This article was published on February 6, 2011

App Store Classics: Papa Sangre – who needs graphics anyway?

App Store Classics: Papa Sangre – who needs graphics anyway?
Ian Chattam
Story by

Ian Chattam

Ian Chattam is a sound designer of some fifteen years for TV and film, a musician, dad and all round Mac monkey based in the UK. He gets ver Ian Chattam is a sound designer of some fifteen years for TV and film, a musician, dad and all round Mac monkey based in the UK. He gets very excited about new technology especially if it’s audio related. He spends most of his free time fiddling with his iPhone, looking for new and exciting ways to spend money in the app store. You can find him on Twitter via @SackofSoul.

It’s easy to get caught up in the graphics frenzy that’s been happening since the iPhone 4 and its Retina display hit the shelves. We’ve seen games like Rage and Infinity Blade pushing the boundaries of what can be done visually, but there’s another groundbreaking game out there which has practically no graphics at all.

Papa Sangre is brought to you by Somethin’ Else, a UK company with nineteen years experience in the media industry and also responsible for a Jeremy Kyle app amongst other things, but don’t let that put you off. This game is an impressive technical achievement. It uses a binaural sound engine to place the player in a three-dimensional sound stage when using headphones. Binaural recordings are made by placing a pair of microphones in a position which corresponds to the position of our human ears and can be extremely effective – have a listen to this (requires flash).

The Papa Sangre experience begins with the player being transported to the ‘land of the dead’ to rescue a soul in peril. This opening sequence sets the tone nicely, with sounds issuing forth from all directions. The fidelity of the sound here is excellent and any doubts about the effectiveness of the audio engine are swiftly put to rest. A rather lovely female voice then explains how to navigate through this world by tapping away on a pair of icons representing the player’s left and right feet and steering with a compass type contraption. This description doesn’t exactly sound particularly scintillating, but remember this game is all about sound.

The idea is to pass safely through a series of environments by following a sequence of musical notes which eventually lead you to an exit. In your way are a series of obstacles including quicksand and grisly sounding creatures, causing moments of genuine panic as your imagination runs riot and you fumble with the simple controls. Walk too fast and you can trip up, and if you get stuck in quicksand it’s very difficult to keep your cool and slowly get out before the beasties get you.

It’s amazing how Papa Sangre gets your mind working. Because there are no visuals you need to get as much information as possible from the spatial positioning of the sounds you hear. Sometimes the next musical note to pass through is a long way behind you, and when you can hear a giant snuffling hog moving around between you and it, with some quicksand nearby for god measure, it can get pretty scary.

Having said that, most of what makes the game scary is what’s happening in the imagination of the player and this is where Papa Sangre really wins. By eschewing graphics altogether bar the interface, the developers have crafted a game which is simple in concept, unique in execution and potentially far more real in the minds of its players than a regular game. If you’re into apps which push the envelope of what can be done, you owe it to yourself to check this game out.

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