Indie Wednesdays: Plan Be – Voice Recognition Stealth Game

Indie Wednesdays: Plan Be – Voice Recognition Stealth Game

Plan Be was an interesting experience. The game had a few good game-play ideas that could have potentially made the experienced story more engaging – sadly the game just couldn’t quite deliver.

Plan Be is a voice controlled game – this game literally cannot be played any other way, and as such depends heavily on Window’s Voice Recognition software. I’ll get back to this momentarily. It is played from a top down perspective, and works as a kind of puzzle stealth game, where you have to guide Dr. Webb through multiple levels whilst avoiding the threat of “the other” and also keep oxygen supplies sufficient.

Now, I will admit, I had quite high expectations for this game, mainly because I believe the voice control and conversation with Webb could lead to an interestingly narrated experience, where I as the player would get more invested – compared to if it was played as a point and click game with dialogue options. Using our own voice as both a narrative device in the game, and control dynamics has the potential of a different kind of immersion – possibly slightly more personal.

However, as indicated these expectations did not quite come to fruition. If you check out the video of me playing it just above, one thing that becomes evident very quickly is the fact that the voice recognition does not function optimally – to say the least. This isn’t the game’s fault, as it is utilizing the voice recognition on Windows, so if that software does not recognise a particular word, then that word does not get transmitted to the game, and nothing happens. To me, this was kind of game breaking. I mean, yes, it was possible to progress, but painstakingly at times.

The illusion of having a conversation with Webb is immediately broken as soon as I had to repeat a sentence more than once. And the lines had to be read out loud quite clearly – so most emotional investment that one could load the words with just didn’t work (I tried). This is a shame, as this actual “role playing” would have made it so interesting to play this game. In general it was a shame that the dialogue was scripted. This being a small free game it isn’t so surprising, but I would like to see further development of this kind of idea. How cool would it be if you could actually sit there and hold a conversation with Webb? You know, ask him how he is feeling, and his reply would be situational, depending on enemies, oxygen levels, progression and stamina levels. This would allow the combination of assuming the role as Dr. Hill, as we do in the do, but also feel some personal investment in the way of steering the conversation slightly towards our own taste.

As mentioned earlier this is kind of a stealth game. And I frequently had to guide Webb past enemies. Again this mechanic was let down by voice recognition. The dynamics of the game were limited as Webb could only move between certain way-points, and the actual difficulty of the game had to be limited, simply because the voice recognition isn’t precise enough to make precise calls and complicated manoeuvres. So the stealth element was accentuated much, and much of the time felt a bit lacklustre and repetitive in its game-play. One can only say “waypoint” or “marker” so many times before it feels like a chore.

In conclusion, Voice recognition just isn’t quite good enough yet, and the game suffers from this. Plan Be is honestly just slightly ahead of the curve here, and a testament to the fact that these kind of games have potential, but will have to wait until technology has caught up with ambitions. The experience is still interesting in its own right, and as it is a free game to download I can only advise you to try out, at least the first couple of levels, just to get a feel of it.

That will be all for now,

Thanks for reading.

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