Games that I can play over Skype with my blind friend?
September 27, 2012 9:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for video games that I could read aloud and describe as I play so that one of my friends who is blind could participate. We would be doing this over Skype. Ideally, we'd like games with multiple choices and decisions that affect the gameplay or story, less linear games and fairly complicated gameplay. We wouldn't want anything in real time, anything that requires coordination or games where the visuals are essential.

Games we've tried so far:
King of Dragon Pass -- As it's essentially all text and multiple choices, it works well. (But we've both played it to death at this point.)
Dwarf Fortress -- In this case we kind of learned how to create a fortress together, which was fun, but the high learning curve and hard-to-understand graphics made it frustrating.
Final Fantasy VI -- I thought a JRPG might be fun if I walked around and he helped direct the fighting, where to go next and so on, but I think FFVI was too linear feeling - it felt like I was just narrating as I played, without there being many points where he could participate.
Fire Emblem 7 -- It worked to some extent but we didn't really pursue it past the first couple of levels, I don't think it would have worked at all once the battlefields got bigger.

I'm open to SNES games, GBA or DS games, iOS games or games that can be played on the Mac.

I was wondering if the Phoenix Wright series might work? I know next to nothing about them, but I have the impression that they're visual novel-style puzzle games, which sounds promising.

Thanks for any suggestions you can come up with!
posted by shirobara to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry if this is obvious, but what about text-based games and interactive fiction (assuming you don't mind that much reading aloud)? You could start with the ones here as they run in a browser and you wouldn't have to do much work to get them running and learn how to play them together (if you have no experience).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:07 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Old adventure games.

SCUMM engine games or old Sierra adventure games. Lots of fond memories of friends watching over shoulders while someone played - everyone offering suggestions and stuff. Earliest games also had great text description to supplement the (comparatively) rudimentary graphics.
posted by porpoise at 10:22 PM on September 27, 2012

Best answer: I have a visual disorder but am not blind. I can't see 3D at all so a lot of the newer games (and the entire 3DS platform, sigh) are totally inaccessible. I really like the multiple-choice puzzle style, reading intensive games you describe in your question.

I really like my DS, but I thought the Phoenix Wright games were kind of boring and silly, to be honest. I had really high expectations for them, though, and they might be worth a shot because I think they fulfill your criteria. If you want novelistic puzzle-style games, you might consider the Professor Layton series. They're whimsical and fun without being too juvenile. I've only played the first one but I assume that they're all similar.

I also really enjoyed Hotel Dusk: Room 215. It's a choose-your-own adventure style puzzle adventure game. For what it's worth, many of the negative reviews claim that it's too reading intensive, so it may be a good candidate.

Trace Memory might be good too. It's another puzzle adventure game.

If you decide to go text-based, check out TempusMUD.

What about some of the old MECC games? I was always partial to Amazon Trail myself but liked playing all of them. They might be too "real time" for your needs though.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:39 PM on September 27, 2012

Best answer: Planescape: Torment is apparently one of the best computer rpgs of ever, and it's dialogue and story heavy. You can play as a mage and deal with more decision making and riddle solving than fighting.
posted by Hawk V at 10:39 PM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Katawa Shoujo is a dating game available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's in English, and basically presents static pictures with lots of text to read. Occasionally you're offered a choice with two or three branches, and what happens next is a function of which choice you make.

It can be downloaded for free.

The name, in Japanese, means "Crippled Girls". The idea is that the protagonist, a high school boy, nearly dies from a heart attack. Once he gets out of the hospital, he is assigned to a new high school for people who are "not perfect". And there he meets several girls. One of them is missing her legs from the knees down. One of them doesn't have any arms. One of them is deaf. One is blind. One has terrible burns on her face. The game is about getting to know, and eventually to fall in love, with one of the girls, possibly a different girl each time you play, if you make the right decisions early on.

There's a Wikipedia article about it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:51 PM on September 27, 2012

Would old solo RPG game books work? They're not just choose-your-own-adventure novels, but rather CYOA novels with game mechanics grafted onto them. There are some Tunnels & Trolls adventures here, some Lone Wolf books here, and you should be able to find old Fighting Fantasy game books pretty easily, but there are some amateur FF books here. Oh, and if you're willing to learn an RPG a bit more complex than any of the foregoing, there are four GURPS Conan adventures available for download at a nominal cost. The GURPS Lite rules might be enough to handle them, but I'm not sure.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:02 PM on September 27, 2012

Best answer: Has your friend played Papa Sangre for iOS? It's a great game with no visuals whatsoever.

About half the gameplay in Phoenix Wright is pixel-hunting for clues, so those parts might get boring, but otherwise it is a bit like a visual novel.

Maybe Scribblenauts? It's visual, but very easy to describe, and the gameplay is mostly coming up with the right word combinations.

