In recent years gamers have seen many horror games come along, some more innovative than others. Many times these games rely on grossing us out or the ever popular jump scare to get players’ hearts racing. Developer Deep End Games, a real life couple leading a team of very talented folks who worked previously on great titles like Dead Space and Bioshock, used Kickstarter to fund this new take on horror gaming they call Perception. Players are put in the shoes of a young blind girl who uses her exceptional hearing and echolocation to create the visuals on screen. Perception piqued my interest when I first heard of it last year; it’s unique visuals and gameplay I hoped would be a nice change to the usual gorefest most in the genre rely on. The end result is something any fan of being scared should play.
Cassie was born blind, but learned at a young age to hone her hearing and use sounds to “visualize” objects. In a way, Cassie is like Marvel’s Daredevil, just with less ninjas. Players will see areas light up and form outlines of scenes as sound, so say if a faucet is running, the area near it will be visible. As Cassie walks she will see the noise from her steps, but if players want to really get a good view, they can press a button to use their cane. The tapping will flood the area with sound, and as such, give the player more to see. Be careful though, as you explore the house, the more noise made will increases the chances of being found by one of the baddies lurking around. Players also have another ability, a “sixth sense” as it’s described, that will highlight an object or doorway that is Cassie’s current goal. This is very helpful, as players will spend a lot of time literally in the dark.
Cassie enters the victorian-style house on her own accord, despite the protests of her friend. Troubled by a recurring nightmare of this place, once she discovered it actually existed, Cassie made her way there, in search of answers to her dreams. Armed only with a smartphone and her cane, she uses her phone to help overcome the puzzles and provide text to speech when she finds notes left around the place. It can even describe scenes, like in a photograph. It was nice to see how much research had been done in the field of technological aids available on smartphones for the blind. I had not given it much thought as I do not personally know anyone who is visually impaired. In a way, Perception does a good job of informing players of the challenges they endure. But I also feel it takes away from the experience, as it is fiction and must provide a visual interpretation of echolocation, something impossible for a blind individual to really do, let alone properly relay I expect. Obviously some leeway is given and I do applaud Deep End Games for attempting such a unique concept for a video game. Their intentions are good and the obstacles of being blind are addressed alongside the story of self discovery.
It doesn’t take long for Cassie to discover that she is not alone. A being called The Presence, a hooded ghost that reacts violently to the intrusion of his home, will chase her if she becomes too noisy during exploration. This gives players a chance to either be cautious and sneak around in the dark, or noisy so they can see, then run and hide when confronted. As Cassie explores she will sometimes find puzzles she has to complete, and every time a puzzle is solved a new room is unlocked. Unfortunately it can be rather frustrating at times and the objectives are not always clear or easily accessible, even when hammering away with your cane to get a better view. At times I found myself wishing for some kind of path indicator as I used my sixth sense to light up a doorway, but ran into walls trying to find my way there, praying I wasn’t attracting The Presence.
The voice acting in Perception is quite good, and the audio and music do a great job of amplifying the mood of the game. The graphics are hard to rate as it was really like nothing I had ever played. Being able to see sound in the way Perception portrays was pretty amazing and so unique, both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. While the story was deep and well written, clocking in at only about three to four hours, Perception is not very long. It also relied heavily on the anxiety of the experience, being alone in the dark, chased by something. More along the lines of a psychological horror game with some nice jump scares thrown in to get your heart really racing. I honestly hadn’t been this freaked out playing a game since Amnesia (2010). Perception does something few games really can, scared me. If you want the same, turn off the lights, put on a headset, and immerse yourself for a few hours in Perception.
Perception is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose.
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