PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The Deep End Games
Horror games always try and make the player feel as helpless and vulnerable as possible. Perception takes this idea to a whole new level by make you completely blind.
Now, I’m not saying blind people are helpless and vulnerable. But for gamers who never experienced blindness, this can get more than a little jarring.
Perception is an indie game by The Deep End Games, a new studio formed by people who worked on BioShock, Dead Space and Rock Band. Or as I see it – people who like a good story, horror and sound. And Perception features all of those.
You are playing as Cassie, a young woman who is blind since birth. She arrives at the an old mansion in Echo Bluff, New England to discover why it keeps appearing in her nightmares.
As you walk the mansion’s maze-like halls and corridors, it’s dark history unfolds as a series of almost standalone chapters. Each one of them takes place in a different time period, and tell a its twisted story about the people living there at the time. You can never guess which way a story is going, and I found them all to be equally creepy and disturbing. While the seemingly unrelated stories make it a bit hard to focus on Cassie’s arching story, they enjoyable overall, and provides some good scares.
The main driving force behind the story is exploration. Cassie is somehow connected to the house, and this connection lets her hear and see echoes of the past, and piece together the fate of the previous residents. As you explore the place, you’ll come across items that hold memories. Most of the time these are mere bits and pieces of dialogue, but they can also lead to a handful of puzzles, or an encounter with a ghostly apparition.
The most sinister of these apparitions is The Presence.
While it’s not entirely clear what The Presence is, but it is immediately obvious it doesn’t like Cassie. It follows you around the house, drawn to the noise you make. The more noise you make, the easier it will track you down and kill you.
Since Cassie is blind, the only way she can navigate the house safely is using echolocation. She taps her cane on the floor to reveal her immediate surroundings as a bluish, almost ghost-like vision. After a few seconds, everything fades back to black, and you need to tap the cane again. You can also use environmental sounds, like wind blowing through a window or the static noise of a radio, to help you “see”.
However, tap your cane too many times in a row, or run too long across the wooden floor, and The Presence will appear. That’s when you need to quickly find a place to hide while keep absolutely quiet. It’s relatively easy to avoid The Presence, but its mere presence is a constant source of tension.
That said, the game doesn’t offer all that much of a challenge. Cassie is very capable and independent, and most of the time she doesn’t feel different than any other horror game protagonist. She can run, hide and move about with relative ease, and her blindness doesn’t seem to affect the game all that much, which is admittedly a bit of a shame.
It would have been nice to see blindness represented in a more creative way. Since I don’t know what being blind is like, I can’t say if the representation in the game is realistic or not. However, it doesn’t deliver the unique mechanic I was expecting it to. I’ll admit that simulating such a condition in a believable way is a difficult task, but the solution Perception came up with isn’t very satisfying.
The only reason you might get lost isn’t Cassie’s blindness. It’s the mansion itself. The house mansion serves as both the game’s primary settings, and as a secondary antagonist of sorts. It keeps changing around you as you move from story to story. You gain access to new areas of the mansion as you play, but rooms you already visited also shift and transform. It’s impossible to tell if the rooms are actually changing, or if Cassie only seeing these changes in her mind’s eye thanks to her strange connection with the house.
The Presence and the ever-changing layout of the house come together to make Perception a much scarier game than it ought to be. Even though none of the things you encounter are much of a threat, the game keeps you in a continuous state of dread.
Perception is a nice indie first-person horror title that has a interesting enough concept to separate it from the hundreds of other indie first-person horror titles out there. It would have been better if it really committed to portraying blindness in a way that doesn’t let you kinda, sorta see. However, it does get one important thing right – you’re more scared of what you can’t see.