I don't think there are plans for a Mac version, but maybe if you have Parallels you could try Mass Effect 3. It's very story heavy, well told, and has a difficulty mode where you don't have to fight any of the battles.
posted by Sibrax at 11:26 PM on September 27, 2012

Classic (although there are new ones every year!) text adventures/interactive fiction, as mentioned, or "Choice of Games" online CYOA are another option. Some of the newer IF games have more visuals, and some old ones used to come packaged with objects, but there's a lot out there.

I'd feel remiss not to mention that 'Get Lamp', the documentary on text adventures, has several interesting interviews with blind players.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:33 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Scribblenauts.

I have no idea how well this will translate, but a recent indie puzzle game Blinding Silence features a blind guy as protagonist: the screen is blank until you hit something, which makes a sound that you can use as radar (and 'lights up' the screen for a sighted player: I don't know if it's designed to be playable just with sound).
posted by jacalata at 11:51 PM on September 27, 2012

Starship Titanic was pretty fun. Adventure game by Douglas Adams with easy to describe visuals, and a large amount of good voice acting and dialog puzzles. He also did Bureaucracy, which was fun in a very frustrating way.
posted by Garm at 12:06 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: Maybe the Dragon Age games? Both allow a pretty high level of choice in story and character development. While the overall plots of both games are fairly linear you can approach a lot of the individual quests in varying ways. The first game is fully voice acted except for your player character's dialogue, while the second game is fully voice acted (you can have the main character react to every situation in a friendly, sarcastic or aggressive manner, which is pretty fun). The combat is real time but you can pause to decide on tactics and issue orders at any time. There are Mac versions of both games IIRC. There are quite a few older RPGs (Baldur's Gate, Fallout, Knights of the Old Republic etc) that might be worth looking into as well.

I haven't played it personally, but the recently released FTL: Faster than Light sounds like it could be fun.
posted by fearthehat at 12:17 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

FTL is surprisingly action based, but there is some min/maxing that you have to do as you go along the story.
posted by jonbro at 12:30 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: I love the Phoenix Wright series and think they'd be perfect for this. It's divided into two gameplay modes: the courtroom (dialogue/choices) and investigation (dialogue/some tedious clicking on things until you figure out how to advance). Great music. At least in the first trilogy, there few if any visual puzzles, IIRC. They're also genuinely funny. And possibly on iOS?

I'm actually not sure if I'd recommend Professor Layton. A lot of the puzzles have a visual element that would be difficult to narrate (so many Towers of Hanoi...) and there aren't really narrative choices. It is, however, super charming.

Another DS game with lots of choice/multiple endings/dialogue is 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It does have graphic violence (in text form, oddly enough, and really gross). Hotel Dusk is also a really solid adventure game with lots of choices-- it's similar to the investigation parts of Phoenix Wright, but with a much more serious, almost noir tone.

N-thing text adventures! I recently got back into playing them via some more modern ones (relatively speaking, they're from the late 90s) -- Anchorhead, a lovecraftian horror adventure, and Spider and Web, a spy thriller.
posted by sonmi at 1:13 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would think you could play games like Sim City and Civilization, where the gameplay is all about making decisions then letting them play out.
posted by paperzach at 1:14 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: Oh! And maybe check out Analogue: A Hate Story. There's a mac version on Steam. Despite looking like a cheap dating simulation, it's a pretty well-realized sci-fi visual novel about a generation ship gone wrong. Lots and lots of reading. 95% of the game is text against a white screen.
posted by sonmi at 1:19 AM on September 28, 2012

Kingdom of Loathing is almost fully playable using screen readers for the blind. You could both make accounts and set up a clan for the two of you.

Phoenix Wright would be great.
posted by painquale at 5:07 AM on September 28, 2012

Yeah, when I used to play KoL there were always a lot of visually impaired people playing and enjoying it a whole bunch.
posted by elizardbits at 5:17 AM on September 28, 2012

> Dwarf Fortress

What about (for lack of a better term) turning it down a notch and playing a game like Nethack or Slash'em?
posted by Gev at 5:31 AM on September 28, 2012

If you go the Interactive Fiction route (and you should), you might consider The Gostak once you have a little practice under your belts. It's a hard game to explain, but basically, the challenge is in understanding the terminology and the concepts of the world you are thrust into, which don't map very easily into concepts in our world. I'd be very interested in what a visually impaired person makes of that game.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:53 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing 999 -- the graphics seemed unimportant, the text was really he selling point.

I'm also surprised that no one's suggested the Walking Dead series. My partner's been playing it recently, and I find myself stopping whatever I'm doign to watch (and backseat game...). All of the dialogue is voice-acted, which limits a little the reading you have to do, and the choices are REALLY INTENSE. Do you save this character or that one? Do you feed the children or the old people?
posted by AmandaA at 6:27 AM on September 28, 2012

The Walking Dead is a real triumph of game design, but all decisions are extremely time-sensitive, including dialogue choices. I don't think you'd have time to read dialogue options out loud before being forced to make a choice.
posted by painquale at 6:32 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: In the point-and-click adventure vein, I thoroughly enjoyed "Ben There, Dan That" and "Time Gentlemen, Please!". So time pressure at all, and you can describe the scenes and you can both listen to what the characters say as the dialogue is read aloud. Especially funny if you've played the classic Sierra Adventure games that someone suggested above.
posted by Grither at 7:45 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: If you can borrow a Playstation 2, PSP, or PSVita (or get any of them on the cheap), I think you'll find that Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2, PSP) or Persona 4 (PS2, Vita) are JRPGs that fix the problems you had with Final Fantasy 6.

