Review Platform: iOS
Review Copy Provided By: BulkyPix
Release Date: October 10, 2013
I’m a writer. You know I’m a writer because you’re reading this, and I wrote it. I know I’m a writer because I go nuts when I don’t write, wondering why I’m not writing. I also wonder what other people are writing, and if it will be better than my writing. I read reviews of games I’ve already written about, and write about their writing in the comments section. Writing, and thinking about writing is one of my favorite things to do.
So a mobile game called Type:Rider, by one of my favorite game studios, would presumably be write (ha ha) up my alley, and first impressions are great. The visuals are a marvel; atmospheric and endearing in the Braid ”mold”, with lots of neat little details that are fun to look at and fun to show to your friends who scoff at mobile gamers. You control two little periods on a harrowing journey through the history of typography, from cave paintings, to printing presses, to printers. The journey primarily requires platforming expertise, patience, puzzle solving, and precision.
And precision is the sticky point. Type:Rider uses an innovative scheme that has you tapping one side of your device to move forward, and then tapping the other side to jump. It’s one of the more creative ways I’ve seen virtual controls handled on a mobile platformer, and in the early stages of the game, they work wonderfully. But once the game ramps up, and you’re challenged to make tricky jumps, accurate landings on curved surfaces, and hit buttons in a specific order, you’ll find yourself arguing with your iPad, fingers, and finally, the game as you’ll be unsure what you’re doing wrong and what direction your technically ‘facing’. The problem is that the character (well, characters) you control function as wheels. They have momentum, then turn, they run up walls, and so on. As a result, when you hit a particularly tricky jump or get stuck hanging on a “U” or another letter, you’ll find yourself hammering both sides of the screen to just get out of the situation, and you’ll often end up beating a tricky portion of the game, or (literally) wiggling your way out of a jam, thanks to pure dumb luck.
It’s not that the control is bad, it’s not. You can make your way through the game and make all those tricky jumps and beat those irksome puzzles after some trial-and-error, but I *hate* trial and error. It cheapens accomplishments and rubs salt in the wounds of failure – “the computer cheats” isn’t a phrase I should be thinking about in such a gorgeous game.
And hoo my is it gorgeous. Type:Rider delivers a sublime A/V package with soothing music and whimsical tones that peak the curiosity of the player. You’ll jump into rotating “U”s, push buttons on a typewriter to solve puzzles, and roll your way through pages of the Gutenberg bible with a smirk, wide eyes, and warm heart. You eventually run into a stage that feels like a picasso painting, and you’ll bound off all manner of dynamic and abstract shapes on your way to the end of a level. By the time you’re careening through a mine-cart roller coaster, jumping to avoid being shot by an unseen sniper, your $2.99 purchase will be validated ten fold. If you choose to dive into obtaining the various collectibles that allow you to read about the history of typography, the experience is that much more enriching, and educational for the kind of person looking for a bit context.
Speaking of context, If I had to guess, someone on the staff at BulkyPix has an incredible love for the history of the written word, an unmatched passion for the thing we now take for granted with ‘u’es ‘bcuz’es, ‘b4s’ and Facebook memes that care for grammatical accuracy as much as I care for light Ranch Dressing on a salad.
In that regard I have nothing but praise for this title. I have problems with the control and don’t really see the moving parts coming together in a cohesive way that emotionally moves the player (like say, Quell:Memento), but the thing with passion projects is that sometimes they’re not for an audience, they’re for you – and this game oozes passion like HP Printer ink.
Which is to say that while I do not share BulkyPix’s passion for typography, I do appreciate it. But I can’t help but feel this is a game about textiles in a world where most people care about fashion. I don’t care how words *look* I care what they mean, I care how they’re strung together in an overlong sentence to make a point, or how something as simple as “…” can shoot fear through the heart of an online conversation.
However, if Type:Rider, through solid platforming and pretty visuals, turns someone on to the fascinating history of typography and written communication, who am I to say that janky platforming, and a lack of interest in its source material, is a reason to not seek this game out? If this sounds like your kind of game, have at it – you won’t be disappointed.
But beauty absent precision is pornography. Type:Rider is really good porno. Great porno, even. For all its beauty and imagination, I find myself…underwhelmed – then again I look at someone like Jenna Haze and ponder what they’re like as a person. The game isn’t quite what I expected, and while that doesn’t make it bad, opportunities appear littered all over the floor. But you really shouldn’t judge a game on what it doesn’t do, and instead take it for what it is.
Type:Rider *is* a great little game to play and marvel at, and grow occasionally frustrated with as its immense charm eventually wanes and you’re stuck hugging the middle part of an “E”, or the round part of a “G” while thoughts of “W” “T” and “F” creep into your head.