Horror games have arrived left, right and centre in the last few years, after a surge of Let’s Play videos brought the genre to the height of popularity once more. And with so many games trying to engrave fear into the minds of their players, you’d probably thought you’d seen everything the genre has to offer; with its mindless killers, zombies, jump scares, zombies, horrifying weapons and more zombies all well saturated. But one thing that we don’t see much of in the horror genre is blindness.
Perception looks to change that though, and with a team consisting of ex-employees from Bioshock studio, Irrational Games, there is certainly enough experience behind the development to make this a frightfest worth playing.
But is blindness the true fear factor we’ve been missing all these years? I embraced the darkness to find out.
Perception places the player into the shoes of Cassie, a young woman who has been blind from birth. After being recently plagued by nightmare after nightmare, Cassie decides to track down the root of the problem that is calling out to her from a maze-like mansion in the heart of New England… and it’s looking to release a dark history. Whilst in the house, it is up to Cassie to piece together the tragic events that have unfolded by utilising her cryptic connection to the dangerous home, whilst avoiding the supernatural threats that lie within.
To navigate the house, Cassie uses a sense of echolocation, in which a tap of her walking cane emits sounds to the environment, allowing her to see where she is going and what is around her.
Unfortunately, this is where the whole idea of the game starts to fall apart.
In most horror games, the fear comes from what you can see or have seen, following the player through the game as they take on a sense of trepidation and exploration at what they will find next. In Perception, all sense of exploration is quickly taken away with the echolocation simply outlining everything you need to know. The layout of entire rooms, being told where to go, and what to pick up, as well as where enemies are can all be learned with a simple tap of the cane and this takes out any real need for panic at all. Of course, when the echo quietens, the outlined objects of each room will begin to fade to darkness once more, leaving players to navigate by memory, loud noise, or another tap of the cane to help outline everything once more.
With blindness plaguing the protagonist, enemy frequency is much lower than other horror titles on the market. There may not be a whole ton of enemies to worry about, but there is still the “the presence”, preventing this from being a simple walk through to its conclusion. Even with echolocation, it’s never made abundantly clear exactly what the presence is, but one thing is for sure, it’s not happy with you being there.
As I mentioned before, a simple tapping of the walking cane is all that’s needed to bring up Cassie’s surroundings, however too many taps or heavy footsteps is all it takes to entice the presence into a killing rampage – something which can quickly result in Cassies’s death for anyone tapping their stick too freely. With plenty of objects to hide behind though, it’s not until the later stages of the game in which you’ll really need to pay any attention to the enemy presence. If a hardcore horror title was something you were hoping for, you’re probably best looking elsewhere.
That said Perception isn’t a bad game as such, but rather a game suffering from an identity crisis. Whilst the exploration and enemy encounters are terribly dumbed down from that of a typical horror title, the story telling is certainly worth experiencing. Although you won’t be seeing a Steven Spielberg type thriller to keep you engaged, there is enough on show to keep you playing through to the end.
Other than in its story, there isn’t much more on offer with Perception. With just four chapters to play through, it’s a short and sweet experience rather than a typically brutal blood fest. But then, if you’re looking to ease into the genre, Perception is a title well worth starting out with.
Unfortunately, if you were hoping for Perception to bring you an experience that showcases the struggles of a blind person, or something completely original and new, you’re out of luck. A blind protagonist is a new look in the horror genre, but Perception doesn’t really bring you much in the way of understanding for the main character. Instead the struggles of being blind are made to look easier than they are. With Cassie needing to do nothing more than snapping a picture on her phone, before being told exactly what it is she is looking at or missing, it’s all a bit simple. Factor in that echolocation tells her exactly where to go – either in order to access the next area or locate a needed item – the only real difference between Perception and your usual horror affair is the fact that everything returns to darkness once everything quietens down. That ensures it makes for more of a peaceful experience than something to be frightened of.
Perception feels like a perfect blend between Gone Home and Beyond Eyes, and whilst neither of those are horror games, seeing the best aspects of each mixed into the horror genre doesn’t make for a bad game. However, with a clear identity struggle on show throughout, there’s isn’t anything particularly special for fans of the genre to look out for.