Available on: Win, Mac
Played on: Win
In Elementary School we went to the computer lab to play Kiki’s Typing Adventures. It was designed for kids to practice typing. It was mostly boring and lame.
Typing games haven’t really broken out of their “edutainment” mold, so I was very skeptical in firing up indie typing adventure Epistory. I’m pleased to report that the Zelda-like RPG uses many successful gameplay designs and a fantastic art style to create something surprisingly memorable – all with just the keyboard.
Origami Girl in an Origami World
You play as an unnamed young woman riding a giant fox in a fantasy world filled with killer insects. The friendly aesthetic feels very Nintendo-like, but the folding paper world is wholly unique. Entire chunks of land, mountains, and rivers of lava unfold and spring to life as you explore dungeons and solve puzzles.
The story takes an obvious page from the Emotional Indie playbook. Hints and teases about the girl and her life are included in the form of excellent narration and journal-like entries. The end result is a tale that’s far more poetic than plot-based, and works quite well with the origami art style.
Structurally it’s The Legend of Zelda made over. The large world contains level-capped gates that guide you along a mostly linear path. Each dungeon has an overall theme – an icy cave, a dead city, a windswept desert. Every other dungeon you’ll gain a new elemental power to bolster your typing abilities. Wind pushes enemies back, while Spark zaps nearby enemies’ words.
Dungeons contain lots of fun puzzles, often involving levers, doors, and panels, and using whichever power you’ve mostly recently acquired. Enemies stay the same, however. Always bugs, spiders, and snakes in varying degrees of size, speed, and frequency. Boss battles are represented by waves of enemy forces that really put your typing skills to the test.
Have Keyboard, Will Travel
Epistory is controlled entirely with the keyboard, from movement to opening chests to defeating enemies. You can even access menu options by typing in the words.
Enemies appear with words over their heads, and typing it defeats them. Later foes appear with multiple words, and in greater frequency. Large slow-moving spiders may contain larger words, while zippy flies will have only a single letter. I especially enjoyed that words often relate to their associated items, like a chest having “Value,” “Genie,” and “Award” affixed to it.
I’m a good typist so most encounters were fairly trivial, even with adaptive difficulty turned on. Adaptive Difficulty ramps up the challenge based on your typing skills. I did have to restart many of the optional boss fights half a dozen times, as waves of enemies anxiously crept closer and closer. A single touch results in a quick reload to frequent checkpoints. Dying is more about trying again than frustration.
Defeating foes and finding treasure chests grant experience, with bigger word chains granting more rewards. Skill points can be spent to make the fox faster, the combo chain longer, or your magical powers stronger. There’s even a fast-travel system I was very thankful for when hunting down hidden chests.
I did run into a number of bugs (game bugs, not enemy bugs!) playing both the press and retail builds. They were mostly tied to achievements, like not properly recognizing word combos or letting me pick up art fragments in one of the dungeons. Annoying but nothing game-breaking, and will hopefully be fixed soon.
At the time of this review Epistory has not yet been rated by the ESRB. The themes and content are completely family-friendly. My 4-year-old delighted in helping type out simple words to make flowers bloom or boulders disappear.
Declaring Epistory: Typing Chronicles as the best typing game I’ve ever played isn’t exactly saying much. It’s a captivating indie RPG that uses all the right tools to create an enjoyable experience. The fact that your typing skills will gradually improve is just a bonus to enjoying a nice story and a beautiful world. If only Kiki had ridden a giant paper fox.