Deaf Game Review – Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu Deaf Accessibility
3.4 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
There are subtitles, Speaker labels after the opening scene of the game
Cons
No visual indication for essential sounds, Subtitles are too small, and often impossible to read due to low contrast
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration

Call of Cthulhu is one of the only games we’ve gone into to review knowing absolutely nothing about it. Didn’t know what it was about, what type of game it was, and we had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately, thanks to incredibly poor accessibility, we still don’t really know anything about it.

We know this: You take control of a detective who has an alcohol and drug problem and you have to solve cases to retain your license.

With our terrible overview out of the way let’s get into the inaccessibility accessibility:

Game settings screen
Sound settings screen

Right from the start, you have the option to toggle on subtitles (no sizing options) and have a few different volume sliders.

How do those subtitles look?

Inside a foggy cave with illegible subtitles showing.

Really not great. There’s an incredibly subtle shadow around the small text and at least at the beginning, no speaker labels.

White screen with white subtitles.

You can see the shadow behind the text really doesn’t serve much of a purpose at all.

Blurry screen inside starting cave area.
Cave wall, image captured to illustrate lack of immersion due to lack of captioning.

You enter the game disoriented (you’re prompted to “Enter the madness” after a very long loading screen). Knowing nothing about the game and having a complete lack of captioning, this really set things off on a sour note for me. There’s plenty of sound happening here to give hearing players kind of an idea what’s going on. Deaf players though, we just get blurry and black screens with no clue what is going on or what to anticipate.

Foggy cave area, image taken to illustrate the disconnect between the controller vibration and lack of captioning.

The next problem area is a minute later. There’s something happening here, the controller was vibrating like crazy, but I had no earthly idea what the sound was or where it was coming from.

Inside an old office, desk illuminated by the sun shining in a window.

Once you amble your way through the weird place full of non-visually represented sounds, you come to in your office. Here you’re free to explore and things you can interact with have a little dot and white circle around them. Except for the one thing you need to interact with to advance the story, that is. I stood there waiting for something to happen for quite a while as, unbeknownst to me, the phone was ringing. There was no indicator to interact with it, no indication that it was ringing, so there I stood, absolutely lost as to what I was supposed to do, because I didn’t know the phone was ringing. Luckily I was playing with Courtney beside me and after a time, I was told to answer the phone. If not for that nudging, I’d have stopped playing and probably uninstalled the game thinking it was bugged or something.

Old man talking, subtitles are illegible and have no speaker label.

After you finally figure out that you’re supposed to answer the phone and after a brief exchange of dialogue between you and your employer, you get to move on with the story. You can see in the image above that there’s also finally speaker labels.

I can’t say, past the incident of the phone ringing, whether or not there are more completely inaccessible instances that would force a deaf players game to a halt because I didn’t play long enough to encounter more because the subtitles were often so hard to read that they gave me a headache and this game is all about the story. I’ve no interest in returning to the game because I’m not going to strain my eyes just to learn what’s happening when I’m completely dependent on the (bad) subtitles. I have to say, this is not a game for Deaf and HoH players, at least not unless they fix these glaring accessibility problems.

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