Remember Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing? Wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrenched it out from its stuffy confines of edutainment and wrapped it in a colorful, more “gamey” and fun package?
Turns out, they did, sort of. Typing Karaoke is like a prototype for a Mavis Beacon meets SingStar game, and it’s fantastic — both as an aide to improving your typing skills and as a fun way to pass the time.
Type the Lyrics
Typing Karaoke presents a list of ten popular songs, ranging in style and freshness from the recently-trendy meme generator Call Me Maybe to 90s mega-hit Creep. You click on the one you want, then a bopping cartoon man appears on screen. There’s a meter at the bottom of the screen to indicate how much time you have before the next line. The current and next line of lyrics show up in a black box above this. You need to type as much of that line as possible before time runs out.
There’s no punctuation to worry about — no periods, commas, apostrophes, or capital letters (although spaces need to be typed). You just type the letters and hope you get them all in. There’s an overall score in the top left, with the score multiplier and score for the current line above the text area. Your multiplier increases as you complete each word, then resets at the end of the line. If you do well the game calls you “Rad” or says “Dude!”, then fireworks appear. It’s good at making you feel awesome for typing some words quickly. The background also morphs over time, especially as you succeed.
Watching your striped-shirt-with-suspenders-wearing pixellated avatar is surprisingly hypnotizing. He bops up and down to the beat, never moving his arms or moving from the spot. He stop bopping as you type, though, at which point he stands still and appears to be belting out the tune at the top of his lungs. It’s charmingly simple, although it’s hard to see this style working outside the lo-fi nature of a basic Flash app embedded on a webpage.
The colors are bright and vibrant, in both the menu and the main game. The background undulates with the music, starting as five thick blank horizontal stripes before adding two hills, water, trees, mountains, the sun, and clouds. If you do really well you appear in space, floating above the earth. It’s fun to watch, and the fireworks that accompany these transitions add a strong sense of achievement.
As with games like Guitar Hero and SingStar, the difficulty varies depending on the speed and complexity of the song. Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up is fairly simple, but it takes a real speed demon to get through every line on LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It. You don’t get a chance to recover after a shaky start, unfortunately, since Typing Karaoke only lets you play the first minute or so of each song. The music continues to play in the background, looping endlessly through the entire song, but your typing expedition is over — you have to pick a new song or start again.
It’s not clear why this is. If there are licensing issues, shouldn’t the songs cut out? Whatever the reason, it hurts the experience. Just as you’re getting into the flow of the music and lyrics, it ends. Typing Karaoke feels like a tease for another game — a demo, or prototype, if you will, that shows all the core functionality but isn’t a complete product.
I hope it is just a prototype, and that there will be a full game for Mac or PC or mobile coming later, because this idea is too cool to leave as a silly little Flash web app. I haven’t had this much fun typing since Sega released a quirky House of the Dead spinoff called The Typing of the Dead a decade ago, turning arcade zombie-slaying into a very different kind of test of dexterity and reflexes (which best of all translates into real-world touch typing skills).
At the very least, I’d love to see it expanded to include more songs, more lyrics to type out from each song, and leaderboards for tracking your progress or comparing your speed typing skills with the rest of the world. A difficulty toggle that adds punctuation would be great, too, for people who want to increase or test the accuracy as well as speed of their typing.
These shortcomings hold Typing Karaoke back from reaching its potential, but they don’t keep it from being great. If you have any interest in improving your typing speed or jamming to popular songs with a keyboard, give it a go. It may look and feel like a prototype, but it’s one with an approach to its core subject matter — typing — that all educational and “serious” games should aspire to emulate. And there’s nothing quite like the cognitive dissonance of typing the lyrics to Creep as the song plays with a happy bopping dude and bright sparkling visuals on the screen.