Game reviewed on Xbox One and played in solo mode.
This week in game releases seems to be an exercise in trying really hard to do the most in Deaf/hoh accessibility but missing the mark majorly. First Control, which offered some lovely subtitle options but little else, and now Man of Medan has done the same.
We’ve got some great options, don’t get me wrong, and some I’d love to see every game implement, but they didn’t quite hit the mark. The subtitle background, while admirable, seems a bit unnecessary considering that the entire game is presented in letterbox style and and all text is contained within the black bottom area anyway. And the subtitle colors to indicate different characters speaking is fantastic! But…
The text itself is far too small to actually read. Add to that the serif font choice and you’ve got yourself some subtitles that are more or less illegible. A couple other issues here are the amount of text on the screen- this is FAR more than the recommended amount in best subtitle practices- and also the length of time the text is displayed on screen. In several instances of back and forth conversation, there was too much text and too little time for me to ever be able to read it all.
Another way this game majorly misses the mark with Deaf/hoh accessibility is in its lack of captioning. Like Until Dawn, this games plays much more like an interactive movie than it does a traditional game. And movies have captions for sounds. This game? Nope. So we’ve got a horror game that relies heavily on sound for its scares and for immersion, but this is entirely lacking for Deaf/hoh players. See this Twitter thread for further explanation of why this is such a problem.
Adding to the problems is the size of the text (for which there are no size options) for the QTE dialogue parts of the game. Both the style of text and the tiny size will leave a lot of players missing the time limit for these parts.
Something that would go a long way in making Man of Medan far more Deaf/hoh friendly is the implementation of sounds being mirrored by controller vibration. In most games, the above scene with lightening striking would result in some kind of controller vibration. In Man of Medan the only time the controller vibrates is when something happens physically to the character you’re controlling at that time. A few subtle vibrations for in-game sounds would go a long way in letting Deaf/hoh players feel more immersed in the beautiful environment.
Is Man of Medan still enjoyable for Deaf/hoh players? Absolutely. Will you have a hard time reading the tiny subtitle text? Probably. But for games that include a whole accessibility menu, it’s simply frustrating to continue seeing so many simple things skipped over.