Accessible Gaming: AudioWizards Review
Nonvisual accessibility in gaming has been a popular topic this year. Menu narration is becoming more prevalent in games like Madden NFL 20, Mortal Kombat 11, and Gears of War V, and developers are finally starting to think about how to make games playable by a wider audience.
That said, sometimes you just want a straightforward game that you can pick up for a few minutes and have some fun and maybe challenge yourself. AudioWizards provides just that, and is fully playable by both sighted and blind players.
In AudioWizards, you are an academy student assigned to work with Grandmaster Wizard Saundaman. Together, you are tasked with traveling to various distortion portals to defeat the elemental distortions coming out of them and prevent another invasion. You must use your four elemental spells to defeat various enemies and clear the story. There is also an endless mode which you can use to test your skills and get the highest score you can. AudioWizards is available on both Android and iOS for $4.99.
This blog post will focus mostly on playing the game with audio only, but my colleague Kennedy tried the game from a visual perspective and will give his thoughts later in the post.
When you first start the app, it will detect if you are using VoiceOver or TalkBack and turn on accessibility if so. On Android you will receive a prompt to disable TalkBack as the game is self-voicing. From the main menu you can play the game, listen to music, change options, get version information, or quit. If accessibility mode is on, you can navigate with the standard VoiceOver/TalkBack gestures.
The options menu lets you configure various settings such as music volume, turning visuals or accessibility mode on/off, and accessing the credits. One notable option is the narrow stereo field option. This will make it so the elemental sounds don’t pan as wide in the stereo field, making it easier for people who have some hearing loss.
After selecting to play the game from the main menu, you can choose from story mode, endless mode, or instructions. Going through the instructions is useful if you want a quick overview of the controls, but everything will be explained in the game as well. The game highly recommends you complete story mode before trying endless mode, to avoid spoilers.
The standard gameplay of AudioWizards is fairly straightforward. You will hear an enemy walking toward you from either the left, center, or right. You will know which element it is by the sound it makes. To select an element, swipe up, right, down, or left for fire, water, lightning, or earth, respectively. Fire beats earth, water defeats fire, lightning beats water, and earth beats lightning. After swiping to select an element, you have a few seconds to swipe either left, up, or right to send the spell at the enemy. If you used the correct attack, you will hear a success sound and the enemy will be destroyed. Otherwise, you will hear a failure sound and it will keep coming. If an enemy reaches you, it will attack you and you lose a life. Eventually, you will unlock the super spell which, after charging, lets you cast as much as you want without worrying about elements for a short period of time. If you lose all your lives the game is over. The enemy sounds are generally clear and easily identifiable, and you can turn down the music if you’re having problems hearing the enemies from far away. The only issues I’ve had with gameplay are that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the lightning and fire elementals from very far away as they sound somewhat similar at very low volumes. Also there is no way to quickly cancel a spell if you choose the wrong one, and may only fire it off in a random direction or wait for it to expire naturally.
Story mode begins with four tutorials, introducing each of the enemies and gradually mixing in the others. After the tutorials, there are twenty story levels of the main story. For each level, there will be an intro cut scene, followed by combat, and finally a completion scene. During combat, Saundaman will occasionally comment on the result of an attack. For each level you can get up to three stars. You can replay levels to get stars you may have missed. You are able to skip the intro scene when you replay a level, and skipping the completion scene is coming in another update. At a couple points in story mode you will be introduced to more powerful versions of standard enemies that require more hits or have other abilities. There are also two boss levels, but I’ll let you figure those out on your own.
As of the just released version 1.1 update, there are five new levels where you must listen to Saundaman’s audio logs to figure out where he went. While I haven’t completed all the new levels yet, there is a definite difficulty increase. If you didn’t think regular story mode was difficult enough, brace yourself and prepare to give your fingers a workout.
Overall, the story feels well-paced, and the difficulty ramps up nicely. The two boss levels provide a bit of a difficulty spike, but never in a way that feels cheap or unfair. The voice acting is well done and the writing is mostly lighthearted and family appropriate. The background music does a nice job of setting the tone for the area as well.
Once you beat story mode, you can play endless mode. As this mode suggests, you face an endless wave of enemies, including the two bosses, and try to build up your score. As always, the game ends once you lose all your lives. To make things more interesting, you can unlock and equip one of several wizard’s hats. These will modify the difficulty, provide a score bonus, or have other effects. You get several from beating the story mode, and can unlock more from playing endless mode.
Here’s what Kennedy had to say about playing using the visual mode:
AudioWizards thought of users with all different ranges of vision, even low-vision, which makes this game even more awesome. From the first title screen, to the last boss battle, a person with any amount of vision would be able to play and enjoy AudioWizards! The colors the developers chose to use pop against the dark background, especially the menu items as they are all yellow, orange, or white. In game, seeing and casting spells on enemies does not require much vision at all. The specific directional audio pairs very well with the bright colors of the arrows, spells, and monsters, allowing for smooth, intense battles. Games are most fun when the player doesn’t have to think about how to interact or perform actions within the world they are in. That is what makes AudioWizards so fun. The simple and accessible interface breaks down the barrier that most mobile games build around blind or low-vision users.
I quite like the story mode. Saundaman’s banter is enjoyable, and he perfectly portrays a charming blend of wise teacher and old man lost in his memories. Though he denies it, he is thoroughly obsessed over his tea and will reference it at every possible scenario. The story is primarily told through his dialog with occasional brief appearances from a few other characters. The three stars on each level provide that nice extra goal to strive for. The one minor disappointment is that, other than the completion scene of the final level, there really isn’t a conclusion to the story mode and it almost feels like things are intentionally left vague. We’ll see if the new levels provide more of a wrap to the story once I complete them. Speaking of those new levels, the difficulty spike when starting them is quite large and very pointy. I managed to complete Level 21 with only moderate difficulty, but I got wrecked hard the first couple times I tried Level 22. This will provide a fun challenge as I get up to speed, and while some may struggle with these levels I still feel the difficulty is about where it should be for an epilog of sorts.
As discussed previously, endless mode provides the replay value once story mode is completed. While it’s fun, for someone who is already skilled at gaming, the progression feels a bit slow at times. Most of the enemies before the appearance of the first boss seem to proceed at the same slow pace, or at least with only very small increases in speed. Also, when defeating a boss, there is no real indication that the boss is defeated, unless you remember the boss’s pattern from story mode and how many hits it takes to defeat them. There is just the hit sound then the next enemy comes. As mentioned, the hats are a fun extra. Other than the ones that unlock during story mode, you can unlock several more during endless mode. These are unlocked by various means such as progressing to a certain point or using the super spell a certain number of times. I think endless mode is a lot of fun, but I’d like to see a way to progress it faster. I’ve had games which last almost ten minutes but I still haven’t reached the second boss.
AudioWizards is a fun game which can provide several hours of enjoyment for everyone, regardless of visual acuity. The lighthearted story does a good job of building the world and explaining what you’re doing, with a few plot twists thrown in. The simple controls let nearly anyone pick up the game rather easily, and the difficulty curve makes sure you are unlikely to get overwhelmed. If you are looking for a gift for this holiday season, or just want a fun game that you can pick up and play, I highly recommend giving AudioWizards a look.
Get the Game
- AudioWizards Official Site
- Visit the Developer on YouTube
- Download AudioWizards from the Apple App Store
- Download AudioWizards from Google Play