They're really great games, aren't linear, and have a wealth of choices. You gain different and more powerful combat abilities by making and strengthening relationships with non-playable characters in the gameworld. Who you choose to spend time with and what you say/do with them strengthens certain aspects of your main character's abilities.

Like Final Fantasy, combat is turn-based and strategic (with many types of attacks, power attacks, and vulnerabilities), so your friend could help build and level up your party, analyze foes, and recommed strategies.

The Shin Megami Tensei games for the Nintendo DS (Devil Survivor, Devil Survivor 2, Strange Journey) might be similar, but I haven't played them.
posted by Boxenmacher at 7:56 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: I see that the games I came in here to suggest have already been named, but I'll re-add them anyway.

"Hotel Dusk: Room 215" for the DS is an excellent game. I recommend playing parts of it with a guide - the dialogue and story is excellent, but the fetch quests where you basically have to wander the entire hotel and click every item until you get the right one make some parts of it miserable. Have a guide to hand so you can get right back to the action without all that nonsense.

The Professor Layton games might be a good option, though you may have a hard time with some of the more physical puzzles. "Rearrange these matches" and whatnot.

Have you tried Pokemon? Not just for kids as far as I'm concerned (I'm that guy who will go buy the new pokemon game right after work, still dressed in my suit and tie), and describing the different critters and their attacks could be fun. Plus there are all kinds of ways to make the game more difficult if you want. Look up the Nuzlocke challenge.

There are also a boatload of mystery games for the PC, most of which I know nothing about to be honest. There's a CSI game (probably more than one), Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

I had a couple others in mind, but then my boss asked me to do a couple things and I've since forgotten. I'll come back if/when I remember.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:03 AM on September 28, 2012

And maybe check out Analogue: A Hate Story.
Pretty much any of Christine Love's games would probably be good. They're all very visual novel-esque, but with interesting themes.

Oh, and I second Persona 3 and Persona 4. They combine the best aspects of a dating sim style game with a traditional JRPG. And a fantastic soundtrack. If you can swing it, I would recommend the PSP version of Persona 3; the combat is vastly improved in that version, and you can choose a male or female protagonist (with different social stories). You should know that you're in for a long haul with those, though; they're very lengthy games. Totally worth it, however!
posted by ashirys at 8:22 AM on September 28, 2012

Response by poster: To add one bit of information, I've got a PS3 as well, so suggestions for that are great. It's just not as convenient as the other systems I listed. Thanks everyone, keep the ideas coming!
posted by shirobara at 8:38 AM on September 28, 2012

Seems like Conclave might work well. It's a sort of web-based table-top RPG. If you don't mind doing a lot of clicking, you could possible even run a second character for your friend, so you're both individually participating as part of a team. They just finished up a Kickstarted campaign, but there's a playable beta available now.
posted by duien at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2012

Only one person has mentioned the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series? They sound like they would be perfect, aside from some evidence collection they are entirely about reading testimony and pointing out contradictions. They are on the Nintendo DS, I think some of them are on WiiWare. I think the first is on iOs with the rest coming soon.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:54 AM on September 28, 2012

As the blind friend in question, I'd just like to say thanks for all the recommendations. You guys are great. :)
While I love interactive fiction, I'm more looking for a chance to experience games I might not otherwise. I can play a lot of IF quite happily on my own. ;) I've also a slight bias towards strategy games, if that helps any.
THanks again, and keep the suggestions coming. I'm looking forward to taking you all up on them.
posted by Alensin at 12:32 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're into strategy games, maybe check out Alpha Centauri? It has nearly the same gameplay as Civilization, but it's set in the far-future on another planet with all that entails. It gets into some pretty neat sci-fi ideas if you're into that kind of thing. It might be preferable to something like Civ, because all the different factions have interesting personalities/background to them and there's a story element that changes depending on your choices. There are some more complex gameplay mechanics, like customizing units, but they're optional.
posted by sonmi at 1:09 PM on September 28, 2012

I second Alpha Centauri. Best turn-based strategy game I've ever played, with amazing lore too that mixes real and fictional history.
posted by Hawk V at 1:36 PM on September 28, 2012

I really liked Infocom's text-based adventure games. A successor is Inform a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language.
posted by larrybob at 2:03 PM on September 28, 2012

Interactive Fiction Archive
posted by larrybob at 2:05 PM on September 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for all these suggestions! We started with Scribblenauts for iOS, which was amusing if a little too simplistic. I really like the idea of older adventure games, and on my husband's recommendation we're playing The Last Express at the moment. I think we'll be trying out a lot of the other games mentioned in this thread after that! Thanks again!
posted by shirobara at 10:14 AM on October 1, 2012

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