If any of you are like me, your elementary school education likely involved some computer classes where you played games like Oregon Trail or Number Cruncher. You've also likely spent classes learning how to use QWERTY keyboards and touch typing. You likely though that sort of typing education would only be useful for clerical work in an office. But what if I told you that good typing skills would be useful for a CLERICal job? In The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia, your typing skills will be put to the test as you fight against demons from the blackest pits of Hell and put a stop to a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the Roman church!
The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is available on Steam for $14.99. It's currently 15% off ($12.74) until February 21.
story and writing
The game takes place in an alternate universe version of Rome in 199X, where the Holy Church rules the city and demonic possession is something that legitimately happens. Players take the role of the titular private exorcist, a 50-something former priest and certified tough guy who doesn't play by the rules. If he worked at a police precinct, he's the kind of guy who would frequently get called a "loose cannon" by the chief, but he'd be secretly appreciated for being willing to go to extremes other cops wouldn't take. When he takes on a job to help exorcise a girl who in no way resembles Regan from The Exorcist, he gets caught up in a demonic conspiracy that could go all the way to the top of the Holy See. In the process, he'll have to take on gangsters, vegan death metal rockers, and his own sinful past…
The writing in The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is fine, overall. It walks the line between dark and humorous. On one hand, we've got Ray's dark past and big amounts of blood. On the other hand, there's things like a vegan death metal band, not-Regan's hysterical father who has zero indoor voice, and a boss quoting a certain famous line from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night involving Man and miserable piles of secrets (albeit muffled since the speaker is turned away from Ray for sake of drama.) If you're worried about how the game handles religion and Christianity, don't worry. It's not a super focus of the game and is more used to go hand in hand with the game's exorcism mechanic. Though in all honesty, I'd imagine the people who enjoy bullet hell games are more interested in getting to the actual gameplay, especially since this game offers a unique twist to it.
Like I mentioned in my preview for The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia, you should have a pretty basic idea of how the game plays if you've play any of those danmaku (bullet hell) games, like the Touhou games. Each stage pits you against a boss with a multi-segmented life bar on the right. They shoot out ludicrous amounts of bullets at Ray and you have to dodge them by moving Ray around with the arrow keys. The big twist to the game is how you fight back against your foes.
Instead of holding down a button to fire projectiles at them, you have scripture at the bottom of the screen you have to type (not capitalization or spaces,) with the current word you must type floating above Ray's head. Correctly typing letters summons holy bullets, or 'Hollets,' as Ray refers to them, and builds up your combo. Missing letters breaks your combo and moves you back a letter on the word you're on. Complete a whole set of words, and the Hollets fly into Ray's foe, taking out a chunk of their health bar and moving onto the next phase of the battle. Ray's foes aren't just going to sit there and let you preach at them, however. You'll have to switch between churning out letters with two hands and using one hand to move and another to slowly type out letters. In addition, you can only type letters when you're close enough for your foe to hear you.
Ray's Bible is both a weapon and a shield. When Ray is hit, the Bible flies out of his hands and onto the field. If you don't pick it up within a short time period, you'll have to start the current set over again. Meanwhile, being Bibleless makes Ray vulnerable to losing health, represented by the hearts on the rosary in the lower left. This forces players to decide if they want to risk grabbing the Bible back quickly while hoping the I-frames keep Ray safe from damage, or playing it safe and avoiding bullets, risking your progress. Enemies also mix up the fights with special gimmicks. Not-Regan's vomit projectiles can obscure what you have to type, a powerful ground pound may force you to type dyslexic versions of your scripture (not that I really noticed since it was Latin,) and a slightly spoiler-y recurring gimmick has you mashing keys in order to shoot bullets that drains shields later bosses can use.
Overall, this part of the gameplay works really good. The controls feel tight, the typing works well, and the game's got a good difficulty curve. I would like to see an actual 'Retry' option for the pause menu instead of "Quit to main menu Y/N.' If I'm going for a perfect run and I mess up, I'd rather not take the time to commit suicide by demon or sit through cutscenes to try again. However, there were a few nasty soft-lock glitches I saw that need to be fixed (the one during the Matthew fight I mentioned in the preview, and pressing Caps Lock messes up the screen, making it so I can only see the upper-left corner.) I also heard there was one where your Bible can get knocked into an unreachable area during the Coliseum fight. Seems like the game could use an exorcism of its own.
Exploring the city
The other part of the gameplay comes from moving Ray around and investigating the city. This is probably the weakest part of the game. Between boss fights, you'll have to interact with stuff in various places and perform various tasks. I brought this up at the end of my preview but having to type out a whole word to interact with something instead of a single button press gets kind of old. Especially when you have to mess around with multiple different options. It doesn't help when the game requires you to do things in a specific order to progress.
For an example you can see in the game's demo, at Enoch Varg's concert (the vegan metal singer,) Ray has to find a way to get past the audience of exuberant metal heads. My first playthrough I correctly deduced that I'd have to do something with the sound, like the sound guy or the generator connected to his console. Unfortunately, the game didn't let me 'KICK' it. Instead, I had to 'TALK' to every group of metal heads (unsuccessfully) and the bartender before the game allowed me to progress the story by KICKing the generator. This bit of frustration also came up a few more times. The Covenant makes you look for clues implying the place is not so holy (to save you time, check the bookcase behind Mother Superior, the big door to the left, and a small fountain near the entrance) or some tunnels beneath the Coliseum. That area was pretty large, with a second area behind a loading screen/interaction. To move on, I had to solve a math/alternate history puzzle that took me several minutes of roaming around and frustration due to misinterpreting the puzzle's hints. If I signed up for a bullet hell, I don't expect to have to spend several minutes running around dank tunnels triggering event flags and doing math.
On the topic of not playing bullet hell sections, I'd also like a fully dedicated 'Skip' button for cutscenes. The game has one where you hold the Space key, but it only skips the current bit of conversation before someone moves or does some other action. In some cases, it's actually quicker to manually scroll the conversation forward one bit. When I have to exit the game due to a soft lock bug, I don't want to have to spend a couple of minutes going through a cutscene I've already seen.
graphics and audio
The environments in The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia look very nice. The game has got fluid animations and high-quality pixel art designs. Meanwhile, the game boasts a pumping soundtrack inspired by electronic music and metal, creating a high-energy soundtrack that helps pump up the tension of facing down a demon shooting huge waves of bullets.
The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia offers a refreshing take on a long-running genre and manages to deliver it well. Adding typing to the classic bullet hell formula adds a whole new level of tension that will keep players challenged. The story was fine, but I wish it was easier to get through it so I could get back to the action. While it may not be the video game equivalent of The Greatest Story Ever Told, but it certainly provides a new kind of experience for bullet hell fans.
|+ Intense, high-difficulty gameplay||-- …that might be too much for some.|
|+ Unique twist on old genre||-- Several soft lock bugs|
|+ Strong, high-energy soundtrack||-- Exploration sections get old/boring.|