I've been waiting weeks to write about Type:Rider. I've not been this excited about a mobile game in ages. It's all about learning the most important human achievement in the history of humans achieving things: typography — the art and technique of arranging letters to make language visible. Without it, kjfdflkjhsdflsdjfhsdg.
Having a language people can speak and understand is great, but until the advent of horrible internet videos, most people lacked the means to chatter on endlessly about their cat to large numbers of complete strangers. They could, however, write an essay about their cat and share it on newsgroups or their Geocities page, a feat impossible without typography.
Type:Rider is a playable exploration and celebration of the written and printed word. It's the most amazing way to learn about a very important thing.
You play as a colon, essentially. Two dots, rolling their way through ten stages of typographic history. You begin in prehistoric times, rolling and jumping your explanation of an enumeration through dank caves adorned with the scribblings of our earliest ancestors.
An asterisk appears.* Collecting it unlocks a page of information on early cave paintings.
*asterisks look like this
Next comes cuneiform script. Then Egyptian hieroglyphics. Chinese characters. Each new stage contains an informative asterisk. In each level the background changes to reflect the era.
At first, playing Type:Rider is a simple stroll through the early days of written communication. There's rolling, a little hopping, and the odd switch or two, but it's nothing too complex. It's all about setting the scene — soothing mysterious music and simple gameplay to reflect a simpler time.
The game, as games do, slowly builds in complexity. The next set of stages, covering the rise of Gothic script, sees our dots riding across the surface of heavy, stylized words while children chant in the background. We're still collecting information, but now we're also tasked with picking up letters in alphabetical order. We learn of monks and Johannes Gutenberg and the letterpress. The platforming is more complicated, but not overly so.
By the time we the Didot stages we're rolling across levers to generate wind, riding the currents rising from the woodwinds playing the stages simple, pretty theme.
There are ten typographic worlds to explore here, from those cave paintings to the major font families (yes, Comic Sans is included) to modern day pixel art. By the end of the game you'll feel fulfilled, enlightened and enriched. You won't know more about fonts than you need to. You'll know exactly as much as you should.
Having worked as a graphic designer for the web and a vinyl-cutter for a Fast Signs shop, fonts and typography have played a major role in my life. I've spent ours pouring over font catalogs, trying to match lettering on customer-provided art. Looking back, I think I actually might have loved doing that. Just giving my passion for the content a little context.
The product of European cultural TV channel Arte and French developer Cosmografik, there is certainly learning involved with Type: Rider, but it's presented as a challenge and as a series of collectibles, to confuse those of you who resent such things into enjoying yourselves. That's the power of typography in practice.
Genre: Typographic Platformer
Platform: Android, iOS
Price: $3.64 Android, $2.99 iOS