Review by Walker Boh Ohmsford
Reviewed: 08/28/06 | Updated: 09/09/08
It's not a game designed for the blind, but it's a step in the right direction, and about time!
I first heard about this game thanks to a web site devoted to blind and visually impaired computer and video gamers. Yes folks, we are out there. Anyway, there was a great deal of hype about the game because its main focus was to be its audio. Apparently the Japanese have quite a few such games. And of course a game solely or at least primarily based on audio feedback is right up every current and would-be blind gamer's alley. Unfortunately the game wasn't and stil hasn't been released in the US. Curious, I imported a copy not long after I heard about it.
The game actually consists of seven minigames, each consisting of several different levels which get harder and more enjoyable as you progress. The trick is that when you slip the Soundvoyager cart into your GBA for the first time, you only have access to one level of one game, that being Sound Catcher. Once you complete that level you have a choice between two different games to unlock, and you get the first level of whichever one you choose. You just keep going in that fashion, completing each new level and then selecting whichever one you want to unlock. Here's a breakdown of the games, at least all the ones I know of.
Sound Catcher is the first game you have access to. Your goal is to, yep, you guessed it, catch sounds. In my initial review of this game I realized I got a few things wrong, so I'll take this opportunity to clarify. When you start a level of Sound Catcher you'll hear a sound in your headphones, which grows louder as it moves down the screen. Your goal, which you accomplish using Left and Right, is to center said sound in your stereo field. Once you've done that you just wait for it to come to you. No use of the A or B buttons as I initially thought. If you're centered properly you'll catch the sound, which will then become background for the rest of the level. If you miss the sound it'll disappear and be replaced by a new one, but all sounds in a level fit together. In essence what you're doing is creating a musical track, but in an unusual way. And a lot of them are pretty catchy.
Sound Drive takes a different tack. Here, you use the arrow keys to move and the A button to accelerate. Here, your goal is to avoid various different sounds depending on your level. The first one has cars, the next one cows, horses and sheep, while another has various people who'll give you a nice Karate kick if they catch you. And let me tell you, it's not an easy game, and the time limit only adds to the challenge.
Sound Slalom is a similar game to Sound Drive, except here your goal is to maneuver between a series of audio pillars. This one can also be tricky since you have to use the accellerator, which not only speeds you up but makes the timer count down more quickly as well. To explain further, you start in an area with two audio pillars, so to speak. Your goal is to move yourself so that the sound of one pillar is in one ear and the sound of the other is in the other ear. If you do it right you'll pass between them and the music will change slightly. You have a series of these doorways, so to speak, in each level.
Sound Chase is probably the most similar in gameplay to Sound Drive. You have to avoid cars just like in Drive, but now you're chasing a sound as well. I've unlocked three levels, one where the sound is a piano, the other a violin and the third what I suspect to be a series of small woodwind instruments. And again, this game is timed. In fact all but Sound Catcher seem to be timed.
Sound Picker is a similar story to Sound Catcher. The difference is that rather than having sounds falling past your ears, you have a series of sounds and your goal is to catch them, but you have more freedom about the order you choose to catch them in, hence the name. The difference is that this game, like most of the others, is timed, and again you must use the accelerator to make catching the sounds a little easier. It's by no means a cakewalk but it's doable.
Sound Cannon is just what its name implies. Sounds will play in your headphones, and your goal is to center them and shoot them with your cannon. Like most of the games it's also timed. I've managed to unlock two levels of Cannon so far.
The final game in the set is like Sound Catcher in that your goal is to catch something. In this case it's a rooster, which will run around the screen making noises. Your goal is to catch it.
This is a game that sparked a great deal of excitement in the blind gaming community, which has been all but ignored by the mainstream gaming industry since computer and video games became popular. Despite not having spoken menus as it would probably have had it been designed with the blind in mind, it's still an extremely accessible title. I've had hours of fun with it since I got it two years ago and just recently thought I'd get it out again.
Gameplay is simple. You use the arrow keys and, in some cases, the A button to play the games. Easy to learn but not so easy to master as you'll discover.
Audio is topnotch as far as I'm concerned. Each game and each level within it has its own audio theme. I laughed at some of the themes in Sound Catcher in particular, which can get down right bizarre on some levels. One of them even features goats as I recall. The sound effects are impressive as well, from the little cars in Sound Drive and Sound Chase, to the footsteps of the people in Sound Drive. They're all quite impressive.
Storyline is pretty much nonexistent, but it doesn't need one. Like the music of Jean Michel Jarre, Soundvoyager will be an intense, almost physical journey into unimaginable places if you open your mind, so to speak. True many people may be turned away from it by the fact that it features few graphics and those don't remain onscreen for long, but to everyone else it should be just as enjoyable as any other game.
Overall 10-10. If you haven't already played this game I urge you to try it. True you may have to import it since it hasn't been released in the US and shows nno sign of being so, but it was well worth it as far as I was concerned. You might just ejoy it as much as I did.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: bit Generations: Soundvoyager (JP, 07/27/06)
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