Many writers daydream of their words having a powerful impact on the world; effecting change against evil and oppression. Developer Brainseed Factory has sought to adopt this concept quite literally in the form of Typoman.
The bleak yet somehow achingly beautiful world of Typoman is one where letters take form and serve functions. Even the characters themselves, including main protagonist HERO, are built from the very letters of their names. Push stray letters together to form a word and it will adopt the properties of what was spelled - a simple ON will power any nearby machinery, for example, while the word HEAVY will actually be so.
Seeing words come to life is a clever, exciting mechanic, but let's make certain we're all on the same page here. This is not a game where you can just make a gaggle of words willy-nilly, a la Scribblenauts. Words are meant to solve puzzles, so in the majority of cases only a certain word is going to bear fruit. This demand is kept very reasonable by only having certain pools of letters to choose from at certain times, either just hanging around (sometimes literally) or offered within letter-generating machines.
There is often an actual sense of labour when it comes to putting words together. HERO can push and pull letters, or pick up one at a time to set them down or give them a small toss. It can feel a bit cumbersome and time-consuming in some cases, especially when foes are breathing down your neck. It's nice that the letters have such a feeling of substance and weight in the need to move them around, but there are times when you may wish the process was faster.
Brainseed Factory did provide two extremely helpful GamePad aids when it comes to wordsmithing, however. The Scrambler can take a group of letters that's been smushed together and make them much easier to work with on the touch screen, allowing easy rearranging and even removal of unnecessary letters. It will become your best friend. And if you have no idea what word to be making in the first place, tapping the hint button will provide help. Not content to immediately spit out the answer, hints first come hidden within a thematic sentence or two that materializes out of the void of your GamePad screen. Very cool. Tapping the hint button again will actually highlight the word you need to create.
The puzzle element of Typoman is superb, but it is also a 2D platformer. It's in this respect that the game feels like it could have used some extra editing. Although the dim, rickety world is fascinating to navigate, there are times when the platforming pulls no punches whatsoever. Death can come quickly and sometimes unexpectedly, providing somewhat of a trial-and-error feel at times; there are times when a nasty demise will be rushing at you and you're given no leeway whatsoever. If you're not already running in the right direction (or even holding down the correct direction to run before your checkpoint reloads, in some cases), you might as well kiss your consonants goodbye.
The at times demanding nature of the platforming is often not a big deal thanks to the extremely forgiving checkpoint system. Just about every small victory or bit of progress made is autosaved. There can still be a problem, though, when your death feels like it comes from the controls or the sometimes bumpy way HERO interacts with the environment.
Every now and then a jump might demand leaping from the very edge of a platform, yet HERO gets hung up on the landing and falls to his doom anyway. If you spent time pushing and pulling letters together just before that jump, you might just have to do it again - and it doesn't really feel like your fault. Those unforgiving "rush" areas mentioned above can be particularly aggravating when it doesn't feel like you have as finely tuned influence over HERO's fate as you should, and you might be repeating these sections many times, often because your character doesn't always clamber up a ledge when he aced it the previous time.
These brutal, knee-jerk areas almost feel like they clash with the often more thought-collecting intentions of the word-forming mechanic. There are certainly tension-raising times when you need to make a word in a hurry, however, and that part of the game's atmosphere can't be faulted. It fits well within the jagged, lonely world of letters, although no real story is given to explain how it has come to be this way or why evil things are after your alphabet.
Completion times will vary depending on how stuck one might get and how often they dip into the hint system, but Typoman is still a relatively short game. It can be finished in less than 4 hours and no extras appear to be unlocked once you're through. It should also be noted that there are no language options aside from English. The characters of the English language are just too ingrained into the world that other languages would be difficult if not impossible to transfer over in a sensible way.
Typoman fashions a marvelous world full of wordy wonder, and those who feel it would be up their alley should definitely give the game a try based on that alone. However, the smudges that can come in the platforming, combined with the roller coaster difficulty, may very likely frustrate some when they find themselves caught in a death loop. The shorter length of the game is also a factor to consider, but the thought of a sequel with an expanded vocabulary and tweaked platforming makes us want to look up "enticing" in the thesaurus.