Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Plug In Digital Ltd
Developer: Ex Nihilo
I love the idea of Type:Rider. A game about the history of fonts? As someone with an opinion on serif vs. sans serif (sans serif forever!), sign me up! I'm certainly not going to object to a game teaching me about the origins of the written word.
In fact, I'll even take that a step further, and say that, on a purely superficial level, I love Type:Rider itself. It looks and sounds amazing, taking fonts like Times New Roman, Garamond, and Futura (among others) and turning them into entire worlds, complete with relevant soundtracks. This means you get jazzy, retro-futuristic worlds that look like the fever dream of an art director at Sterling Cooper in Helvetica, or you go deep into the early days of writing with Gothic, complete with chanting monks. It pops off the screen, and it looks as good as anything I've seen this year.
Until, that is, things start moving, and the effect gets diminished drastically. For one thing, the game is prone to slowdowns, at least on the Vita. While I certainly don't object to getting a better chance to look at some of these environments, I'm quite certain that's not what the game's developers intended. Type:Rider's platforming occasionally veers into "demanding" territory, and it becomes outright impossible when your characters start moving as if they've been doused in molasses.
Not that the characters — who, it must be noted, are either a colon or a pair of periods, depending on your point of view — move much better when the game isn't slowing down. Trying to manoeuvre them around the screen is awkward at the best of times. In theory, the two dots are supposed to move in tandem with each other, and when you see it work as it's supposed to during the tutorial, it seems pretty straightforward. In the actual levels, however, it's not so simple. Jumping from one ledge to another is frequently equal parts skill and luck, with success dependent entirely on whether Type:Rider's wonky physics agree with what you're hoping to do. Likewise, you can wall jump upwards to reach higher ledges, but your success here, too, will rely on the game feeling charitable towards your efforts. Water represents an impenetrable sludge that's sure to slow you down, except when it doesn't. The camera follows your journey, except for the times when it suddenly decides to stay frozen in one spot, forcing you to reset the level. You can rotate your dots to build forward momentum in mid-air, except for all those times when rotating sends you flying backwards. On this last point, the game occasionally decides that forward movement is for chumps, and sends you in the opposite direction from which you're trying to go. (Note: as far as I can tell, it does this intentionally once; the rest of the times are just there to confuse and annoy you.)
In other words, Type:Rider undoubtedly has the noblest of intentions, but as a platformer, it sucks. You're much better off staring at some of its screenshots for the 90 minutes or so it would take you to beat the game, because seeing something that looks so wonderful fall apart so badly is just infuriating.