Blind Men has a niche and, for the most part, it fits that niche rather well. It is a self-described “boy’s love visual novel” parodying 70’s James Bond and other spy flicks. Whilst its charm and good points are immediate, its worst points are painfully obvious throughout.
Blind Men has a very novel concept, featuring Keegan, our protagonist, and his attempts to be taken seriously as a supervillain. In this world, there is an established board of supervillains (The League) and your uncle is a superior member. This leaves you with the struggle of carving a path for yourself without relying on your uncle to establish you. After telling your uncle of your application to the league, he helps you by hiring henchmen and giving you your own evil base. You decide, to show the league you are worthy, to get a high-price target and bring it to the league as part of your application. This then brings you to the first major decision in the game: do you steal a world famous diamond or an important doctor?
This is where the main story and gameplay starts. Your decision here majorly affects the story route you go down. Whilst some ideas stay consistent throughout the narrative, the way in which they happen, and why, are up to you. After choosing your desired route, you are introduced to your two central love interests: Hunter and Sergei. Hunter is a smooth talking American agent with an innate sense of bravado. Sergei, on the other hand, is a cold and powerful Russian spy. You will spend the majority of your time with either of these two characters regardless of your story route.
The story, for the most part, is rather basic. It fits well into its genre but doesn’t really attempt much outside of this. There is your typical backstabbing, espionage and explosions, but it gets tiring rather fast. The concept itself is far more interesting than the story. Visual novels do however tend to be character-driven so perhaps it is better to go looking there. Let’s start with Hunter. Upon first meeting him, he is very forward with your character and you are given the opportunity to flirt back if you so desire. Whilst you start off in a tense fashion, you are given the chance to find out more about him throughout the different routes.
You can reveal information about him and his family and are given the chance to talk about your own. Hunter shows many sides throughout Blind Men and the intrigue lies in if you think he’s telling the truth. Although he is portrayed as the typical sense of good throughout Blind Men, the story suggests otherwise. One such scene depicts what is essentially sexual assault on your character as you are tied up. This comes off as creepy and predatory, especially given the age difference. This is something oddly prevalent in both spy films and the “seme-uke” dynamic, and is an unfortunate blemish on the game itself, giving a layer of insidiousness to acts that seemed innocuous before. In a romantic visual novel you want to, in some way, empathise or connect with characters and this becomes rather hard after this point.
This brings one to Sergei. He initially starts out as a Soviet caricature but is given a layer of depth I wasn’t expecting. As you learn of his family and the structure of the Russian economy, he starts to feel much more human than otherwise thought. His routes are the best for emphasising the consequences of your decisions, as the level of trust you place in him defines what happens. He doesn’t develop as much as one might like but he comes across rather well given the playtime.
Speaking of playtime, the game consists of four central endings but those can be tweaked slightly to achieve double that. To see everything Blind Men has to offer, it should take a couple of hours at the most. This is helped by a fast auto click option and a skip option for text you’ve already seen – a nice touch. And it is this which moves us onto the general presentation. The art and music are competent but don’t stand out. They work as a device for the story but don’t offer much more. Whilst the music is generally decent, it often comes in and out in jarring ways, often stopping in complete silence for up to a minute. Furthermore, there are consistent issues in the text, from poor wording to repetition to spelling mistakes. This doesn’t ruin the experience but does bring it down somewhat.
Blind Men on Xbox One offers a rather interesting concept of playing as a supervillain but is let down by downright creepy writing, spelling mistakes and a bland story. Whilst fans of boy’s love visual novels might find something to like here, there are plenty of better choices out there.