There’s a degree of classism in requiring technology to hold a job and get an education. I first noticed this years back when my classmates got their classwork highly praised in grade school for having high definition (for 2004) pictures taken from the internet, and it only got worse as I lost about two years of university due to not having regular access to an internet connection, or a laptop in a world weathering a global pandemic.

Outshine

Fishing Cactus
Fishing Cactus, PID Games
PC
2022

Sidequest was provided with a copy of Outshine for PC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is probably a weird way to start a review of a typing game, a niche genre that leaves me starving for content. Yes, I’m that person who has had Typing of the Dead: Overkill on their Steam wishlist, hoping for a discount that hasn’t come in over six years; who beat Epistory several times over; and who has gone as far as to play typing games on their PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Switch by plugging in a USB keyboard.

My love for the genre has led me to keep an eye on what is being done in the space. Great games in the genre have come about in recent times, and from the moment I laid eyes on Outshine, which promised an “arcade, fast paced typing game” per its Steam listing, I hoped it would join the ranks of typing games with the sense of challenge I so greatly enjoy.

A player runs away from the camera. The words "BURL," "HELP," and "STAGNANT" hover along the path. An enemy explodes just in front of the player. Outshine, Fishing Cactus, Plug in Digital, 2022.

Typing games can be divided in two broad genres—those that attempt to teach you to type using fun exercises, often directed at kids or people new to computers (think Disney’s: Mickey’s Typing Adventure and the not-a-real-person Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing), and the ones that I have always liked to personify as brash and aggressive. “So you think you can type well?” They seem to say. “Well, prove it.” This second genre tasks you with writing words and sentences as fast as you can, often unrelated to one another, with the goal to prove that indeed you are a fast typist. These types of typing games inflict consequences if you stumble. Often, they don’t even let you look at the keyboard—by the time you’re doing that you’ve already lost. To have any chance at winning, you have to type by pure instinct, touch typing.

Outshine, however, is far more frantic in its design. While in Typing of the Dead enemies stumble towards you, in Outshine you’re the one running into them. This lane-based gameplay, where obstacles quickly approach, adds an element of freneticism. You have to dodge indestructible obstacles and holes. Some, I’m sure, would complain that this Melody of Memory or Temple-Run-style gameplay deviates from the main point of the game—that in a game about typing, having to dodge adds an unnecessary layer to the gameplay—but I love it.

Something many typing games attempt nowadays—quite unlike Typing of the Dead, a rail-shooter where movement is automatic—is to add some degree of interaction to the gameplay. That way, you’re not just typing mindlessly as things approach you. You also have to dodge and roll around obstacles. And while Outshine does not do it in as interesting a manner The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia, which makes you dodge elaborate bullet patterns straight out a space shooter, you do have to keep an eye on things heading your way and plan accordingly. Do you use your shield to run straight through? Do you use the arrow keys to dodge? All up to you. All this interaction brings yet another element to the frantic nature of the game. Is it worth it to stop the sentence you’re typing midway to dodge an obstacle? If you’re fast enough, you can finish it. But if not, is it worth tanking the hit?

In speed-based typing games, it isn’t enough to type at 100+ words per minute. No. In many other typing games, such as those that are on rails, you have to be aware of everything on screen. In Outshine, my eyes scanned the screen. It felt like I could barely finish an enemy prompt before another showed up in its place. All the while, spikes and pits meant I couldn’t stop. The rapid-fire gameplay is, alongside the haunting story—which left me feeling antsy on its own—one of the elements which makes for such anxiety.

Speed-based typing games are, by their own design, meant as a challenge to the player’s skills. While Mavis Beacon teaches you to type, if you want any hope at succeeding at most “arcade style” typing games, you have to type instinctively. Often you don’t even read the words you’re typing, your fingers moving faster than your brain can process meaning.

A player runs away from the screen on a blue path. A bomb sits directly in front of them. The words "BEEF," "OVEN," and "TELL" are further along the path.

It is a good way to unwind. As an autistic person, when I am already overwhelmed I have difficulty with the anticipation and tense waiting in some games. It’s the reason that, though I love Dino Crisis, I wouldn’t play it blind again. Tensing up, waiting for something to happen, or knowing hours of progress can be lost exhausts me. Having a game where I just go—like Outshine—and have no time to wonder about if I’m going to lose or what if I’m not good enough… it helps.

I love typing games—games where you affect the world (and win) by being the fastest typer. I can manke a direct connection between those sorts of games and my ability to write without looking at a keyboard. I remember teachers being amazed that 12-year-old me could touch type and gaining validation from it… and where did that all start? Typing of the Dead on Dreamcast.

The Dreamcast Keyboard was the first keyboard I learned to use and type on. Though my family had a PC at the time (unable to run anything too intensive, but good enough for Flash games) it was that keyboard and Typing of the Dead that taught me not only how to type fast—because zombies approach you and hurt you if you’re not fast enough—but also where each key was and where to find it. I didn’t speak much English, but I could quickly learn the characters and where they were placed. Later, the game was literally given away with a newspaper which I begged my parents to buy despite not caring at all to read the news, and that only increased my skills.

As much as I enjoy the challenge and frantic rush to try and type before even reading the words, I do not want to give the impression that Outshine isn’t accessible or that it’s a game only experienced typists can enjoy. The truth is that my introduction to typing games with Typing of the Dead was kind of a baptism by fire. I was thrown in the deep end, even at lower difficulties, and forced myself to get better purely through having enough free time as a kid (and a determination to beat it my I rarely find anymore).

In the over 20 years since I first beat Typing of The Dead, things have changed, and making a game accessible to all players, not only those who want to spend weeks grinding against it, has become more valued. Outshine features several difficulty levels, ranging from what they expect the average person familiar with computers—perhaps with an office job—to be able to type per minute to lower word counts for someone new to the genre. There is no implicit judgment, besides the “easy”/”normal”/”hard” difficulty labels, and I can easily see Outshine being a good introduction to the genre.

Typing games are already niche, as I previously mentioned, but how I learned—based on the idea that you’d better type quickly and accurately or you will die—has made it so that many of the recent typing games that came out do not appeal to me. It’s not enough to be a typing game where you have to be quick enough to type without looking—there has to be some stimulation, and I have to feel like I’m close to being overwhelmed. What I want in a typing game is, in essence, an arcade game where I can feel my fingers clenching. A game where my brain hasn’t processed the words (or at least it hasn’t read them) but my hands are already typing them because there’s simply not much time for anything else.

Outshine may start simple, and it may be a game that allows me to relax in the early stages, lulling me into a false sense of security. But ten or fifteen minutes later, when I’m typing for all that I’m worth and I can barely keep up? That’s when I find the most enjoyment.

I have sung the praises of Typing of the Dead for how nostalgic it is to me and how it makes me feel, but with that nostalgia comes a sense of familiarity. The words, sentences or expressions I have to type don’t surprise me anymore with how often I’ve played it. But Outshine got me to doubt myself, to look at my keyboard, and to actually need to make sure of what I was doing. It sits right there with Textorcism as one of the few typing games that I can compare to Typing of the Dead in terms of enjoyment. I cannot recommend it enough.