For many years, I have been playing games from LWorks, a company owned by game developer Liam Erven. I never cease to be amused by the clever touches he puts into his games, as well as the quality of his products. A couple of his most popular titles include Judgment Day and Super Egg Hunt Plus. In Judgment Day, you must destroy evil forces before they destroy you. Note that because of its age, this game is no longer supported, but is still available for download. Super Egg Hunt is a game in which you run around a grid collecting eggs. If Mr. McChicken catches you, you get pecked on the head. I hate to admit how addictive I found both games to be, and I might not admit it at all except that, judging by responses on social media, I'm not alone.
As a totally blind and very committed programmer, Erven understands how to make a game that is both playable by a blind person and has a lot of replay value. One of the ways he accomplishes the latter is to include achievements in his games that must be unlocked. Achievements range from simply playing the game on Liam's birthday to beating the high score of one of the game's beta testers. Some of Erven's games are free, while others are paid.
In 2004, Erven released a free game called The Great Toy Robbery. In this game, you take on the role of Naughty McNaughterson who manages to make his way into Santa's workshop and steal toys. In The Great Toy Robbery you are placed on a grid that contains various toys for you to collect. All you need to do is used your four Arrow keys to position yourself on a toy, which is then automatically collected. After you have managed to collect enough toys, security elves begin appearing on the grid, bouncing on pogo sticks and trying to whack you on the head. If you manage to escape the elves for a couple minutes or so, Evil Santa appears. Did you know that Santa was evil? Well, apparently he doesn't take kindly to being robbed which brings out a side of the old gentleman not often talked about in literature. If you manage to escape from the workshop without being stepped on by Santa, you win the game.
Toy sounds include rattles, whirrs, squeaks, and other similarly fun and childlike noises. Every time I play the game, I am struck by the high quality of these and all other sounds in the game. Even the sound of Naughty walking up the path to Santa's workshop in the snow is very authentic-sounding to my ear.
Every message in the game is well thought out, from the explanation of just how naughty Mr. McNaughterson really is to how you won't have a very merry Christmas this year because Santa squashed you.
Just last year, Erven released an update to this free game, which makes it even more enjoyable to play than before. Unlike the original version, version 2.0 has over 100 achievements that can be unlocked. Some of them are obvious--winning an achievement for beating someone's high score, for example?while others just happen based on events that you have no way of planning for. You can also post your score to regional leader boards, and view the scores of other game players. Finally, The Great Toy Robbery is the first game from LWorks to be released on both Windows and Mac.
System and Equipment Requirements
Both the Windows and Mac versions of the game must be downloaded from LWorks. You can't get the Mac version from the App store. If you are playing the Windows version of the game, it is recommended that you use the NVDA screen reader. Erven has provided alternate keys for moving around the grid if you are using JAWS, since that screen reader's keyboard hooks conflict with many games as well as other programs. JAWS users will use letters I and K instead of Up and Down Arrows, and J and L for the Left and Right Arrow keys. I found that the game locked up on me when I used the latest version of JAWS, something that I never experienced when using NVDA. It is possible to play the game without using a screen reader, since most of the game is voiced by Erven and the parts that aren't use one of the text-to-speech engines available in Windows.
In any game like The Great Toy Robbery, a decent pair of earbuds or headphones is a must. You need to move right and left on the grid to center toys in your stereo field. As you approach a toy the sound it makes gets louder. If you bypass a toy, the pitch of the toy's sound becomes lower. It is possible to use two Arrow keys at the same time to move diagonally on the grid.
Setting Up The Great Toy Robbery
In Windows, setup of the game is very straightforward, and includes self-voicing as well as written text. You are alerted to the fact that new updates to the game are available, and you are given the opportunity to visit the LWorks site to download the latest version.
Mac users will be familiar with the process of downloading the game, opening the .dmg file, and moving the game to the applications folder. VoiceOver must be disabled before you can play the game, but you will still hear the text-to-speech on the Mac when your screen reader is unloaded in the same way that you do in Windows. Apart from needing to disable VoiceOver, game play on the Mac is the same as it is in the Windows operating system.
An online user manual is available for The Great Toy Robbery. You can access it from the LWorks site, or the game will open a browser for you and take you to the site. The manual is well written, describing game play and scoring.
Once you have played the game, feel free to post your high score to your regional leader board. You will type in your name and choose your region the first time you play the game. You can also obtain game statistics including your number of wins and losses, which can be exported to a text file.
The Bottom Line
The Great Toy Robbery is a whimsical game that is easy to play, presents some challenges that make the game interesting, and contains a lot of humor. The quality of the game sounds is superb, game play is very intuitive, and a well-written user manual answers any questions you might have. The game is free, and I couldn't even find a donate button anywhere on the LWorks site. Unless I missed it and one does in fact exist, I would encourage the developer to give players an opportunity to toss a few bucks into the virtual bucket to show appreciation for the time and effort that went into this title.
There are other games available on the LWorks site, with more promised in the future. One game that I am especially interested in is Brain Station, a suite of games that promise "Fun and challenging word, logic, and math games." When this game is ready, you can be sure AccessWorld will provide a review.
There is more I could say about The Great Toy Robbery, but if you'll excuse me, I need to go help Naughty McNaughterson plunder Santa's workshop. Happy gaming!
The Great Toy Robbery is a free game from LWorks that is playable on Windows and Mac OS High Sierra or later.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.