Typing games have always had a strange novelty value for me. Most games in the genre do little more than provide timed typing challenges contextualized in the form of the medium. For example, The Typing of The Dead simply has you typing silly words and phrases to shoot down the legion of zombies coming after you. In The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia, there’s an attempt to tie the act of typing with real-time bullet hell dodging action in an arguably innovative manner. Whether it fails or succeeds really comes down to how well the player adapts to controls that came about through a notable design compromise.
The game has you play as Ray Bibbia, a private exorcist that’s seeking to make amends for past wrongs, while uncovering the dark secret behind the Holy Church of the Vatican. The Textorcist rolls out jokes very often and unfortunately, most of them were hit-and-miss. The story quickly progressed into a typical damsel in distress plot with very little that kept me emotionally invested in Ray’s plight. Luckily, instead of the story, the combat was easily the true driving factor of the game.
The Textorcist’s core gameplay is a smooth blend of typing holy verses, while dodging a maze of bullets. The combat incorporates real-time evasion with fast-paced typing to produce a unique blend of reaction and precision. The game does not provide any mobs in favor of focusing solely on bosses. While the decision to skip out on basic enemies is not inherently bad, The Textorcist’s difficulty curve suffers as a result by not providing enough preparation. There was a sudden rise in difficulty around the second half of the game, while also reaching a climax too early.
Difficulty permeates a heavy portion of the experience. One of the last bosses provided a real obstacle for me that required a great deal of focus and dedication. My biggest struggle came from the controls, which definitely took some getting used to. Regardless, it’s a challenging experience that took quite a bit out of me to finish. Had the game eased into the increased difficulty with basic enemy mobs, perhaps the experience would’ve had a better difficulty progression.
Gameplay in The Textorcist takes the Touhou bullet hell formula, replaces basic attacks with ones revolving around typing, and transforms taking damage into a game of risk vs. reward. Getting hit by the enemy results in one of two things: Ray will either drop his bible or take damage depending on whether or not he is holding his bible. It’s the most forgiving aspect of the combat and it makes sense due to the heavy multitasking required to type archaic and flowery words, while dodging patterns that put your bullet hell skills to the test. Without his bible, Ray is vulnerable to taking damage and if he doesn’t pick it up before the time is up, the progress he made on his current verse is cleared. It’s a frustrating, yet robust loopback system that always kept me on my toes.
Despite the well thought-out gameplay, the ultimate restriction imposed on the combat is the keyboard itself. Due to the need to type and dodge, the player has to either move using the arrow keys or with the WASD keys (customizable), while holding shift. The first option requires the player to either move their right hand to a typing position when safe or to exclusively type verses with their left hand in a very restrictive manner. The second option makes movement feel awkward, while resulting in the act of typing words that use any of the four mapped keys impossible without needing to stand still. There seems to be a real compromise that had to be made when dealing with movement, but one easy improvement would have been to allow the player map the same action to more than one key.
The Textorcist also has pseudo puzzle portions that usually take place between each of the challenging bosses. Sadly, these segments leave a lot to be desired due to how drab and tedious they can be. Most of the “puzzles” just require mindless trial and error. The very act of interacting with environmental objects even requires the typing of each action. These parts left me yearning to see the next boss, not because of love for the combat, but because of my dislike for the poor pacing and busywork from extra segments.
Retro-styled throwbacks are a dime a dozen and The Textorcist definitely falls in line with the rest when it comes to its graphics. Visually, the game evokes SNES-era sprite art with some modern touch-ups. There are even some old-fashioned cutscenes that wouldn’t really be out of place in a 16-bit game. The music is a synth-heavy series of arrangements that set the tone for the game effectively. The boss fight tracks set an exciting tempo, the ambient music that plays within empty areas give off feelings of inevitable danger, and the home base tune sounds kooky, but safe. Despite its duller moments and shaky controls, The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is a unique game that provides a solid challenge for those open to the idea of a type ‘em-up bullet hell experience.