You’ve got to love a game that begins with a level titled ‘You are dead’. That right there my friends, is gutsy; after all, I could’ve simply shrugged my shoulders, stopped playing and gone on to review some other game.
But I’m smarter than I look (honestly), and I knew there must be something else to this game – I never played the first Papa Sangre you see, I’m a Sangre Virgin – and it turns out I was correct. ‘Pape Sangre 2’ is the sequel to ‘Papa Sangre’, the audio-only afterlife adventure which prioritised using your ears over your eyes.
Unfortunately you’re still dead in ‘Papa 2’, so clearly your luck hasn’t gotten much better. To make it back to the land of the living you’ve got to hunt around and collect the memories of the deceased.
You do this primarily using your ears. That is to say, not holding the phone to your head, but wearing a pair of headphones, you’re instructed by the gravelly yet mischievous tones of Sean Bean AKA ‘The Voice of South Yorkshire’, through an afterlife filled with natural and monstrous hazards, powered by binaural 3D audio which allows you to hear the different directions everything is coming from.
Mr Bean (ho, ho), guides you through levels filled with creepy, squelchy, noises; the type of which I’ve heard before coming from my own stomach after a particularly strong curry. Head in the right direction – usually towards a goal in the form of a noise – and the sound gets louder, move away from it, and it fades, or moves from your left to right ear. You’ve got to turn until it’s balanced across your whole head so to speak, then move forward.
And the way you do that is probably the weakest part of the game. To walk, you tap the left and right sides of the screen which represent your feet (the upper corners are your hands), tap too quickly however and you’ll fall over. This means through the unsettling atmosphere created by the mixture of curry-infused sounds and the fact you’re never sure that Mr Yorkshire has your best interests at heart, you still end up tapping the screen like any other game.
It’s kind of a victim of its own immersion. ‘Papa Sangre 2’ isn’t what I’d call scary (although the parts where you have to high tail it towards a buzzer sounding in the distance in order to escape a room fill you with a sense of real panic), it’s more unsettling if anything. I found the effectiveness of the game a touch compromised as my natural instinct was to run for real. Tapping the screen just didn’t do it all justice. Having said that, it’s precisely because the audio is so creepy that I felt this way, so it can definitely claim a victory in that sense. Besides, what else were the developers supposed to do? This isn’t Occulus Rift. Yep, I’ve contradicted myself. Feel free to stop reading.
Other than that, you’re not going to a better audio-only experience on iOS (you might not find another other audio-only experience, but you know what I mean). It has a lot of charm and personality (and we’re not just talking about Mr Bean), with a strong 1920’s vibe running through it’s presentation – the front end, memories of the deceased and snippets of music - that also add a haunting quality that will really get under your skin whilst you’re playing it in the dark.
Oh yes, play it in the dark. You must. Heck, if you can locate the top and bottoms corners of the screen with any consistency, play it with your eyes closed too (insert ‘I do it with my eyes closed’ joke here). Whatever you do, don’t trust that Sean Bean. Not completely anyway…
Papa Sangre is available now for £2.49 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Get it now on the App Store.