IPAD ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW: SCI-FI HEROES
I got a request to do another accessible iPad game review! Well, I didn’t think I’d be able to find another iPad game as fun as X-men Arcade (which wasn’t designed for iPad in 1992 anyway.) But, I found a “team-up shooter” called Sci-Fi Heroes! Naturally, I like it! But, here’s why: the format is in almost a Secret of Mana-type, role-playing game style that I like; it seems naturally suited to the touchscreen with a minimum of hassle. Though hassle there is!
The characters are pretty limited to RPG stereotypes, or if you‘ve never played Secret of Mana-type RPGs, the intros will familiarize you. (My apologies if you didn’t grow up with any Square Enix RPGs.) You start off with only a space marine named Sarge, and a Healbot, Nightingale. Really my only complaint about this game is that the characters are limited, and don’t appear to me to have much difference other than what you’d expect from a game with limited sci-fi character classes: marines, techno wizard, healers, sneaky types.
Usually if I’m feeling cheap (Because, why not? Accessibility!), I group the classes (rogue-to-wizard-healer-to-fighter; not so good in boss fights though.) together back to back on the screen so that they can shoot whatever’s coming in whatever direction. So, you just tap for one character to face the back of another character. Though that can be bad for enemies with mind control powers, in which case you’re just asking for one of those guys to turn around and get shot. Or mind controlled, or stabbed, whatever those nasty aliens can cook up.
The main controls are fairly common sense, which is why I like it.You control 4 heroes at a time until you either win a battle or lose it. Since this game is an iPad game, you move by dragging a finger (Not swiping, thank goodness!) from the hero to the destination. Response time is a factor, so it might be a little shaky for some, but to me, there is no “Virtual joystick” so that’s the most common sense use of the iPad format, in terms of accessibility. No pause button, I’m afraid though! And no known way to speed the game down. Also, before you land heroes on a planet, there’s a large amount of menus to go through, which can be perplexing. Equipping the crew, spending money on equipment etc. Each character has skills to use in combat, but the skills are in the upper left, which can distract from the flow of combat; particularly for those with impairments like me.
The game has a sarcastic brand of humor. The character biographies are narrated by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, English/Australian game developer and reviewer of the “Zero Punctuation” game review series. So, Sarge has never been in a war, but is eager to kill things, the Healbot is a depressed maniac: Sarge will say: “Let’s go kill something!” and the Healbot will respond: “Oh, great. I hate you all.” and the rogue is a self-interested Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds type: “Why does the Horde want this planet anyway? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and all, but couldn’t they just move somewhere else?” The banter between the characters really holds the story together, and is another major reason I play it: Click here for Yahtzee’s merciless reviews, which I must warn you, are graphic and contain adult language, but all in wicked fun! http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation
As with most iPad games it seems, one half is the game, and the other half is unlockable content and things the creators want you to buy with real money. For example, more in-game money, or equipment. Some heroes are unlockable if you have the right amount of in-game money. Spending actual money isn’t really required, but it can speed up the game a little if you’re sick of going through levels again to beef up your heroes, which happens a lot, especially in boss fights where you have to move quickly!
Overall, I like the gameplay once you get past all the menus. This finger-drag control mechanism looks to me like how an iPad game should actually play. It is real-time though, so dexterity is once again a minor issue. I have to admit though; were it not for my love of sci-fi, wacky humor, and hero stories, I probably wouldn’t play. I just love blasting away alien Hordes, and the witty banter between the heroes. Any game that lets me shoot aliens seamlessly is a keeper!
Lastly, it’s come to my attention that there accessibility guidelines for videogame developers. I’ll be using these guidelines in the future. The guidelines are quite comprehensive, covering just about every disability from physical impairments to cognitive. So, it should be quite helpful for all disabled gamers. You can see them here: http://www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/ Special thanks to Ian for pointing it out to me! Also, for reviews of games, game systems, control layouts, message boards and disability issues in gaming, check out Ablegamers: http://www.ablegamers.com/forums, thanks again to Ian for the info.
For my ratings, I’ll still just use my own observation of the games. Next, since I’ve reviewed mainly games I like, I’m going to review a game which I think is totally inaccessible…Minecraft! The sad thing is I love Minecraft. But, not on the iPad. Minecraft on the iPad is about as accessible as a staircase. It really showcases the worst of the touchscreen! To my ratings then, for this wacky alien-blaster RPG!
FINAL GRADE: B+
ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: B+ (Complex menus, character stats screens.)
FORGIVENESS FACTOR: B (Can’t always move heroes quickly; see: real-time. Fixed difficulty.)
TOUCHSCREEN CONTROL: A (Drag or tap, not swipe, yes! For most in-game motions.)