Type:Rider takes you on a wonderful interactive journey through the history of typography, seen through pages in a book and the adventures of two black dots. From the oldest forms of writing in Sumeria and Egypt through to the printing press, the typewriter, and the modern computer, plus everything in between, it’s a comprehensive overview of how the shape, size, and weight of our letters has evolved alongside technological and cultural developments.
Be the Font
You control two nondescript black dots, rolling, bouncing, and jumping about the weird and wonderful typographic landscapes. Type:Rider’s environments are formed from letters, with beautiful painted backgrounds that echo the world in which each font was conceived.
It’s just as beautiful — if not more so — in action.
It feels at times like playing a Saul Bass film. Type:Rider brilliantly interweaves dynamic typography with animation and a bold minimalist aesthetic. The graphic design on show here is breathtaking at times, making you and your two dots both a part of the landscape and apart from it. You fit in, aesthetically, but the dots stand out and draw your eye to whatever they would be looking at (if they had eyes).
Every level captures the vibe and general style of its subject matter.
There are 10 worlds in all, each with four levels (except the last one, which is a special — and bizarre — bonus stage). What begins as something of a guided tour — a mellow wandering — gradually transitions into a challenging platform puzzler, where you run from falling characters and hop across chasms between letters.
As typography becomes more varied and dynamic, so too do Type:Rider’s environments. Hazards pop up all over the place, for both your black dots and the white dot you need to guide through sections of some levels. The game retains a thematic consistency through all this — serif fonts like Times and Garamond present starker, harder-edged worlds than the smooth, undulating sans-serifs.
Enter the perilous world of Baskerville.
But it almost falls apart near the end. I was distraught at an appalling Tetris-inspired platforming section, which shoehorns Type:Rider’s imprecise jumping controls into a challenge that requires exacting timing and technique. Similar issues plague the entire closing stages, putting a bad taste in your mouth that is only cleansed by the ridiculousness of a hidden bonus stage that has you fleeing a lolcat in a comic sans world.
This almost ruined the game for me.
Get Your Learning On
The great thing about Type:Rider is that it not only offers a compelling and unique game, but also a fascinating history book. There are asterisks scattered throughout the game — one for each level — that you need to collect in order to unlock pages in the book. These detail the history of typography in excellent prose, charting the evolution of written language, the changing design of the characters we read and write with, and the stories of a number of key figures in the narrative.
You’ll have to do some reading to get full value out of the experience.
Type:Rider would be worth it for this book alone; the fact that you can also interact visually with the history of typography is all a bonus — and a huge one at that. The game component doesn’t quite match up to the concept or the visual design, but anyone even remotely interested in understanding how we went from cave paintings to Helvetica and Comic Sans should absolutely check it out.