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Who expected one of the year's most intriguing games to be about fonts? Type:Rider features an odd premise, being an experiential side-scroller inspired by the history of typography, but it mostly soars due to excellent production values and inventive levels based on the fonts themselves and the processes and techniques around them.
As a pair of dots, you'll roll through striking stages that spotlight paths built on the backbone of the fonts themselves. Letters are peppered throughout the environments to create trails, ramps, elevators, and much more within the memorable stages, but simply spotlighting random letters wouldn't have as much punch without context. For that, Type:Rider creates challenges around familiar printing techniques and technology from the past, plus it splashes historical icons of typography on the backdrops while also allowing you the option to read detailed explanations of everything. Type:Rider aims to entertain as much as enrich, and it's a delicate balance that's handled with a lot of panache.
The stages themselves are eye-catching throughout, with each font inspiring a world comprised of two longer levels and two shorter environmental puzzles to solve. From the Gothic font in 1450 to Garamond, Didot, and Clarendon in the centuries thereafter, you'll ultimately vault into the 20th century with Futura, Times, Helvetica, and finally a Pixel font. Each world takes cues from the font itself and the printmaking techniques and pivotal works of the era, and taking it all in means guiding the two dots to the goal (or through a puzzle) by rolling, jumping, and collecting letter pick-ups along the way.
It plays out similarly to last year's Sound Shapes on PlayStation platforms, which similarly minimized challenge in favor of simply dazzling players with its creative content, though there's a dash of Limbo here for good measure. Impressive as Type:Rider looks and sounds, however, it doesn't play quite as sharply as those two seeming inspirations. Getting around using touch and/or tilt controls feels a little clumsy in practice, especially as later stages implement tricky timing-based moments, as precision jumps prove difficult. Luckily, death is never particularly punitive thanks to frequent checkpoints.
The bottom line. Getting around has its frustrating moments, but Type:Rider remains a fascinating interactive exploration of typography that's unlike anything else on the App Store.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Excellently creative worlds inspired by the history of typography and printmaking. Dazzling visuals with great music to match. Enlightens as it entertains thanks to historical explanations.
Difficult to precisely time jumps, particularly during some later, more challenging segments.