An educational game about typography might not sound like the most thrilling combination to a lot of people. However, Type:Rider is proof that games can be both informative and enjoyable.
In Type:Rider, you play as a colon (the typographical kind, you'll be pleased to hear) that must bounce through ten levels dedicated to particular fonts and their corresponding periods of history. The game's main story mode begins with a stage titled Origins in which you traverse levels featuring cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Ancient Greek writing. From there you'll transition to a section themed around the Middle Ages and the dawn of the printing press, before moving on to more modern fonts and the digital age.
In each level, you'll be able to collect six optional asterisks. Each one contains a document about a certain person or movement in the evolution of typography such as Johannes Gutenberg or cuneiform writing. You can read these straightaway with a press of the Options button, or save them for later. Alternatively, if you're not interested in a history lesson, you can just ignore them and they won't intrude on the gameplay experience. Personally, I recommend giving them a read as they are fairly short and give you a greater understanding of the meaning behind the imagery in each level (plus there's a trophy for it).
Each of Type:Rider's stages has its own unique visual style and music, many of which are stunningly beautiful (check out the Gothic music in the below gameplay video for an example). There's also a large amount of imagination behind the level design. Each stage manages to be substantially different from the last, introducing more delightful surprises and innovative physics-based puzzles into the mix. The most ingenious is the Pixel level which is dedicated to the digital age. It fuses recreations of classic video games (like Breakout and Tetris) seamlessly into its chapters, turning each one of them into an interactive puzzle you have to solve to progress.
Type:Rider's levels get trickier to complete as you go with some difficult jumps and plenty of traps and hazards that kill you instantly towards the end. Things never get too irritating, however, thanks to a very generous checkpoint system that usually restarts you at the point just before you died. In fact, sometimes it even goes one better and puts you ahead of the section you just failed, which almost feels like cheating. For those who want more of a challenge, there's a speedrun mode that comprises ten unique levels, all themed around a font or era covered in story mode. The checkpoints here are less forgiving, and the timer won't reset if you die. There are online leaderboards for each stage as well as a cumulative one for completing all of them.
For the most part, Type:Rider's controls are fluid and responsive. However, the nature of controlling a character that comprises two balls instead of one sometimes leads to some awkwardness trying to get it to respond exactly how you want. Another issue that might annoy speedrunners is that when going very fast, you can almost outrun the right side of the screen; making reacting to oncoming hazards more a case of learning the levels than using fast reflexes.
The only other complaint I have is that it's all over pretty quickly but for such an inexpensive game, I suppose that's to be expected. While it lasts, Type:Rider is an aural and visual treat that repeatedly delights in its stylish graphics, atmospheric soundtrack and imaginative and whimsical level design. Even if you have no interest in the subject matter at all, it's still a joy to play.
- + Beautiful and varied art style and music
- + Imaginative and diverse level design
- + You get to learn about typography!
- - A bit on the short side
- - The controls can be a little awkward at first