Audio Game Review: A Blind Legend from DOWiNO and France Culture
Originaly published on: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw170308
There is nothing that many gamers who are blind enjoy more than an audio game that offers a totally immersive experience. In 2015, the blind community was introduced to just such a game. A Blind Legend is an audio game that was coproduced by the French company DOWiNO and France Culture, a Radio France station. A crowdfunding campaign on ULULE, along with several sponsorships, helped pay for the cost of the game’s production. While the game was not produced specifically for the blind, DOWiNO hopes that it will raise awareness of blindness within the sighted community. While A Blind Legend is certainly not the only audio game produced without accompanying visual features, the use of binaural audio sets the bar very high when it comes to audio game production.
I recently took A Blind Legend for a spin using an iPhone 6.
Getting Up and Running with A Blind Legend
In A Blind Legend, you play the part of Edward Blake, a legendary blind knight who lives in the days of chivalry. Your wife has been kidnapped, and you must seek help to rescue her. Your daughter, Louise, accompanies you as you fight your way through various perilous situations on your way to completing your mission. The game uses a combination of text-to-speech and human audio to move the story along and give the player instructions on how to move through the game. I never needed to turn off VoiceOver during game play. It simply moved out of the way when it wasn’t needed.
I obtained the free game from the app store in the traditional way. At first launch, the game installs components, the progress of which is announced verbally along with–more interestingly–a heartbeat sound that continued until the game was completely loaded. Throughout the game, this heartbeat can be heard during fight scenes to let you know when your character’s health is weakening.
How to Play A Blind Legend
A Blind Legend is set in a world full of rich audio experiences. Headphones or earbuds are a must when playing this game, as you need to be able to move around the stereo field. The voice acting is quite good. Your character’s daughter, Louise, will lead you through the game, giving you needed information about your surroundings, and in which direction you need to go. It is possible to have Louise repeat instructions at any time. The sound effects in the game are quite good, and there are some striking details sprinkled throughout. For example, your character has a shield that he can use to protect himself and Louise from attackers and objects such as falling rocks. When I performed the pinch gesture to activate the shield during a falling rocks scene, I was surprised to note that the sound of the audio changed in my earbuds. It sounded like everything was happening under water. The muffled effect lasted as long as my shield was activated, and stopped as soon as I released the pinch gesture to put the shield away.
The game uses a text-to-speech voice to give information to the player about how to successfully issue game commands, and keeps the human voice actors in the story at all times. I found this to be a nice touch.
The method for moving around in the game is quite unique. In order to move forward, you drag a finger forward on the screen. In order to move faster, you move you finger farther forward and hold it in place. Lifting your finger from the screen stops the character’s movement. Flicking right or left on the screen rotates the character; dragging and holding your finger right or left turns the character in a complete circle.
During fight scenes, Sir Edward has a sword. In order to attack an opponent, you need to quickly swipe upward on the screen. Timing is everything when fighting, and I found these scenes to be quite challenging.
It is easy to get killed during the playing of this game, and fortunately several lives are available when game play starts. Lives are restored after several minutes, so it is possible to walk away from the game after you have used up all your lives and return later when they have been replenished.
Finally, it was easy to save my place in the game, and return to the desired spot when I resumed game play later.
My Thoughts On Playing A Blind Legend
After acquiring A Blind Legend from the app store, I was impressed with the amount of information provided during the installation of game components. I found the tutorial that starts A Blind Legend to be quite helpful, and I was pleased with the amount of help provided throughout the game.
A Blind Legend was originally written in French, and the English translation of some of the game’s instructions is quite odd in places. In particular, the player is told to pinch the screen in order to activate the shield. To stop using the shield, the player is told to “discard your fingers from the screen.” I only noticed these oddities in a few places, however.
Players are warned that there is some profanity in this game, and that is definitely the case, although I didn’t find a lot of it.
There were a few times when I was unable to register taps when attempting to select menu items using my iPhone 6. I needed to unload the game from App Switcher and reload it in order to get things working again. I found it impossible to work through one particular fight scene in the game, and I was never able to progress from that point. I was left wondering if I was doing something wrong, or if my actions were not being properly registered in that part of the game. I may never know the answer to that one.
It is possible to purchase additional lives in the game, but herein lies another particularly glaring issue. When activating the area of the game where I could buy more lives, I was greeted with a message stating: “If you are blind, ask someone to help you.” Perhaps this was just a particularly awkward French to English translation, but it probably needs reworking, especially considering the fact that the game developers are striving to raise the awareness of the needs of people who are blind. I am told that it is actually possible to purchase more lives without assistance, although I did not try this myself.
The Bottom Line
A Blind Legend is an audio game for iOS and Android platforms that features an interesting plot, high-quality audio and voice acting, and a well-designed user interface. There are some areas of the game that need work, most notably the awkward translations from French to English. Also, I experienced a few times when I wasn’t able to select menu items properly in the game, and was forced to restart before I could continue on.
Overall, I very much enjoyed playing A Blind Legend, and I would recommend that anyone who is interested should download the game and give it a try.
There is a rather lengthy AppleVis forum thread devoted to A Blind Legend, and one of the programmers of the game has joined the discussion.
A Blind Legend is available from:
Operating System: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases