If I’m allowed three final words to say on my deathbed, I would like for them to be “minmum fimger bumger.”
They stem from an exercise in high school typing class (yes, it was called “typing” then), a collection of typos from a girl who, for the sake of this review, I’ll refer to as Melissa (also because that was her name). I believe she was attempting to type “minimum finger number,” and instead produced my absolute favorite thing that ever resulted from a typing exercise.
Epistory, from developer Fishing Cactus, is a typing game. That actually sells it short, though, so don’t quit reading just yet. It’s also a fantastic action/adventure with the most inspired visuals I’ve seen in quite some time.
What really makes Epistory shine, though, is how all three of these elements come together to create a cohesive, engrossing gaming experience.
We’ll start with the typing, which controls movement and combat. When enemies come at you, they’re accompanied by a word (or, in some cases, just a letter). To defeat them, you have to type that word. Simple, until the enemies require multiple words to be slain, or until you have to arm yourself with certain abilities by first typing that ability, then the word. Some enemies can only be put down by a certain attack (ice, fire, electricity, wind), while for others it’s simply more efficient (wind blows enemies backwards, fire slowly burns the next word so you don’t have to type it, etc.)
While exploring the main world, enemies are fairly easily put down. At specified areas, however, they’ll come at you en masse, and you’ll need to type furiously (and accurately) in order to clear them out.
These segments are quite intense, as any typo or unfinished word can become a major setback (do not let your fingers slide away from home row). The “insectoids” come at you at different speeds, and you’ll have to gauge that when attacking. Do you finish an enemy off by typing all three words or just slow it down momentarily and move on to another rapidly approaching enemy before returning to finish it?
This whole gameplay format could’ve been just a weird gimmick that quickly wore out its welcome except that it fits in perfectly with the theme and the visuals. Epistory is revealed like the narrative of a novel, with words appearing on the landscape (as they’re being read to you) that tell the story of your heroine and her giant, three-tailed fox companion. The narrative does a great job of creating a sense of simultaneous melancholy and hope as you play.
What really stands out, however, are the visuals. The world starts small, as when you’re writing a book, but unfolds (literally) into a vast landscape as you progress. The environment is built as if by papercraft, using vibrant colors and detailed textures to create an environment that makes you feel as if you’re part of the paper on which the story is being written. Certain areas are blocked off (get it?) until you unlock the ability to access them, usually acquired by exploring the various “dungeons” and completing the final battle. Although the gameplay is basically the same throughout, the visual design of these dungeons keeps things fresh…for a while.
If I had to fault Epistory for anything, it would be that the game does drag at points as you work your way through the top-world. One of the myriad RPG-like level-ups you can assign is the ability to warp to predefined locations so you don’t have to walk all the way back to pick up a previously inaccessible hidden treasure or such, but there’s still plenty of back-and-forth to the game. Perhaps that’s done purposely…revisions, to carry the metaphor through. But I don’t enjoy revisions.
I would also like if Epistory had included grander boss battles. Rather than just protecting yourself from the enemy hordes, dungeons would be more fun to complete if you had to take on a single boss, perhaps by attacking parts in a specified order or hitting certain words within a brief window of opportunity.
But is it fair to fault the game for not being what I want it to be? Is it fair to do that to novels when they don’t end the way we want them to? Fishing Cactus certainly created Epistory with a specific vision, and I’m glad they shared that vision. It also helps that I’m a pretty good typist. Epistory comes with an arcade mode that sees how far you can get before succumbing to the insectoid attack, and I’m pretty such I could’ve held my own against my fellow Typing 101 classmates…provided I wasn’t attacked by the Minmum Fimger Bumger, of course.
Genre: Action adventure
Developer: Fishing Cactus
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Minimum Requirements: OS X v10.9, 4 GB RAM, 1 GB available hard drive space
Availability: Now at Steam