One thing I love about games is when they challenge the norm. The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is one of those games. It takes your standard bullet hell and flips it on its head by taking away any form of real control and has the players type to unleash attacks. What’s more, it’s not shoehorned into the game in order to be “different”.
In the game, you play as the titular Ray Bibbia, a “private exorcist” who stumbles upon some strange happenings within the city of Rome. Turns out there have been a series of possessions (and possible links to human trafficking) which old Ray Bibbia isn’t a fan of. In fact, Ray isn’t really a fan of anything. He’s one of those hard-nosed protagonists who’s mean and insulting but in the end, their heart is good.
The game begins with Ray being stopped by a thug hoping for a handout. He sees that you’re a priest and ripe for the picking, so presses on until Ray just has enough. Here is when you’re introduced to the game’s main mechanic… typing. In order to attack in The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia, you must type out excerpts from the holy book. Once an entire excerpt is complete, your Hollets (holy bullets) strike the enemy and boom.
For the most part, this game is a boss battler. There are no procedurally generated dungeons filled with demons to kill, you simply head to a location, read a bit of dialogue to push along the story, then spring into battle. Once you’ve defeated a boss, you’ll then progress the story along some more, then rinse and repeat. Now that’s pretty much the meat and potatoes of this game, which is absolutely fine, however, the difficulty curve is fairly startling.
When beginning The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia you’re given some fairly basic excerpts to frantically type whilst also trying to dodge incoming projectiles. These contain fairly normal to somewhat advanced English words. The further you progress, the more complex the dialogue in terms of introducing Old English into the mix. Then later in the game, things get completely wild when you’re simply reciting Latin, while also trying to deal with what is an impossible cloud of projectiles hurtling your way.
Adding to this, the movement is solely done with the arrow keys which, after a prolonged play session can leave your hand pretty cramped up. I mean, it’s all WASD nowadays, not arrow keys. Plus, trying to move while also typing out words you’ve never even seen before can become a pretty painful task. Oh, and if you have little to no touch typing skills, you’re going to hate this game.
The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is pretty easy to pick up though as the words needing to be typed are displayed above Ray’s head as well as how far you’ve progressed through that word. However, making a mistake can be detrimental, as one wrong letter knocks off the last letter you typed, so if you’re frantically trying to type the word before another onslaught of projectiles come your way, it can go terribly wrong.
Fortunately, the game does display a good chunk of the excerpt for you to memorize and smash out when there’s a lull in the action. So if you can bash out two or three words at a time, then that’s a bonus. But don’t be fooled, this game becomes deceptively difficult as you progress.
One of the game’s redeeming points is that, despite the mayhem bullet hell nature of the game, death is not inevitable thank’s to the Holy Book (honestly never thought I’d type that). In The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia the Holy Book acts as a sort of damage buffer in that, you can take a hit, and it’ll knock the book out of your hands. You’ll then be required to dodge and weave through the clouds of projectiles to get the book back.
If you’re unlucky enough to get hit for a second time while you’re bookless, then you’ll lose one of your three lives. Not only that, if you take your sweet time getting the book back in your possession, then you’ll lose all of the words you’ve typed so far meaning you’ll have to start that excerpt again.
During the first few battles, this isn’t so punishing as the excerpts are coherent enough to somewhat memorize and smash out while you have a second. However in later battles when you’re typing nothing but Latin, this is when things can get a little tricky and borderline rage inducing. Not to mention that enemies also begin to mess with your words.
At one point, when I first experienced the enemy who slammed into the ground causing words to not only go backward but upside down too. I simply quit out of the game. Not only am I trying to type Latin phrases, but now the whole thing is topsy turvy… No thank you. This game becomes severely punishing the further you progress and to be frank it loses all of its charms.
Admittedly, I’m someone who takes a chance and tries to rush through, and that’s not something that really works well with this game. There’s a lot of biding your time waiting for a window of opportunity to type out a good chunk of words before taking time to avoid the bullet hell. You can even type as you’re avoiding projectiles, which is great, but not something I got on well with. There’s just a lot going on which needs plenty more attention than the actual mechanic which makes this game great.
Visually, The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is a pixelated top-ish-down bullet hell game, and it works really well for the style of game that it is. Movement is fluid and precise, the way each level is designed is simplistic yet functional (though they mostly consist of larger arenas for you to dance around), and the intuitive way you navigate around the game (by typing what you want to do, like “continue” to continue the game “Talk” to talk to someone, etc etc), is really interesting.
If you’re not much of a typist, then there is good news… kind of. The game does support controller input, but the game’s description describes the controller input as more of a rhythm mechanic, however all you do is use the controllers bumpers to press the corresponding letter in the sequence. There’s frankly nothing rhythmic about it, which is a shame as the addition of a rhythm game mechanics would be really interesting. Alas, controller input helps with avoiding bullet hell, but it’s painfully slow to type with.
Overall The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia is a pretty fantastic title which, for those who like games that are a challenge, will absolutely love. I don’t want to compare it to Dark Souls as I think that’s a bit of a cop out when describing hard games, but in some ways, the game is oddly comparable to From Software’s hit series. You wait for the perfect time to strike while avoiding attacks and learning patterns, what’s more, Dark Souls than that?