The straightforwardly titled Baroque Typing debuted in 2002, several years after both the Saturn and PlayStation releases of Baroque as well as the later Baroque Syndrome adventure. My strongest thought before playing this type ’em up for myself was mostly “What on Earth possessed them?“. Of all the spinoffs that could naturally arise from the dark and decaying world of Baroque, why waste a single second even thinking about creating a typing game of all things?
Well, considering Sting saw no issue in releasing Baroque Darts for Japanese phones, they clearly didn’t feel as restrictively protective about their setting as I did—and thank goodness for that because Baroque Typing is not just a good game, it’s a good Baroque game too. The alluring undercurrent of surreal fragmented darkness that helped make the original so unforgettable is as strong here as it is anywhere else, and the actual typing feels as memorably stressful as any dive through the original game’s ever changing Neuro Tower.
Baroque Typing’s unique atmosphere starts to work its magic before its players go anywhere near a keyboard, a double click of the .exe bringing up not the title screen but your very own cartoonish archangel ready to hang around your desktop. They can be left idle if you wish as an odd sort of companion to poke every now and then for the time, date, or experience various features including having your fortune read, participating in special short (and inevitably passive-aggressive) conversations, as well as the enjoyable ability to “attack” them with their own text box. Once you’ve had enough of that you can right click on them to bring up a proper menu able to take you straight to the main typing game or access several settings and features.
The story mode focuses on a selection of significant characters in a set order, with the lines to be typed away based on their thoughts, personalities, and circumstances. As in regular Baroque these lines come across as disorganised fragments of one person’s truth, and their concerns were interesting enough that sometimes I’d lose a game because I got too caught up in what was being said instead of concentrating on clearing the text off the screen. It’s surprisingly haunting to see the silent protagonist say (or rather, think) “Brother“, “Trembling” over and over again, or briefly offer more coherent thoughts such as “Why?” followed by “We…” and then “…can’t live together…“, or the archangel asking “Does it hurt?” as they coldly stare straight out of the screen.
These stages aren’t cleared by surviving for a set period of time or clearing a fixed number of lines but by reaching a particular “level”, with score standing in for the usual battle-won XP. Speed and accuracy definitely help but the big points are awarded for clearing several lines in a row, usually achieved by quickly typing up a word/phrase that has multiple repeats currently on screen, or using items (words briefly surrounded by a coloured box) to destroy other unrelated visible lines. Holding down the space key speeds things up, scores additional points, and makes it more likely you’ll have more of the same phrase on screen at once but it’s a risky strategy that must be used with care, as the instant the screen’s full you only have a second or two to clear a line to make space for a new one before you lose the whole match.
The good news is you don’t have to clear out words in the order they appear. If the screen’s filling up fast you can clear off a few short phrases to quickly make some room, and save those trickier phrases for when it’s relatively quiet. If an ideal combo presents itself while you’re halfway through a different line a quick tap of the Enter key will clear any half-typed text, freeing you up for any new word/phrase on the screen—although you’ll have to be quick to make up for the lost time.
And you can plan for these situations to a certain extent, as there are definite structures to each level: sudden rushes of a particular word, planned lulls to help you catch your breath (or create a false sense of security), lengthy onslaughts designed to make you panic and wear out your fingers. With a little practice it’s possible to have a rough idea of what’s coming up (although there are some variations to each routine), and be able to broadly judge how far into a stage you are by the terms that are currently popping up.
On the practical side of things Baroque Typing allows you to select any compatible font on your PC from a simple toggle in the options menu, as well as whether the ruby above each line is displayed (and cleared with) romaji—English letters—or kana. The game is pretty flexible with romaji entry: “shi” and “si” are both acceptable ways of clearing a し for example, and in any other case where there are multiple valid ways of typing something out the game generally accepts whatever you input, even if that doesn’t match the currently displayed text (at first—the game auto-switches to display whichever valid alternative you typed last). There is unfortunately no difficulty selection, so if you’re stuck on a particular round—as I currently am with the damned first archangel encounter—then your only option is to practise until you get it right or go have a little cry for a bit. Infinite continues do make things a little easier, but not enough to guarantee a win.
Outside of the story there’s also a Vs CPU mode to play for high scores, allowing you to replay any story stage already cleared. More sociable typists were able to join online lobbies and compete against other Baroque Typing players, although I think I’m a few decades too late to experience that particular mode—and to be honest looking at the state of my typing I’d probably lose anyway.
Baroque Typing is better written and more worthwhile than a forgotten typing game based on a niche survival horror roguelite dungeon crawler created for a different format has any right to be. What we have here is something precious—we’ve got more Baroque, more of that fascinating world, without this new peek ever coming close to breaking the delicate web of semi-explained intrigue that made it all so appealing in the first place. Nothing is explained or elaborated on, nothing is spoiled by this game’s existence—what more could anyone ask for?