Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stranded II (PC+Mac 2007): Game Accessibility Review:

Stranded II (PC+Mac 2007): Game Accessibility Review:

Stranded II is a bit like Minecraft. Except Minecraft lets you build whatever world you want piece by piece. Stranded II appears to be the opposite philosophy. Namely, you have to build what it tells you you can build, and you have no idea what you’re getting as you randomly hit trees or the ground. Every tree you hit, you could get leaves, vines, or branches. There’s no telling what you’ll get whenever you hit a resource…it’s all chance!

    Also, the inventory is ridiculously small. I’ve played this game many times over to see if I could get the hang of it. I eventually did, but I don’t think it made it any more fun to play. The key strategy is to set up structures bit by bit. First, make a hammer by combining 1 branch + 1 stone. Then, click on the hammer and put it in your hand. Right click to build an available structure. Putting the hammer in your hand and clicking repeatedly? You have to do it EVERY time you build something.

Okay, let’s build a shelter: 20 branches, 30 leaves. Since the inventory is ridiculously small, you’re going to hear your character complain: “It’s too heavy!” a lot. So, basically, build the structure piece by piece, meaning once you have the materials, click 50 times (20+30) on the structure, and then, you’ll have it. And that’s the easiest structure to get in the game. Food, water, and fatigue are all measured separately too, rather than Minecraft’s unified hunger meter, so you always have to keep an eye on that.

I respect that the game is based on survival, but does: “Click on this graphically pre-determined structure, while clicking wildly on this tree to see if you can get materials to build the graphically pre-determined structure” sound fun? No, not to me; it’s tedious, and just reminds me I could be playing Minecraft. Minecraft at least let’s me take pride in what I build, because the buildings’ designs are up to me.

And before any Stranded II fans chime in, yes, I built the wood and stone storage. But, I found that, again, the inventory is so small, that I kept having to sacrifice food to carry back logs for the all purpose storage hut. Otherwise, “It’s too heavy!” And I would find that my dropped food would perish after a while, or else I’d just lose track of where I put it.

Now, to make matters worse for non-German speakers, I kept finding bits of the game that were untranslated even in the English version. These were mostly ok. “Alle” means “all” for taking all the materials in front of you. “Eingeborener” means native, as you will sometimes encounter natives. But, there was one German message where, if I didn’t speak German, I’d be toast: “Feuer! Feuer! Ein Gebäude brennt!” In English: “Fire! Fire! A building is burning!” I’d built my shelter too close to my campfire (10 branches+50 stones) and it burnt down.

 Overall, I had some fun with this game. Hunting animals, seeing how long I could survive. But, there are too many random elements in Stranded II, and the building process is way too tedious for my taste when gathering is so difficult to measure and at the same time I have to maintain supplies, and even sometimes avoid lions. Yes, lions. Now, click faster, before they kill you!

I’m posting this to prove a point about disability in gaming. Previously, I lambasted Minecraft for having nearly impossible controls. But, it was still kind of fun to build with, truth be told. But, Stranded II is proof that a game can be perfectly accessible control-wise, and still be bad. Even though most of Stranded II is controlled by simple point-and-click, other problems make the game pointlessly tedious, and the fun dies quickly. Sometimes fun transcends disability issues: If a game’s bad, a game’s bad.


ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: B+ (Point-and-click for nearly all actions; some untranslated words, clicking to build gets tiresome.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: E (Resource management is incredibly critical; limited inventory space makes survival difficult.)

 CONTROL A-:  (Nearly all interactions are point-and-click; controls can be changed in the main menu.)

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