Writing its way to mobile gaming history

They say a picture can be worth a thousand words, but as I’ve learned already this week, a mobile game can sometimes speak for centuries. I have a long personal history with words and different types of fonts myself: after all, I read, write, and edit articles all day long here at Gamezebo, and then by night I take graduate courses about the publishing industry. So the idea of a Limbo-like mobile game that focused on the entire history of typography, and that let you play as two punctuation marks no doubt, seemed more than right up my alley. And luckily, writing fanatic or not, Type:Rider serves to provide one of the most whimsical and artistic adventures you’re likely to ever experience on a mobile game device today.

For such a relatively short game, the sheer amount of variety in Type:Rider is simply astounding, and each level serves as a wonderful visual homage to a different era in the history of typography. Throughout the course of your journey towards the modern day of typing, you’ll experience the whirling mind work and ideas concurrent with the Didot period; you’ll ride mine carts and dodge the bullets of a Wild Western shootout in the Clarendon era; you’ll traverse an industrial world of grinding gears and churning typewriters by the time you get to Times New Roman; and you’ll ski down the marvelous snowy white slopes in front of a blood-red sky during the Helvetica chapter.

Type:Rider

These are just a few of my many favorite moments throughout my Type:Rider adventure, and I was constantly amazed at every turn by how rich and engrossing the slight changes in scenery managed to be, and how the letters themselves were always incorporated into the platforming segments in fresh and exciting new ways. Although the bulk of Type:Rider is more about the experience, rather than the gameplay, you’ll still be met with a few nice platforming sections and the occasional interactive puzzle or two: the latter of which are always extremely unique, and involve you getting a third white circle into a three-pronged ground slot, along with your two controllable punctuation marks.

The controls are as basic as moving left or right and jumping, and the game gives you three different touchscreen or tilt-based setups to let you really find your groove. Perhaps the biggest draw and replayability factor of Type:Rider resides in the many collectables you’ll be tasked to find. In each level there are 26 letters of the alphabet to find (represented in each respective font), a well-hidden ampersand sign, and six or seven asterisks, which unlock informative history lesson passages that can be viewed in the main menu gallery, and which shed some light on how the world of typography has managed to shape and evolve with advancements in technology throughout the years. Luckily, most of these collectables are extremely easy to come by, and they function more as an extra little bonus, rather than a sense of hardcore challenge.

Type:Rider

But of course, what would history be without a few bumps and stumbling block along the way? Well in a similar fashion, Type:Rider also suffers from several design flaws and growing pains that make the overall journey fall a bit short from perfect. The first of these is in the game’s high tendency to crash at regular and consistent intervals. Like clockwork, every time I finished one level and tried to start up the next, the game would consistently crash and force me to boot it up again all the way from my device’s home screen.

The historical segments also feel a bit detached from the actual gameplay at times. I was so enthralled by what I was witnessing around me as I rolled my punctuation marks along the ever-changing scenery, that I rarely wanted to stop what I was doing to go into the main menu and read the sometimes lengthy history lessons. Don’t get me wrong, I think these lessons are great – I just would have liked to have seen them incorporated into the rest of the game in a more fluid fashion.

Type:Rider

Finally, the game’s final main chapter “Pixel” suffers from a massive difficulty spike, which is especially strange considering the relaxing and no-penalties mindset of everything that comes in the journey before it. I found myself getting extremely frustrated with Type:Rider here, as the game’s physics just couldn’t account for the pinpoint precise jumps that are required of you to make in this specific chapter, and they not only feel out of place, but are extremely off-putting in a game that never really showcases itself as a “game” in the common sense that most of us know the word.

But despite these minor annoyances, Type:Rider is still as elegant as anything in mobile gaming today, and the constantly changing canvas is always brimming with inspiration and captivating ways to think about words, and the letters that help to craft them in particular. Exceptional more as an experience, rather than a game, this is one of those rare gems you’ll just want to sit back and enjoy for one brief magical moment out of your day: because much like the way history waits for no one, the journey will be over before it’s barely begun.