Lost & Hound - A Sensory Sensation
In an industry that is attempting to improve the way that it supports a wider range of gamers through all-important accessibility initiatives, we see numerous developers, publishers and hardware manufacturers making bold strides forward to open gaming up to communities for whom video games may have been unapproachable so far. The industry has a way to go though, and it’s often the smaller developer, the independent developer who drives the direction of the industry going forward, and in the space of accessibility, it is again the indies that are driving this medium forward, and Lost & Hound, a product of Brian Fairbanks, and his Daisy Ale Soundworks studio is now one of the pioneers in this space.
At its core, Lost & Hound is a simple adventure game with a fairly straightforward quest structure. You’re a dog, Biscuit, who essentially acts as your method of decoding the audio and visual cues designed to guide you towards your objective. Dogs possess, of course, supremely good hearing and smell, certainly when compared to us two-legged folk, and it’s this natural advantage that makes a well-trained dog such a valuable asset to our security services, but also, the ultimate way to contextually provide the scaffolds required for those with hearing or sight impairments. As Biscuit tracks down lost children, herds livestock, serve as a police sniffer dog, and more, you’ll be leveraging those incredible animal senses to do the work; those senses are represented in both what the player hears and sees, and have been executed in such a way that audiences who’ve been unable to interact with a great number of games up to this point because of hearing or sight challenges, can now interact with a game just as much as any of us who’ve perhaps been taking what we’ve had for granted up until now.
Lost & Hound is a humbling experience in a host of ways. As someone who is without a disability, I’ve been fortunate to have not had hurdles in my way that impact my ability to consume what I see and hear around me. Lost & Hound required me to leverage my sense of hearing, as I searched for a humm in the environment that guided me to my intended goal, in ways that I’ve rarely had to embrace, and so the learning curve to playing the game ended up being a little steep, but for someone who has had to use their ears in such a way for a substantial period, I’d imagine they handle the same situations with far greater ease than I. The same applies to those with limited hearing, and how the game visually represents its world making the game accessible for those who need it – the colours of the world pale when you venture off the correct path, something that frankly took me far too long to identify, but again, for someone who this system is focussed on would make the game instantly more accessible.
It’s clear that Lost & Hound wasn’t built with the game in mind and then the accessibility elements layered atop it, accessibility for those with partial/full blindness and/or partial/full deafness, it was built with the needs of that audience being the central pillar with which the game was then built around. The result is a game that embraces players like no other, that is welcoming like few others, and that is playable by the largest contingent of gamers possible. Sure, the game isn’t without some rough edges, from the fairly textureless surfaces, and the wonky collision issues with the environment, but these are nuances in a game that isn’t trying to be nuanced. Lost & Hound is trying to get in the faces of as many players as possible, it’s trying to be accessible to as many people as possible, and it’s succeeding in doing so.
Lost & Hound has made me stop and think about the way with which the industry is developing video games. For even the biggest, most cashed-up studios, if the way with which players of all abilities are accessing a game is considered at the genesis point of a project, the good that could be generated may be incalculable. Lost & Hound is simple, it’s endearing, and it’s thought-provoking. It’s going to sadly slip under the radar of most people due to what it’s trying to achieve, but, it’s what it’s trying to achieve that makes it so incredibly important. It is perhaps a shame that there weren’t more scenarios to explore, but those present have provided me an enlightenment that few games have ever managed.
Lost & Hound was reviewed on PC with a code kindly provided by the developer