That might sound a bit odd, but it’s really the best way to describe Papa Sangre (App Store link), an iPhone game from UK developers Somethin’ Else and Do Tank Studios. It was inspired by the theatre game Sangre Y Patatas, where the players are blindfolded and one is the killer (Sangre) and the others are prey (Patatas). Everyone walks around and when you bump into one another you must identify yourself as either the Sangre or a Patatas. If you hear ‘Sangre’, you’re dead and the winner is the last Patatas standing.
The game takes this idea, mixes it with a bit of Mexican Day of the Dead, and drops you into Papa Sangre’s Palace – a dark world of immersive, fully binaural sound, where you can see nothing and must navigate your way around each of the 25 levels using just your hearing, all to help someone you know who is in grave danger. You walk by tapping the feet on the screen, left, right, left, right, and turn by swiping the top half of the screen. Tap faster to run, but if you mess up the rhythm you could trip up and be easy prey for the beasties that lurk in the darkness.
A disembodied voice guides you through the goal of each level – usually to collect musical notes and open the exit, signified by a jingling sound – and warns you of the monsters within. Some of them are sleeping, and will eat you if you bump into them and wake them up. Others are prowling the room and will rush you if you alert them to your position by stepping on a bone.
You really have to play the game with headphones on to get the full effect the “first ever real-time 3D audio engine implemented on a handheld device”. As you turn yourself around in the game, you can hear the various sounds moving around you, getting louder and quieter depending on how close you are to them. The effect of this is quite unsettling as it really brings your imagination into play, your brain conjuring up images of snarling beasts, dripping saliva from their razor-sharp teeth.
There’s another advantage to having a game based almost entirely on audio – it work just as well for blind players and as such has been fully tested by the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
It’s quite incredible how effective a game can be when one, often overlooked, aspect – the audio – is brought to the center. The splashes as you walk through water, the growling and snoring monsters, bones cracking, knives slashing and the hideous laughter of Papa Sangre himself, all drag you deeper and deeper into the land of the dead.
Watch, or rather, listen to the clip below to get a feel for the game, but I recommend leaving the lights on!
Papa Sangre was kind enough to give GeekDad a freebie code to test out the game.