Typoman

Playing through Typoman is really frustrating because you'll constantly see a great idea that seems like it got away from the developers. It shares similar frustrations with, of all things, Scribblenauts: there are a lot of words out there, and more than that, I KNOW a lot of words. And now here's this developer creating a level that's asking me to turn a bunch of letters that can become so many words – words like drink and dire and rind and they're words that just don't matter for the puzzle at hand – and I need to figure out exactly which one I'm looking for that will cause the level to react the way they want.

The concept basically revolves around puzzle areas where you find a bunch of letters, and you have to combine the letters into the right words to affect the environment and let you go past.

I can imagine doing a playthrough of this with the developers behind them slowly getting more frustrated. "It couldn't be more obvious!" they'd be groaning at me exhaustedly, rubbing their temples as I spell out the word "Rise" which I'd swear should work here. "Those two are together and you need them to not be, so you write split! Come on!" Which I do, and then how do they split? One of them rises. "Come on!" I'd roll my eyes back at them. Which winds up being a big issues because you also have times where you don't use a word before or after, so it's not like you can even use that first time as a learning experience. There's nothing to learn except that single puzzle. Which these kind of one-off moments can be nice in a regular platformer or action game, but puzzle games usually work in a different way – it's all about teaching the mechanics and then tweaking them along the way.

And I'll admit that this makes it sound like I'm asking for something that is a no-win situation. If it was the same words over and over, it would be more like a chore since you're using the same words and it's just a manner of dragging them. 'Rise' here, 'rise' there, calling things into play. On the other hand, the way they actually have implemented it results in too many places where you stare at the environment, the words you have, and just have to wonder, well, ok, what one-off never-again word that I'm not thinking of am I missing here?

Luckily the developers did implement a hint system that I appreciated that goes two levels – first level, it reveals a snippet of a story, as narrated by our hero, and then if you still don't get it, tap the hint again, and the word you need to make highlights itself. Which once you see how this hint works you wind up not having to hit the second part, because it still feels decently satisfying to look at the situation, look at the snippet, and go "Ohhhh!" and then of COURSE, I didn't know I could write the word "lie" and have THAT happen.

It's just a very difficult concept to pull off in the end, and it's definitely something I feel the game did much better at the beginning because there was such an organic feeling to it. What this did well was it would give words that already existed and you more or less had to alter it in some clever way - "Rain" was on a cloud so it was filling a lake up and you couldn't get past, but if you swung on a hanging D, it would spell "drain" instead and empty things out. But towards the end of the game you're in some kind of facility instead, summoning letters into place instead of working with what already existed.

Outside's also where you found words doing cool, weird things, like raining, or when a giant machine made of the word PROPAGANDA comes at you and you use a gun partly made of the word SHOOT to take it out. Little paper airplanes instead of birds. It's an odd way for them to shift towards the more cold, metal sterility of the facility area, a shift in puzzles and designs that are far less interesting.

Speaking of the propaganda machine, there's something a little pretentious about the way the story goes, but in a way I kind of enjoyed somehow. As the main character, made of the word "hero", you are saved by another ("Muse", who also has a golden key) from a villain (who I think is "Grammar" but it was kind of hard to tell) until she's kidnapped and you have to get her back, and there's a lot of power in using words like Hope and Fear and Life and Love against Hate and Doom and Fear, the latter three personifying as malevolent forces that chase down and kill you. It is silly, but it goes for it so much that by the end, when the two main forces basically hadoken words of opposite power at each other and it explodes them backwards, I couldn't help but think, "alright, yeah, why not!"

Typoman is a game I like with a lot of reservations, a good idea hampered by the fact that it's a really, really difficult idea to implement. It works in spots, and when it does it's amazing; other parts wind up being so frustrating that you have to lean on the help system to figure out your way through all the potential words. It needed a little more tightness and guidance in some way that it just didn't have in the end.