Amongst the big names of EGX 2015 – the loud FPS games, the return of Star Fox, those kind of titles – a game that really caught my attention was Typoman for Wii U. This was one of the many “Nindies” at EGX 2015, and the type-focused puzzles were different to anything else I played at the show.
As a graphic designer, I was especially intrigued as working with type (letterforms) is a big part of what we do. Therefore, seeing them utilised for puzzles in a gaming space drew me in simply because it was so unique to me. The focus of the puzzles was making you form words that helped you get past whatever obstacles were in your way; for example, arranging letters into the word “DOWN” would make an object move downwards. Of course, it gets more complicated than this.
Sometimes, the enemy itself is an animated word. I came across a vicious enemy who attacked whenever you got near, but by managing to move the letter S next to it as it attacked the space next to me I made the word STRAP; a strap then appeared to bind it as I strolled on. The demo I played was very linear, with obstacles like this one popping up on my route. My criticism of this would be that it doesn’t feel very connected. There was a very clear pattern of puzzle-empty space-puzzle-empty space-puzzle and so on. Typoman would benefit from more of an interweaved world, so that you can become more invested in what is going on.
To be fair, right at the end of the demo (after the lady by Typoman had put a Mario hat on me…) the demo started to do that. You play as a guy made out of type (therefore, Typoman), who only has one arm; at the end of the level, you come close to gaining that second arm, before it is snatched away from you. The character design is charming, with the typographic aesthetic, and this moment of being so close to what you want does make you care more about what is going on.
In fact, the overall feel I got from this game is very similar to the game Limbo. The 2D black & white aesthetic is an obvious similarity, but the frequent puzzles also reminded me of that game. On the other hand, a negative association is how I find both games have quite illogical solutions. I find Limbo to be quite a trial-and-error game, where you often have to die – sometimes multiple times – to understand what the game wants you to do. I found that frustrating, as I want to be able to work out solutions without resorting to essentially retrying. While not as extreme as Limbo, Typoman has this trait, where you sometimes only work out what is the path forward after you have died.
Before I wrap up, something else to note is how Typoman uses the Wii U GamePad. There was nothing hugely revolutionary, but rather something that had promise. For one puzzle, I had to choose letters from the GamePad using touch so that I could use them to spell out words in the game on the TV screen. This was quite a basic use of the GamePad, but does point to their being potential with the type idea being combined with the Wii U GamePad.
Overall, Typoman was one of my highlights of Nintendo’s indie showing at EGX 2015, and it is definitely one to keep an “I” on. Yes, that was a type pun.