Being blind is probably one of my greatest fears.
Sight is arguably the most important sense, and the one that usually gives us the rawest emotions, so to lose such an important aspect, as someone who has played a pitiful amount of video games in his life, is terrifying. What isn’t terrifying is Perception, the new first person horror game from The Deep End, an ironic statement if any, but also the name of the team behind this.
The Deep End Games is compromised of Bill Gardner, former writer of Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite, and.. Others. It’s a promising start for a Kick started game to be made by a man with a resume like that but people said that about Kenji Inafune, who tarnished the reputation for everyone involved and future projects. But that’s one man, and one project, and that’s nothing compared to the success of others, so this could be a gem.
Perception puts you in the faulty eyes of Cassie, a blind woman who has nightmares of a certain house in Gloucester, MA. Sick of these fever dreams, she decides to go to the house of horrors in order to figure out the nightmares once and for all, Part blind woman, part estate agent. On this journey with her, at least audibly, is Serge, Cassie’s soul mate who sees for her, which she doesn’t take too kindly. God forbid you need a little bit of help when you have a blindfold on you at all times.
This game really wastes no time in just putting you in the fray. I suppose there’s no point in an intro if you can’t really see it, so here we are, in a mansion with no eyes. Except not really. The games uses “echolocation”, a sort of technique where Cassie uses her cane to generate sight via sound, with ripples generating an approximation of the space around them. Now, as I’m not blind, I don’t know if this is how it works, and I couldn’t confirm if it’s portrayed the correct way, but regardless, it’s still kind of neat, if not convenient.
General game play is just dull, to be frank, it’s a walking simulator with the lights turned off even darker than usual. Amnesia: The Dark Descent meets Dear Esther. You tap your cane to see if there’s a object you can run into or just press the Left Trigger for your camera to automatically swivel to your next objective. It’s basically just you barreling through the house trying to figure out what to do until the next plot point, even when The Presence arrives.
Ah, The Presence. The omnipotent force which sneaks around the house looking for you. It shows up a few times during scripted events and that’s it. Oh, it can show up if you tap your cane enough, but thankfully the game gives a massive warning on the screen about noise attracting it. This practically just tells you to stay still until the warning goes away, since it doesn’t mean that The Presence is now officially roaming the grounds for a Cassie sandwich so the stakes are practically non-existent.
The horror comes from these meager chases and nothing else. There aren’t any real jump scares aside from a few audio cues and I do mean few. Maybe a creaking in the air but that’s about it. This is the main issue with Perception, where it’s a game in which nothing happens. I never felt frightened, I never felt amazed by the events, it’s just a walk through a park in Stoke.
And the story element is lacking, at best, insulting at worst. Every once in a while, the game will push the “Being blind isn’t a disability, it’s a gift” shtick, as mentioned before, with Cassie insinuating that her boyfriend shouldn’t help her traverse an old mansion where fires start whenever they want to and while she says that, she falls down stairs and whacks her head on a banister.
Also, rule No. 1 of horror games. You don’t come to a haunted area unless you have some connection to the place. And for the first hour, it was looking that way until an off-hand comment made by Cassie denies all involvement in the history of the house. However, in the last 5 minutes, it turns out that you in fact, are involved in the dark history of the house. Even after mulling it over, I can’t really tell if it’s lazy or genius.
Regardless, none of those issues with the story was a game changer for me. It was mainly trivial complaints that I brushed off as negligible. But it was in the third chapter where I was greeted by ceramic dolls shooting me with guns. “No.”, I said. “Absolutely not, this is absurd.” I came here for a genuine scare with horrifying entities, not a shootout with Chucky.” So if the game won’t try, neither will I.
In the end, Perception seems more like a failed experiment than a game. Ideas are thrown in the air and never given any deserving execution. Cassie comes close to being a likable character but her personality is as bare bones as the game itself, and The Presence isn’t nearly as present as the name implies. A truly sad addition to the Failed Kick starter grave.
This review of Perception was based on the Xbox One version of the game.
Perception is a walking simulator with a few neat moments buried underneath dull design and no stakes involved.
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