Today’s game is a rather short and simple one, but it’s one which you may find yourself going back to frequently, if only for a few minutes at a time. Secret of Qwerty, by Cannibal Cat Software, is a miniature RPG where the protagonist must defeat his foes through the power of typing. Yes, this is the RPG equivalent of The Typing of the Dead and it works surprisingly well.
The combat screen in Secret of Qwerty may look like something out of an old turn-based RPG, but there is nothing slow about the gameplay. There are no turns involved and selecting an enemy to attack is simply a matter of typing the first letter of the word underneath it. The border around an enemy’s word will start to flash red a few seconds before it attacks and successfully typing out its word will both cause damage and cancel its attack. While you want to type as quickly as possible in order to defeat enemies and prevent damage, typos are harshly punished as they will cause an enemy’s border to begin flashing if it is not already doing so and will cause an enemy with a flashing border to immediate launch its attack. Battles against groups of enemies become particularly hectic taking too long to type out a word against one target can easily lead to taking hits from other opponents; paying attention to just which enemies are getting ready to attack is just as important as fast and accurate spelling.
Even though Secret of Qwerty has the trappings of an RPG, and many typical mechanics of the genre are present, this is far from an epic quest. With the exception of the small starting castle, the world consists of a small town, four single-screen dungeons, a ‘world map’ which takes less than ten seconds to travel across, and the final boss’s single-screen castle. The few NPC’s living in this world don’t have much to say and what they do say is usually made to resemble the Engrish commonly found in many NES games. The entire game can be finished in well under an hour, especially if you’re particularly good at typing, and the writing is neither interesting nor particularly amusing, but one area where RPG elements do come into play is in terms of stats and equipment.
Leveling up only gives a single additional point of HP and MP and mainly serves as a way to get a full heal on the way to a boss. However, there are several items to buy in the shop which grant passive stat boosts as well as consumables which can be used mid-fight to heal or to get a large stat boost for a few seconds and even an automatic revival item which you can carry multiple copies of if you have the gold for it. More importantly, you get to choose between two items after killing a boss and these decisions have a large impact upon the experience since these items include relics such as a grail which restores ten HP upon defeating an enemy and a battle axe which gives a significant damage boost.
Secret of Qwerty has a few neat things going for it beyond its novelty factor. Enemies deal large amounts of damage, several bosses are even capable of killing the protagonist in a single hit, but this is balanced out by having a very brief grace period in which you can use a healing item to regain some HP before getting a Game Over. Getting a Game Over is in and of itself also only an exceptionally minor penalty as it merely sets the protagonist back to the start of whichever screen he’s in with all of his gold and experience intact. In addition to the consumable items, you also have four magic spells to cast in combat, including a healing spell, a spell to freeze a non-boss enemy for a few seconds, and both a single target spell and a multi-target spell which interrupt enemy attacks and take off half the remaining health on normal enemies. There’s also a New Game+ mode which can be accessed by defeating an optional boss which makes enemies stronger while letting you carry over all of the stat boosts and other benefits you have passively gained from your equipment. A ‘Timeless Challenge’ also exists where players can fight against a seemingly-endless stream of opponents in an attempt to survive for as long as possible.
For all its good points, Secret of Qwerty has one major flaw – it lacks variety. Not including bosses, there seem to be all of four enemy types in the entire game and there is no real difference between them beyond their health and attack power. More importantly, there aren’t anywhere near enough words in the game. Though I do not know the exact count, enemies and bosses do not have words unique to themselves and instead pull from one of the two ‘normal’ and ‘hard’ word lists. Furthermore, though I do not know the exact number of words in the game, the total seems to be no more than a few dozen different words and it is common to see the same word multiple times in some of the longer fights. Sometimes the first letter of a word is capitalized to mix things up, but this is far from a worthwhile substitute for a more substantial word bank and the poor amount of variation results in Secret of Qwerty growing stale after playing for more than a few minutes at a time.
The painfully small number of words you can encounter in battle prevents Secret of Qwerty from being one of the stronger recommendations on Indie Overlook, but it has enough creativity behind its concept and enough polish in other places that it is still fun in short bursts and worth checking out for anyone looking for a unique fusion of mechanics.