I'm a real fan of typing games. One of the first games I bothered the TechRaptor editors to let me review was Epistory - Typing Chronicles, a game that combined typing with Zelda-styled adventure. When I originally heard of The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia's promise to combine typing with SHMUP gameplay, I figured that it must be too good to be true. After spending several hours with the game, I realize that it was.
Partially this is the fault of the gameplay itself. The basic idea is really interesting. You'll have to type out sentences to hurt enemies. You can't just stand in one spot though, as they'll fight back with a barrage of attacks. You can use the arrow keys to dodge, and before long you'll have to carefully time your movements so you avoid attacks while getting time to write out words. For the first few bosses, each level consists of some mild investigation work followed by a boss, this works really well. It's a combination that leads to a shocking amount of fun. Trying to reteach myself how to type is a neat challenge that required me to write with one hand while avoiding bullets with the other. Up until the fifth level, this is a fun, if sometimes challenging, game.
It's at this fifth level that The Textorcist changes its tune. The game's difficulty seems to fly up a cliff from "hard, but reasonable" to "nearly impossible". Bullets fill the screen in patterns that are nearly impossible to dodge. The text you're typing changes to Latin rather than English, something that adds to the difficulty. It's not totally impossible, but it sure stops being fun.
By my tenth attempt on the sixth level, I found myself hit with a massive amount of apathy. The lack of any checkpoints only adds to this feeling, as having to repeat content over and over just to get back to where I was, which only made it worse. It's totally baffling, as a few easy ideas could fix this problem. Why can't I upgrade Ray in any way? There's clearly room for more health on the UI, so why can't I add to it? Why not give me more safeguards so I don't lose my spot easily?
It's weird because up until this point there's actually some clever gimmicks displayed in The Textorcist. These could make the bosses interesting without implementing an insane difficulty curve. One boss can barf on you, partially obscuring the words you need to write. Another will shake the screen, flipping those words upside down. These are legitimate challenges that add to the game in fun ways, and provide way more fun than "fill things with more undodgeable bullets." It feels like a massively wasted opportunity.
Maybe I could have powered through it if I didn't run into another massive issue. While playing, The Texorcist has a nasty habit of deleting my saves. On at least two occasions, I sat down to fight a boss only to discover that I had to restart. Simply put, this is unacceptable. Once I can forgive, but I lose any and all motivation to continue beyond that. It doesn't help that the game also seems to have an issue where it wouldn't resize correctly if minimized, cutting off the bottom half of my UI and making some words impossible to see what I needed to type.
Between boss fights and reloading saves you'll have to do a mild bit of footwork to get to where you need to be. Often this doesn't require much more than typing a few key phrases into a computer or examining objects in the environment. Strangely enough, for a game based around correct typing, The Textorcist suffers from a typo problem. Some are minor, like when a character calls Ray "Red" instead. Others are huge. At one point the game tells you to go to "Prenestina Blvd.", but the in-game note system says its "Prenest Blvd." If you didn't write down the first one as a note on your own then you're likely going to come away baffled why the GPS isn't working.
It's all a shame because I honestly really want to like The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia. When it all clicks, it clicks in a really nice way. Sadly, the crazy difficulty spike and the tendency to delete my saves stop me from really enjoying it. My only hope is that a reworking can transform this into a story worth telling. However, for now, the only thing that needs an exorcism here is the .exe file.
TechRaptor conducted our The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.