The true power of video games is in being able to put players into the shoes of other people. Usually this means taking a normal person and turning them into a superhero, action star, or something like that. Sometimes though, video games break out of this cycle of making you the hero of some grand adventure, and instead give you a perspective on a totally different way to live. Perception does this, while also giving you an adrenaline-fueled experience, letting you feel a little bit of what it’s like to be completely blind, within the confines of a haunted mansion story.
Perception stars Cassie, a blind woman who is able to use echolocation to “see” her surroundings. She has been plagued by nightmares lately all centered around a particular house. After discovering its location she goes there and begins exploring it, hoping to understand why she is being drawn there. Finding it to be haunted, Cassie will have to use her ability to navigate the house as it warps and changes around her, both with malevolent purposes and apparently showing her its history.
The beginning of Perception might lead one to believe it was a “walking simulator”. Or, in other words, the type of video game that excised almost all the “game” parts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many, including myself, enjoy that type of experience. Still, it’s important to note that Perception goes well beyond a “walking simulator” and delivers some actual gameplay to go along with its intriguing storyline and spooky house.
Playing as Cassie, you must deal with her blindness throughout the game. Without sound to navigate by, the world goes black. Environmental sounds will light up the landscape, letting you see what’s nearby, but the main way that you “see” is by tapping Cassie’s cane. This sends a shockwave of sound that will let you know what’s around you, and with highlighted focus points, you can usually get around pretty easily.
Perception is a truly unique game, putting players into the shoes of a blind girl
The blindness is less a limiting factor and more just something you have to deal with. But the effect it has on the feeling of the game is intense. Often, when the game kicks in with the scares, Cassie is dealing with truly horrific things, such as ghosts or specters. But many other times there’s not actually anything terrifying going on. But the tension is still there and often building, as you explore the environment. This is because you can never “see” beyond the immediate area around Cassie.
And when things do ramp up, the terror can be pretty extreme. Perception actually does contain enemies, with the seemingly evil spirit of the house coming after you. This isn’t a constant threat, but is actually based on how much noise you’ve made. Make too much, by running or tapping your cane too often, and the spirit will show up and try to find you. You can’t fight it, instead having to just hide and hope. This creates a constant feeling of dread, whenever you know that the spirit is nearby, or if you start making too much noise.
Helping ground you in the overall world are the aforementioned focal points, which will light up at times, guiding you or just giving you a quick hint where to go. You can also, aside from a few specific times, press a button to see your next objective. This keeps the game moving at a steady pace, while still letting you figure everything out on your own, if you so choose.
What really hurts the game, and in a much more significant way than you might think, is that it has a terrible save and checkpoint system. I discovered this after having to close the game the very first time. I’d put over an hour in and had to step away. When I returned I was a full 15 minutes behind where I’d turned the game off. From then on I was mindful to watch for the auto-save indicator, as there’s no manual save function. It came up so sparingly that it was tough to find good stopping points. Another time I completed multiple objectives, triggering entire sections of storytelling, then had to turn the game off and found again that I was back about 10 minutes from where I’d left.
This might seem like a minor inconvenience, but it impacted a lot of my time with the game. Any time I felt like I would need to stop playing I would have to stay keenly aware of the last save point, lest I have to repeat large sections of the game. Knowing what to do made it so I could breeze through these sections, but it took a lot away from the immersion and storytelling that the rest of the game worked so hard to develop.
But, often despite this, Perception does build a great sense of immersion. The visuals, as odd as it may sound, are fantastic. The world is enveloped in darkness, but the way things come to life when they create or are impacted by sound, is always amazing. Whenever there’s a constant and large source of noise, such as wind through a hallway, the entire world will light up and morph around you.
Building upon this is the soundscape, with loud bangs or soft whirring helping to create a true sense of the world around you. The game does use this to build a few somewhat cheap jump scares, but they do add to the overall feeling of dread throughout the game.
Perception is a truly unique game, putting players into the shoes of a blind girl and using that as a means of storytelling and gameplay. It develops a world that you want to explore, but also keeps you on the edge of your seat with fear and trepidation. It has problems, such as a terrible checkpoint/save system, but the overall product is worth a look from anyone seeking something different.
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Feardemic
- Developed By: The Deep End Games
- Genre: Survival Horror
- US Release Date: May 30th, 2017
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Perception is a truly unique game, putting players into the shoes of a blind girl and using that as a means of storytelling and gameplay. It develops a world that you want to explore, but also keeps you on the edge of your seat with fear and trepidation."