As someone that’s spent the last several months trying (and mostly failing) to create compelling YouTube thumbnails, I’ve grown a new appreciation for the art of typography and how it relates to design. Due to my indecisive nature, I have several hundred fonts installed on my copy of Photoshop, quick to notice the subtle ways in which they can convey a certain mood and how they can unconsciously make us feel about a piece.
Type:Rider is, perhaps, a little too aware of this. For a game mostly about educating the player on the wild and wacky world of the printed word, it’s very moody. After the first few minutes of intense silhouettes and minor key brooding, I had to double check to make sure that I wasn’t playing a Playdead game. Though it never quite felt right, that initial tone made a bit more sense in the context of later portions. As the game goes through the different eras, the world changes to reflect the time and place in which the font was initially discovered – Clerendon has an old west setting (including a mine cart section), Helvetica is represented by a snowy area that’s intended to remind one of Switzerland, etc. These often feel more like new backdrops than entirely different levels. While there are moments where the gimmick of using letters as terrain can result in some rather innovative ways of moving through areas, by the halfway point of the 90 minutes that Type:Rider lasted, I felt as if the concept had already run its course.
Thankfully, as noted, it’s short, which means that it can be easily categorized as more of a distraction than an investment, making the more frustrating elements feel a bit less egregious. The controls in particular are flimsy at the best of time, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the game often asks you to do things that your controllable colon isn’t quite equipped for. The two dots are tethered to one another, acting as wheels of a sort, resulting in something that acts like a bicycle without a body, constantly needing momentum to do much of anything and often falling short. Deaths rarely, if ever, seem like your fault. The game seems to realize this and checkpoints you almost immediately before the part where you failed.
At no point would I say that Type:Rider was hard, but those deaths did give off the vibe that the game often overreached beyond its capability. It feels as if there was a conflict of design and they couldn’t decide between creating an engaging puzzle platformer or an educationally history lesson that needed to be completed to achieve the full effect.
It’s hard to say what the solution to that would have been, if there was one at all. Honestly, I was more concerned with why a piece of punctuation seemed so damn sad.