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Papa Sangre

Darkness surrounds you. Blackness coats everything. Moving your hands to your face you see nothing; you’re blind. Step-by-step you slowly walk into the unknown. Your ears prick up; a baby is out there, somewhere, crying. You close your eyes and try to see with your ears. The cries come closer as you scurry forward through the darkness.

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A glass bottle breaks under your foot, the shattering of glass echoes down the hall. From behind you a guttural growl roars out. Panic sweeps in, your palms begin to sweat as the hair rises on the back of your neck. Something is running towards you, something very hungry.

Your legs carry you onwards. Stumbling over, your hands catch onto a child’s cot as a blast of heat rises up into your lower back and a stink of death violates the air. The sharp pain is the teeth of a hog burrowing into your back. The smell is its rotten breath. Dragged to the floor, you’re disembowelled and devoured by wild animals. You can still die when you’re dead. Papa Sangre is survival-horror – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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Somethin’ Else’s Papa Sangre borrows its aesthetic from the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. Highly-stylized in its appearance, the games strength is in disguising the adult content within. The game begins in a busy street. You can hear people’s conversations in the distance. Cars are passing by. The level of detail in the audio design is beyond anything else before. The sound sweeps around you in a full 360 degrees; true 3D, binaural audio. Answering a payphone on a busy street, you’re cast into the land of the dead to rescue a lost soul.

The user interface is split horizontally. The top half is a turning dial numbered with bones. The below half is in two sections, left and right skeleton footprints. Swipe the dial to turn and tap alternate footprints to walk. Tapping faster to run can cause you to trip over, not the most fortunate event when being chased by some unseen, terrifying being. As you walk forwards or turn on the spot the world of sound shifts around you.

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To reach Papa Sangre himself you’ll need to collect musical notes in each realm. Each note rings out in a different tone that you have to find in the darkness. Guided by a disembodied female voice, you’ll need to listen carefully to her instructions and audio clues to avoid death. Collect all the notes and a telephone will begin to ring. Answering the phone casts you further into the land of the dead. This isn’t an easy task. You’re blind from the start and flesh-eating fiends are out there waiting for you. Alert them to your presence and they’ll charge at you, causing a moment of chaos as you flee in a random direction praying for escape.

The audio design is breathtaking. We should not be chasing 3D graphics and motion controllers. The next step in gaming evolution should be in how it sounds. Being told by your guide that rescuing a baby will get you killed, but hearing its cries in the distance and the panting of a flesh-eating beast approaching is terrifying. A moral dilemma that is subtle and not forced down your throat – is saving a life a waste of your own?

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One moment had the emotional pull to warm even my stone-cold heart. Upon risking my own life to rescue a lost soul something very human happened. It was a beautiful moment of game design and one I’ll never forget. A character that you never see but will always remember; Papa Sangre is innovative and stunning.

Papa Sangre’s downfall is in its very idea – you’re blind. This instinctively causes frustration when repeatedly failing on the same location. Upon death your guide will create a new body for you, repeating a line of dialogue. Being reborn takes a few seconds and tiding up this restarting process would prevent further aggravation. However, I cannot commend Somethin’ Else enough for sticking to their guns. This is an idea they have run all the way with – no compromise.

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Papa Sangre is survival-horror, where you’re cast into the land of the dead, using 360 degree sound to avoid creatures, save lost souls and avoid being torn apart; intense.

Review based on version 1.1.1

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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