entwined into them to create great imagery. For example, 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, 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.
In this revised edition of Typoman, extra tidbits of story have been added with little secrets hidden out of the way in the environments. These come in the form of quotation marks and each reveals a little bit of extra thoughts around the context of the game. I can see why they were added, but honestly this just seems like extra fluff. I preferred to leave this game to my own imagination.
The music is very atmospheric and minimalistic for the most part. Like the artwork, it presents a bleak picture of the world that Typoman is set in. It’s slow, mood and 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, but it’s perfect in the context of the game itself.
Visuals and Performance
Visually the game is certainly distinct. It’s stylistically beautiful. It’s very monochromatic with almost the cliched 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.
There’s a lot of depth to the environments, too. 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, and it’s really well thematically designed.
As part the Revised Edition of this game, we were promised to have things running a tad more smoothly than on the Wii U. There were some rather unfortunately frame stutters which usually occurred when you were trying to time a jump or land somewhere precisely. As for my play time with this port, it seems that things really were fixed, and I didn’t notice any hitches. It seemed mostly very smooth this time around. Yes, there were occasional stutters, but this was mostly kept to screen or story transitions and kept out of the gameplay part.
Typoman is a platforming game with a high focus on puzzles in the form of some interesting wordplay. Our HERO has a special ability that allows him to interact with letters that are strewn 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 cool.
You can form the letters manually 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 by pressing Y which will bring out a more convenient ordering menu. This is something you’ll need to keep remembering especially in high-pressured situations. While I do enjoy this kind of gameplay, I need to admit sometimes it can be a bit finicky in Typoman and in tense situations some of you may get frustrated.
The wordplay is not completely open, though. 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 nearby is the letter D on a rope. Swinging the D in front RAIN will briefly spell out DRAIN. As RAIN is no longer the word, it will cease and the pond below will drain out to 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.
It’s not only puzzles you have to overcome. Like the genre states, there is platforming to be done, and it is often very precise and tense. In fact, the first time I played the game, it was one of the platforming sections that presented me with the biggest challenge in the whole game. Honestly, platforming is not the game’s strong point by any means, and I often struggled timing my jumps. While death is meaningless, it can present a bit of frustration at times.
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 and FAITH will create a safe bubble around you that nastiness can’t penetrate. You don’t physically defend yourself with any attacks or weapons, all HERO can actually do is jump, pick up letters and pull levers.
After you complete the main game, you unlock two mini games. First is the Antonymizer, and the second is Word Hunter. Now, normally I don’t care for mini games whatsoever, but the first one really caught my attention. Basically, you have a word to spell, but the letters you’re given aren’t quite enough. So you have to make words then use the LIE feature which turns them opposites and using the new letters you get from there. I actually really liked this mini game a lot. The second game is more generic as it’s a spell as many words as you can in a set amount of time. It’s okay for a few tries to get a high score, but it didn’t keep my attention like the first one.
There’s a prologue and three chapters to make your way through with each one featuring a very different environment. It doesn’t sound like much, but I actually 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. If you want to go back and collect the rest of the quotes that you missed for your journal, that may add replayability, but it’s not something I would personally do. For £9.99 or $10.39, I think Typoman presents decent value for your money.
Great word play
A little finicky at times
Platforming is a weak point