Typing games and horror have a clear but shallow history. Alongside the multiple incarnations of Mavis Beacon that could be found at turn of the century game stores, the main stand out typing game was Typing of the Dead. Taking the over the top and supremely cheesy nature of the original House of the Dead series and inserting a nifty over the shoulder Dreamcast and keyboard combo backpack was a move that must have been made after at least a few pints or doses of other recreational substances.
Despite the incongruity of the combination, Typing of the Dead worked really well as typing tutors because the threat of brain-munching zombies helps to make speedier and more accurate typing the core of the experience. The Textorcist follows in these footsteps, but is less interested in being a tool to help develop your typing so much as to use typing as a unique approach to bullet hell shooters.
Ray Bibbia is an exorcist who is no longer affiliated with The Church, which in this game is a mixture of Catholicism and Google, being jointly responsible for religious and business aspects. His issues with The Church are hinted at and slowly explained through the surprisingly thoughtful story, unravelling a conspiracy surrounding Ray’s past and leading to an escalating set of demonic opponents to exorcise.
This is effectively a boss rush, though there is some basic exploration and environmental puzzles that lead up to the fights. These take the feel of bullet hell shooters, as screen filling effects and explosions for you to dodge, but unlike normal bullet hells you must try to negotiate these patterns whilst also trying to type the religious phrases of an exorcism. It’s hugely challenging at first, as this combination forces you to use different parts of your brain. There are brief respites from the onslaught where you can quickly rattle off a few phrases, but it is difficult to work through the bosses unless you learn to type and dodge at the same time.
I can’t say that the typing and bullet hell dodging ever really clicked for me – I mostly felt like I was coping at best rather than getting better – but that says more about my tired old brain than the game itself. There is also an alternative control system using a gamepad that maps typing onto the shoulder buttons and transforms the game into more of a rhythm action title but I persevered with the typing as it felt more like the core experience.
This challenge is eased somewhat by the damage system in place. You have three hearts that represent your spiritual health but these only take damage when you are not holding your Bible, a nice gameplay nod to ideas of spiritual protection. Getting hit by any projectile causes you to drop your Bible and forget where you were in the current phrase of typing. If you are able to quickly retrieve the book before getting hit again then no lasting damage is done. This mechanic leads to some fun games of chicken where you frantically try to finish typing before getting hit in seemingly impossible situations.
In many ways, The Textorcist feels like a perfect companion game to the films of John Carpenter or Sam Raimi and demonstrates a welcome affection for the horror genre, particularly its 1980s movies. The first enemy is a nice nod to William Friedkin’s classic The Exorcist adaptation, as you cleanse the possessed maid of a suburban family. The projectile vomit and taunting is reminiscent of this level’s inspiration and sets the mood of the game well. As you progress you explore areas that are influenced by films like The Terminator and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.
The Textorcist makes good use of a relatively simply pixel style to convey its horrors. While there is a lot of brown scenery, the vivid reds and 80s neon signs that punctuate this help to give it a period feel. Characters are nicely designed, monsters and demons have a deliciously kitsch appeal and the various locations are detailed enough to look and feel like living places rather than just scenes for boss battles. All of these levels are then accompanied by a synth soundtrack that screams of the 1980s and background characters straight out of a hair-metal video.
Between levels you research your next step on ‘Godle’ or set your destination on the ‘Romap’ navigation system. These tongue-in-cheek puns set the mood which is far more Repossessed than Exorcist, with many comic riffs on classic horror movies. Of course, it’s mostly just a setting for the typing bullet hell action to take place in.