I really enjoy playing and reviewing games on my iPad, but rarely do I play an iPad game and after finishing it think “Wow, what a GREAT game!” But Type:Rider was an exception. This game is an amazing experience, and a good example if you want to argue that video games can be art. The game is an odd mix of a puzzle platformer, and a history lesson on typography and the study of fonts and printing. Yes, really. (Type:Rider is available for iOS and Android, but reviewed on iPad here)
In the game, you control a colon. You know, the punctuation mark. You roll it along the landscape, like two wheels of a car. Roll past obstacles and solve puzzles to get to the end of the level. Move left and right by touching the left and right sides of the screen, and jump by pressing the opposite side of the direction you are holding. It controls a lot like Loco Roco, one of my favorite PSP games (maybe that’s why I like this game so much). You can also toggle other controls schemes where you tilt the iPad or use virtual buttons, but the default control method worked fine with me.
The obstacles in the game include giant letters of the alphabet, and each stage has a different featured font. You’ll go through a visual history of the printed word, from cave paintings to printing presses, all the way to text fonts in computers. Each level features a theme based on these time periods, so you may find yourself travelling through prehistoric caves in one level, maneuvering through gears in a printing press in the next, rolling through a Wild West world in the telegraph era, and finally going through a virtual computer world! Every now and then you may have to solve a light puzzle to open a gate or finish the level.
As you play each level, you’ll collect letters of the alphabet. Try to collect them all. Hidden in the stages are asterisk symbols as well. Pick these up and you’ll be able to read a blurb about the history of the printed word or a typeface font creator. I found these bits interesting myself, but I was a Magazine Journalism major in college and took a whole class on this stuff. If you’re doing a research paper on typography, you could really use this game as a source! It’s so cool how the levels themselves match up with the history behind them.
Type:Rider does have a few problems, though. Play control isn’t always as precise as I would’ve liked it to be, which made some obstacles rather difficult and frustrating to blast through. Luckily you get unlimited tries, and checkpoints are very frequent. The menu interface can be a bit confusing at first, too. Especially if you want to go back and reread the history. Also, the game is rather short. But you can replay levels to find all the letters and asterisks. My copy of the game was also a bit buggy, but that could be because I was playing an early version of it. But despite these problems, I thoroughly enjoyed this game. If you enjoy artsy-fartsy games like Journey or Limbo, you’ll want to download this one, especially if you have even the slightest interest in typography.
While the game is non-violent, I can’t see a little kid getting into this one because of the difficult levels and high reading skill needed for the history text. But Type:Rider is certainly educational, and school-aged kids learning about the parts of history presented in the game may find playing it beneficial.