Fontemon is technically a font, but it’s also, somewhat miraculously, a playable miniature Pokémon parody, spotted by software engineer Daniel Feldman. The game, made by Michael Mulet, stretches my understanding of what a font is, but it’s certainly amazing. Also, it’s filled with Minnesota references.
The experience is not as “smooth” as a modern Pokémon game or even the original Game Boy entries, but it is sort of reminiscent of typing on a typewriter, with user interface elements and half-font / half-monsters plopping down on the screen as if they were slammed there by a type bar. The Minnesota elements might feel out of place, but they’re pretty funny overall. You’ll battle your way through Ottowa, Lakeville, and a pair of “Twin Cities” and be treated to instances of Minnesota Nice and hotdish.
The entire structure of Fontemon, which somehow fits in a downloadable font.Image by Michael Mulet
Playing Fontemon is as simple as typing — whether it’s in the game’s webpage or in your own word processor or image editor with a downloadable version of the font. The easiest way to progress through the story is by not trying to type coherently, though. The game will putter along through the usual Pokémon milestones of receiving a starter monster and heading out to your first gym battles with a string of nonsense characters. Just make sure to type the correct letters once you’re in a battle. Of course, if you mess up or lose, you can also just hit backspace to undo your mistake.
Now, I admittedly get lost in the specific technical details of how all of this works, but Mulet has provided a thorough explanation of how it came together on GitHub. As I understand it, Fontemon is built in OpenType, a flexible font format created by Microsoft that can be used and modified for a bunch of different digital settings. Mulet used a method similar to how PDFs produce text and images to create the visuals in Fontemon, and he assigned game logic and character sprites to ligatures (combined font characters that are “printed” as singled glyphs like “æ”) to build out the game and its 43 distinct choices.
It’s a wild creation and a fun diversion for anyone looking to squeeze in an extra hit of pocket monsters. You can try Fontemon for yourself on Mulet’s site, Code Relay.