Sunday , 19 May 2024
Editorials

Blinnk And The Vacuum Of Space: A Giant Step Forward For VR

The team at Changingday; an indie studio from Scotland, first contacted me about reviewing Blinnk and the Vacuum of Space – which they created in the view of making an immersive and inclusive experience for players of all backgrounds.

However, after playing the game I don’t think a review would do what they have created true justice – as the game is designed from the ground-up around accessibility and being an engaging experience for autistic and neurodivergent players. Which is something that I personally do not fall under.

This made me sit down and gain an understanding via researching ‘what are the challenges autistic and neaurodiverent users face in video games‘ and during this I could see why every decision the team have made was highly important – and a giant step forward for accessibility in virtual reality.

THE GAME

The game is very simplified in the use of virtual reality to what we see released today, with it arching back to early VR title Job Simulator. 

With Blinnk accidentally releasing all the mischievous alien Groobs, which are needed to make the worlds greatest sandwich for your boss, they all must be caught again. This will see you as Blinnk’s assistant, with your trusty Vacuumiser 5000 travelling around the Space Station going undercover to complete an assortment of ordinary jobs with a twist. Whether it being helping someone with stock and getting it delivered, working as an assistant in a out-of-this-world dentist or fixing robots, with your goal being to locate all the escaped Groobs while completing these jobs efficiently.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DECISIONS

After playing the game, I personally could not see what makes the game so different to what is available and what decisions allowed for the accessibility they were aiming for – hence the aforementioned research being important.

From my research I found three main areas that were mentioned the most, these were over-whelming gameplay design, the use of loud sounds and colours that are too bright – all of which are present in the previously mentioned Job Simulator in some sort of way.

So, lets take a look at how I feel Blinnk and the Vacuum of Space tackled these areas, to make their game perfect for the players it was created for in mind.

THIS IS OVER-WHELMING

The team have taken an open approach to allow the player to take their time without the pressure of the possibility of failing – but still offers that sense of progression never mind how you play. This does not give the player any sort of time-restriction or stalling point if something becomes over-whelming and gives them full control of the experience. They also make sure that you are introduced to each character you are supporting in their job role and clearly explain the what you will be doing in each area of the station.

Also while playing and after speaking to your not so friendly boss, you will visited briefly by a Motivational Cube, that will make you feel better about your current progress and help with regaining focus. Which I personally thought was an annoying feature, but after researching I found out how positive reinforcement is important.

THOSE BLINDING COLOURS

Although the team have taken a charming and cartoon-like approach to the visuals of the game. They have made sure to use a more muted colour palette, which is more suited to real-life colours over the bright colours you would expect. What I found interesting about this choice was I originally felt it would take away from the visual presentation. Especially with the design of the characters and world not being so vivid but, it really worked well and did distract from the immersion.

CAN YOU TURN IT DOWN?

When it comes to audio Chaningday have made sure it is balanced and you do not get any sudden loud noises or increased audio levels. Which means there isn’t going to be any abrupt changes in sound or sense of urgency when completing your tasks – inkeeping the take it at your own pace approach.

IT'S ALL GETTING A BIT TOO MUCH

Even with the above all being taken into account, they have also taken to time to include a chill out zone. This allows players to quickly go an area with neutral colour palette with a press of the button on the character watch, if and when a break is needed.

In this area you can get to the accessibility menu, that will allow players to shape the experience best to them with settings for colours, volume and the haptic feedback to name a few.

MY TAKE AWAY

What playing the game and researching has opened my eyes to is the importance of accessibility, as previously I have only taken the users VR experience and the options to negate motion sickness into account. Which really is testament to work Changingday have done with this game, it really peaked my interest in finding out more about the challenges players with autism and neurodivergence face in video games and now even a virtual world.

GAME DETAILS

Release Date: October 10th 2023
Developer: Changingday
Publisher: Changingday
Price: US $24.99 / CA $33.49 / €21,99 / £17.99

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