As a youngster, there were a few years when I really looked forward to a Halloween phone call. Not a schmaltzy Hallmark-moment call from a dear relative—no, it was actually a call between myself and my local newspaper.
For two or three years in a row, my hometown newspaper, the Florida Times-Union (in Jacksonville) hosted a call-in haunted house that could be explored from the comfort of your kitchen's (landline) phone. I called in that first year (oh, let's say... in 1994) to discover a cheesily-voiced narrator taking me on a choose-your-own-adventure tour of a "very spooky" house—each action decided by my presses on the phone's keypad. I dived into this silly activity over and over each year, "exploring" the haunted rooms and hallways with only my ears, sometimes escaping after a fright, sometimes facing a very PG-rated expiration at the hands of a random ghoul. Each time I reached a path's conclusion, I would hang up and dial again to face down the next horror. I didn't then think of it as an actual game, but in looking back, it absolutely was—and for those first few days of its release each year, it was a dang addictive one.
Imagine my delight then to get to take a look at a new game that is the spiritual successor to the dial-up haunted house of my youth that I'd all but forgotten; it's Tony Patino's Agents!
Agents is a game by Recursive Frog (Patino) created for last month's Ludum Dare online game jam. The game is very simple on the surface, in that it's an audio-only adventure where players control two nefarious field agents solely via "voice calls" on their mobile phone. The task is to get them in to a guarded complex, then out, while helping them work together to stay alive.
The game's interface is blindingly simple: a list of phone numbers is the only screen you'll ever see. The game from there is completely controlled via voice commands. Players will direct their charges to move to locations via a few different commands. As they move around the complex, the two agents each reach certain barriers in their quest. The agents then have small inventories on which to resort, and they're also able to look around and report back exactly what they see. One step in the wrong direction can lead to their immediate capture.
While short, Agents is a concept that is rife for expansion. With more time in the oven (the Ludum Dare events last but a weekend), some added features, and some fool-proof voice recognition, something like this could become a top-tier interactive experience. As it stands, the game quickly brought back the silly excitement of my old haunted house days, and it's very effective proof that sound-only games (like Deep Sea or Blindside) can not only work, but can also be quite engaging when players have to fill in the details with their brains.
You can check out the Android-only game via Ludum Dare's page here. As a word of warning, the game is not too friendly with the new JellyBean OS on the platform, so be warned if you're using that version. I was able to get the game to work for extended stretches, but it did crash on me a few times.
Here's to more fun experiments from Recursive Frog and all of the jammers over at Ludum Dare. Agents is a welcome sideways peek at new gaming interactivity, and we all like the sound of that.