Edutainment was a trend in games long ago, albeit one that has slid off the radar in recent years. Developers have struggled to find ways to make games that have engaged their audience as well as enabled learning. While the standouts in the field have been particularly memorable, these have been few and far between. Fishing Cactus has recently released their typing-training game, Epistory – Typing Chronicles, to Steam Early Access and so far, it is showing excellent promise.
The game fuses its typing-testing gameplay mechanic with a lovely origami aesthetic. The lush, vibrant environments genuinely look like they’re made of folded paper tiled on top of storybooks, and the main character (as well as the giant fox she rides on) share this look, making them pop out dramatically. To contrast, the foes you encounter are more organic looking, making them feel out of place, as well as making them easy to identify.
You combat these foes, as well as interact with your environment, through typing. When you go into typing mode, you will see words to type in over the objects you can interact with, and by completing the word, you either damage the enemy or use the object. These can vary from clearing obstacles to opening treasure chests, and while it may be a little repetitive, it is still quite functional.
Cleverly, the words are appropriate to the actions being performed or the obstacle in question. Enemies will have you typing words like “FOE” and “ILL”, while treasure chests offer up “TREASURE” or “WEALTH”. Patches of ground where you can sprout flowers for extra experience will offer up names of flowers, and logs to clear use trees. It all works together to keep the game world consistent, and I quite enjoyed it.
There are a variety of difficult enemies and encounters to endure, and the boss (for lack of a better term) fights are surprisingly challenging. Longer words, and needing to input them faster, while prioritizing different enemies to keep them from getting to you, mean that not only will you need to type faster and more concisely, but that you’ll also need to keep your awareness of your surroundings up at all times. Because of these sort of encounters, I can genuinely say I noticed myself typing faster as I played.
The game itself is still in development, and the Early Access version only offers a small portion of the intended final game (roughly a quarter so far – essentially the first four chapters of the game). The story doesn’t really pick up yet in these chapters, though there are elements of it scattered throughout. In a nod to the game’s aesthetic, the narrative is written on the paper environment as you explore.
In addition to the combat and typing, there are also some puzzles to solve, and they serve well enough to keep the typing-based interaction from getting too repetitive. They’re never too difficult, but they do allow the game to explore its mechanics in different ways, and for something so focused on a particular mechanic, that’s a welcome addition.
Epistory looks like a very lovingly-crafted, well-conceived game in progress. It blends its educational gameplay mechanic with a delightful look that makes for a title that is genuinely appealing. It’s a curious title, and one that I think is worth paying attention to. Its aesthetic alone is worth the experience, and if the story can live up to the charm and detail of its art, this could very well reach its high potential.