Standing out in the video game market is a tall order. You can be very good at what you do, only to have your work compared to many others with little difference. One way to be different is to use a different control scheme for your adventure. Some use silly controls like “I am Bread”, but others go for a more nostalgic control like the text only adventures of yore. Fishing Cactus has taken up that torch, and is trying to blend the new and the old with a fantasy setting by making you type your choices in Nanotale –Typing Chronicles.
Typing your way through a game is technically nothing new, in fact it’s a very old way to do things, since hardware of the past literally couldn’t provide more than basic graphics to tell their story. However, now with modern tech the level of immersion is so much higher that the drawback turns into nostalgia, and an interesting way to affect your environment. In Nanotale you play as Rosalind, a young archivist who is starting out and wants to catalogue the wonderful world around her. With your magic power, you can change the environment around you by typing the word above the object you wish to change. This can be as simple as opening a flower, or aggressive as casting fire to your enemies.
The main control scheme of using typing for both exploration and battle is a cool idea. Instead of the twitch reflexes needed for some games, this can be done by many who want a more casual immersive experience of a game. Even outside the game, typing so many words over and over will make you a better typist to be sure, a rare feat for a video game to arm you with a very practical skill. You will find yourself getting better fast because you half to in order to survive your encounters with the various enemies of the world, or even to get around and explore. Beyond the basic attacking of an enemy you have to think outside the box fairly often to get around this puzzle of an environment. Have a root in your way and no fire around? Well you can fix that by making the grass grow in certain areas, then lighting the grass on fire from far away and watch it worm itself toward your impediment. Such is the kind of thinking that is needed for this game and I love that it’s testing not just your typing skills but your intelligence and creativity at the same time.
Since you need to observe your environment so closely to progress, you will notice a few things about it. It’s very colorful, almost too much so, as if it was made for a much younger audience, but since typing is paramount to the game, it’s a bit strange to see here. Simplistic models and bright colors can be fine, but the most annoying part is that you can only zoom in so far. Because of the wide area needed to see words and type, the details get completely lost on any model. Without cut scenes to show us what she looks like Rosalind completely disappears in the background noise of the colorful scene, and that’s the hero of the game. This change is aesthetic is of course subjective, but it’s also a big change for the developers. Their previous game “Epistory-Typing Chronicles” may have lacked a tighter narrative, but had a very interesting paper look to it that helped sell the fantasy better than generic magical creatures does here.
Nanotale is a story that wants to be a game, but it’s tough to have it both ways. While it’s very appreciated that it has a modular difficulty in which it changes the length and choice of words based on your skill level, it does seem to have a limited amount of vocabulary to use and it can seem very repetitive to fight hordes of monsters using the same words. This takes you out of the story, and doesn’t incentivize the character to move forward. The soundtrack is great, the visuals are good enough, the narrative interesting, and the controls fun, but it is just too lacking in polish for a solid game. Further updates may change this but if your very into story driven games, and want to show off your typing skills, then this is your game.