March 2015 Issue  Volume 16  Number 3

Product Evaluations and Guides

Choice of Robots from Choice of Games LLC: A Game Review

Many AccessWorld readers who have used a computer since the 80s and 90s may well recall the first time they were introduced to playing games on their Macs or PCs. Like the sighted community, people who are blind could use their computers not only for work, but to have fun as well.

Although there were a few games written specifically for people who are blind, many in the community turned to text adventure games for enjoyment. These games could be played by everyone, sighted or blind. With a few exceptions, there were no graphics involved, and the only limitations on game play were the simplicity of command structure required by the game engine and the imagination of the player. Simple typed instructions such as "Read the book" and "Examine the door" could open up a whole new world in seconds.

Over time, highly sophisticated games for desktop and mobile platforms drew the sighted community away from text adventure games. Some really creative offerings from companies such as GMA Games allowed the visually impaired community to enjoy a rich world of immersive audio and spatial game play as well. For many, however, the memories of playing text adventure games were never far away. In fact, The BrailleNote from HumanWare added the ability to play text adventure games as one of its many features. As mainstream technology such as the iPhone brought increased access to mobile computing, apps such as Frotz brought text adventure games to a younger audience who had possibly never experienced this type of game play before.

As enjoyable as text adventures are to play, there are challenges, some unique to players with visual impairments and others that affect all players. Since all responses must be typed out, many gamers with visual impairments who are playing on tablets and smartphones use Bluetooth keyboards or voice dictation in order to speed up the process of game play. Also, many games in the text adventure genre include very difficult puzzles--such as a maze that requires the player to draw a map on paper in order to solve it--with one wrong move meaning a player spends several hours only to discover he or she has reached a dead end. Finally, many text adventure games feature very basic plots and characters who merely complete a series of tasks to accomplish a goal. For example, the game character might be lost in a forest and need to complete several puzzles to find his or her way out. More recent text adventure games include more detailed story lines, more advanced sets of commands for carrying out actions, and more fully developed characters that, together, bring the gaming experience closer to that of reading a good novel.

A New Way to Play Games

Over the past three years or so, the California-based company Choice of Games LLC has released a series of text-based games, playable on several platforms including the Web, Android, and iOS, that bring together the simplicity of a multiple-choice exam with the vivid writing of a bestselling novel. As an example of one of the games in the Choice Games lineup, let's take a look at Choice of Robots.

In this game, which includes a 300,000-word storyline, you play the part of a robot designer. The game spans 30 years of your life. Will you design robots that take over the world? Will they be killing machines or gentle creations? Will you engage in romantic relationships with humans, or robots? Will you obey the law or break it? There are a myriad of choices to be made, making the game very re-playable.

Playing Choice of Robots

Because this game is text-based, any screen reader should be able to handle the Web-based version with no problems at all. The Android version of the game was not tested for this review, but the iOS app was tested with no significant issues encountered. While new content is not read automatically either on the Web or when using the iOS app, it is quite easy to read the text of the game, make choices using a series of radio buttons, and move to the next screen in order to continue playing the game.

Using an iPhone 6 running iOS 8, VoiceOver reads the first line of text on each screen. A two-finger swipe down reads the contents of the screen. The first radio button in any series of choices is checked by default. VoiceOver reads each radio button as "one of one" even if there are three or four choices available. The "Next" button can be quickly reached with a four-finger tap at the bottom of the screen.

As you progress through the game using the iOS app, you will find a button labeled "Home Back" at the top of the screen. Activating this button will allow you to continue playing the game from your last saved location, restart the game from the beginning, read the game credits, learn about more games offered by the company, read the Choice of Games blog, subscribe to a newsletter in order to learn about new titles, and finally, share game information with your friends on social media. You can rate the game in the app store from the "Share" option as well.

Decisions, Decisions

Many games, both in the text adventure genre and otherwise, largely plan out the course of events that will take place. It is up to the skill of the player to accomplish certain tasks and thereby complete the various missions or levels of the game. In Choice of Robots, you have a great deal of control over how the story unfolds. Detailed descriptions of people, places, and events within the game give it the feel of a really good book. Because characters in the game are so well developed, there are times when you might actually take quite a bit of time deciding how you want to proceed. Do you really want to attack a police officer? Do you want to have a relationship with a person of the opposite sex or the same sex? Do you wish to play the game as the person you really are, or do you want to take on a dramatically different persona? As in real life, the decisions of others alter how your life will unfold as you move through the story. The command structure of the game makes it possible to move rapidly through the various chapters of game play, while the rich detail of the game makes it possible to do more than simply choose options without giving them any real thought.

Wrapping Up

At the time of this writing, there are over 30 titles listed on the Choice of Games website. There is also a game engine that allows users to write their own games, and the site hosts several "user-made games." The website also states that the company is looking for writers, as well.

The keywords "choice games" on the app store will yield many results. Be sure to download the game offerings with Choice of Games, LLC beside the title. Some of the games are free with in-app purchases, while others are either $2.99 or $4.99 each. The first two chapters of each game can be played from the website at no cost, with a purchase required before the story can be completed.

If you are looking to recapture the fun of playing a text-based game, or if you have never played such a game before, Choice of Games may be just what you are looking for. Give Choice of Robots a try--you will most certainly enjoy the game, and you may be surprised at what you learn about yourself in the process.

Product: Choice of Robots
Developer: Choice of Games, LLC
Platforms: Online, Steam, iOS, Android, and Kindle
Price: $4.99 (Play the first two chapters free online.)

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