The other day I was thinking about the potential for computer games that used primarily aural feedback. Most computer games use a combination of visual and aural feedback, but rely heavily on the visual, using aural feedback almost entirely for reinforcement of other signals: missle hits asteroid and the asteroid goes boom; skateboarder wipes out and slaps the pavement; protagonist gets a power-up and a fanfare plays, and special music plays for as long as the protagonist is in their special short-term powered-up mode while they blink a different color. Occasionally, sounds will indicate changes in the game world that happen off screen: grunts of monsters in the other room; whooshing of spaceships behind you; sirens of police cars around the corner. And occasionally sound cues represent changes in the game universe that have no immediate visual corollary, often musical and often time-related: music's tempo quickens when there are fewer asteroids to destroy and aliens become more aggressive; horn sounds when there's only 30 seconds left in the round. In most cases, feedback is primarily visual, and most computer games can be reasonably played with the sound completely off. (Surely this is by design.)
So I was wondering if there are any good examples of games with primarily aural feedback. Consider the pattern repetition game often known by the trademarked name "Simon": four colored buttons, each with a distinct associated musical note or sound, light up individually in a short series. The player is to press the buttons in the same series. If successful, the same pattern is extended by one note/button. Play continues until the player enters the wrong pattern. All versions of this game that I've seen have distinct visual representations for the "buttons," such as colors or shapes, as well as aural representations, such as musical notes or sounds. Consistent placement, appearance and sound of the "buttons" are all important to this memory game, to reinforce the ever-growing pattern in the player's memory. But it's easy to imagine a version without the visual feedback: four buttons represent four distinct musical tones or sounds, the player listens to the pattern (with no visual feedback) then attempts to recreate the pattern from memory by pressing the buttons. It's a more difficult game, for sure, but still playable, and primarily uses aural feedback.
Only one other visual game comes to mind with an obvious primarily-aural equivalent, and it's also a memory game. The turn-over-the-cards-in-pairs memory game, such as the trademarked "Memory," could simply be by sounds: select a square and hear its sound, select another and hear its sound, and if they match, the squares disappear. The game ends when all pairs have been found.
I remember a great sound-only computer game, of sorts, which at the time was called "Zipper." If I recall correctly, two well-known melodies were played simultaneously, and gradually the two melodies would become less simultaneous; the time delay between the two melodies would shift. The object was to see how quickly each melody could be identified. Not a lot of interactivity, and not many fun examples, but it qualifies.
I also remember when my home town phone company started up an automated telephone information portal, where you could access weather, news, movie times, and more using a touch-tone phone. The service included jokes and games. The games were lame phone-tree-style choose-your-own-adventure games, where a recording would describe a silly scenario and you would choose one of three options. The games were short-- only about two decisions in each game-- but they'd have new "adventures" on a weekly basis. I suppose those meet my criteria for primarily aural feedback computer games.
Unfortunately, I'm not finding any examples on the web. Stretch the definition of "play" and you get many examples of computer-based interactive musical toys, with dozens of examples on the web ranging from mix-your-own-music to abstract interactive noisemakers. disquiet: audio-games lists a few.
Is it safe to conclude/assume that our sense of hearing is not as strong as our sense of sight, and that we take in less information via sound? This would explain why there aren't many primarily aural games. At least, we're not used to making lots of quick decisions based entirely on sound. I wonder if we can train ourselves to play complicated audible games. Certainly we have plenty of primarily aural entertainment, mostly music. It's no wonder that audio-heavy games are predominantly musical, because music consists of intellectual patterns of aural data that we have practice manipulating and understanding. It's even more difficult to imagine odor-based games, beyond basic odor recognition games, for similar reasons-- though there is possibly potential for odor as a reinforcement of other forms of feedback.