I’ve complained before, on these hallowed pages and in real life down the pub, that the world of video games seems to be suffering from a lack of creativity. There seems to be a perception that it is much safer to produce a numbered sequel, especially to a sports game (looking at you, EA) than to take a chance on something different. Luckily, smaller developers, the much vaunted “indie devs” aren’t as scared of trying something new, and so it was with Tiger & Squid, the developers of Beyond Eyes. Taking a story that was pretty simple, when it boiled down to it, and making it into a gaming experience unlike anything I’d played before is a pretty good talent to have.
Beyond Eyes follow the story of Rae, a 10 year old girl who was blinded in an accident with a firework. However, the spirit that she shows, the bravery in even accomplishing everyday tasks comes through loud and clear in the gameplay. Starting off in a purely white world, the game gives us some idea of what it may be like to be without sight, and honestly the thought of being in this young girls situation does actually fill me with dread. However, they do say that when a sense is lost, others step up to try and fill the void left by the missing sense, and in this game Rae’s hearing has become seemingly much better. As she perceives sounds, Rae can almost “see” the thing that is making the noise, and it appears in a beautiful burst of colours. A bird singing on a branch, a dog barking, these are portrayed in bursts of colour as Rae becomes aware of their existence.
Rae has made a friend, you see, a stray cat that she decides to call Nani. Every day, Nani comes to visit Rae, squeezing between the bars of the iron gate into Rae’s garden sanctuary, and as they play, a firm friendship is forged. Then, one day, Nani doesn’t come to play, and Rae makes the decision that if the cat won’t come to her, she will go to the cat! As she moves through the world, the graphics swim into existence and then fade to white again as Rae walks, with her steps on a gravel path causing the path to appear, for instance, and distant cars that exist only in Rae’s mind turning into lawnmowers as she gets closer.
Graphically, Beyond Eyes was pretty simple, with an almost whimsical representation of Rae, a girl in a dress with a bow and wellies on, and the things that she hears coming into existence almost like seeing a watercolour being painted before your eyes. The colours were bright and pretty, the way things turned into other things as Rae got close (one memorable one being a branch being dragged along a road, which turned into an umbrella as Rae was able to perceive it better). Rae can remember the world that she has interacted with, luckily, and once a road has been travelled, she can see it in her mind’s eye again, which is nice. That is, however, until it rains, when the noise of the raindrops wipes out the map she has made in her head, leading us to have to explore all over again. I may have muttered a quiet curse when that happened.
As a game, Beyond Eyes is, to be honest, not that great. The pacing is slow – I’m guessing deliberately so in order to try to get across the vulnerability of a small blind girl in a big uncaring world. While you know why Rae doesn’t run about the place, as the worry of falling or running in front of a car must be ever present, I must admit that by the end of the game I had become a little frustrated with inching my way along. I don’t expect Rae to cover bounce like Marcus Fenix, don’t get me wrong, but a little more pace may have been nice. Other than that complaint however, I really enjoyed playing Beyond Eyes, as the simple story of a girl and her search for a cat expanded into seeing the world in a different way. I for one applaud the developers for taking a chance. Slowing down, taking the game at the pace it was meant to be played at was a rare moment of calm in my gaming career, and while the urge to replay was never there, I am still glad to this day that I gave the game a chance.
So, these are my memories of playing Beyond Eyes on Xbox One from way back in 2015. How about you guys? I have to be honest, I was drawn to the game first by the promise of easy achievements, but somewhere along the way, Rae’s journey got under my skin and I finished things because I wanted to, not out of just a hunt for that sweet Gamerscore and easy cheevos. Did you play the game? Did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments! And if you haven’t played it, well, it’ll only cost you £9.99 from the Xbox Store.