Game review: Papa Sangre for iOS

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The game industry has had a lot of innovative new ideas in the last decade. Touchscreens, motion sensors, cameras, microphones, plastic guitars, 3D- you name it. With tens of thousands of games on iOS though, it’s easy to think that it’s all been done on that specific hardware. Well, apparently not. Papa Sangre is a game like no other- it relies completely on sound for everything. That’s right, besides controls and the menu there are no graphics in this game. Read on to see why that’s not as stupid as it sounds.

At this point you’re probably thinking that this is something along the lines of a interactive audio book, but Papa Sangre is in fact a adventure game of sorts with a 3D environment. To fully understand how the game works, you first need to know what holophonic audio is. Despite its pure awesomeness, it’s not a recording method used for many things beside being neat little tech demos, but it has been used by some artists to record music. What makes it different from normal recordings is that the microphones are set up exactly as if they were each a human ear. That way the audio will hit the microphones exactly the same way they would hit an ear, which means that when you play back the audio using headphones (important!) it will sound exactly as if you were there. It gives you the ability to pinpoint where audio is coming from in a way that normal recordings simply can’t. One of the most famous demos of this technology is the virtual barber shop, which always freaks out those who are not familiar with holophonic audio.

Papa Sangre uses this technology to provide the gamer with a 3D environment based entirely on sound. The story of the game is quite simple and made to provide a reason (or excuse) for not being able to see: you are in the realm of the dead, where you can’t see. You have to navigate past hazards while connecting notes to “find the light” and finish the level, all to save a loved one. You have three controls; left foot, right foot and a rotating wheel that basically controls which way you’re facing. To move you have to alternately tap the two foot controls, and be careful not to run too fast or you’ll trip and attract attention. Both the notes you’re collecting and “the light” emits sound, so you have to turn around until you can hear the sound in front of you and walk towards it- all while avoiding things trying to kill you.

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Each level is narrated at the beginning and you get a thorough tutorial on how to play the game. The inability to see anything makes the game quite creepy- especially if you close your eyes, and all you can hear is the overly real sounds of monsters breathing down your neck. I mean that quite literally; you can hear the sound of a giant hog breathing down your neck, a sound so real it could make anyone piss their pants.

While the game itself can be a little bit repetitive and might have more appeal as a tech demo/audio experience than an actual game,  it’s hard not to like anything that’s holophonic simply because it all sounds so real.  It’s one of those games where it’s worth the money just to see how different it is from everything else, and I really must give credit to the developers for coming up with the idea and making an working game using audio only.

If you want a few more examples of what this all sounds like, you can check out this interactive AXE commercial or simply watch the Papa Sangre trailer below. If you like what you hear you can get Papa Sangre for $4.99 in the App Store– somewhat expensive, but definitely an experience you’ll remember longer than Need For Speed or Modern Combat. Also note that there isn’t an iPad optimized version, though that hardly matters with this game since it’s all audio and a few buttons.

For more iOS games I want to recommend Touch Arcade, which is also where I found this gem.
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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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