Perception – Blind to greatness – Review

Gare – Wednesday, May 31, 2017 1:53 AM
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When I first heard of Perception, I found the idea quite fascinating – after all, it doesn’t happen every day that one can try and survive a horror game – or at least an adventure game with dark themes – in the shoes of a blind person. The potential was there for something interesting, something unique, yet unfortunately, Perception – and I’m probably not alone in feeling this way – simply didn’t measure up to the task. What this resulted in was a game that sadly left me with nothing but a bitter aftertaste and even more questions.

An interesting idea

The basic premise is fairly straightforward: our protagonist is Cassie, a blind woman who visits an abandoned house to explore and shed some light on its many secrets. And despite having been robbed of sight, our protagonist can navigate the mansion’s musty halls through her hearing. The game uses echolocation to simulate this – Cassie uses her trusty walking cane to tap the ground from time to time, and we, as players, follow the ripples of sound that “illuminate”, so to speak, our surroundings. An interesting idea for sure, even if the constant vibrations of visual ripples began to genuinely tire out my eyes after an hour or two spent with Perception. Either way, if that alone wasn’t enough, we have a hostile entity roaming the house as well – an entity with sensitive ears, mind you, that will catch and kill Cassie, should she make too much noise with her cane. Nonetheless, players careful enough with their cane-stomping will likely have very few – if any – run-ins with the game’s grumpy, Predator-sounding ghost – during my playthrough, I only stumbled upon said entity about two or three times, I believe. Yet even if the entity had caught me a touch more often, I still would’ve had trouble really labeling Perception as a terrifying or atmospheric experience. Part of the reason behind this is – and here comes the thing so many horror games fall prey to – that the game mostly just utilizes the occasional lazy jumpscare, and doesn’t really try to do much else. Sure, loud and abrupt sounds may temporarily startle me, but they won’t scare me – there’s a very clear difference, and anyone that desires to create a truly haunting horror experience needs to reach deeper into the game designer bag of tricks in order to truly impress its audience.

“Wandering around in the dark, being bored”

Perception similarly leaves much to be desired on the gameplay front, as you’ll spend a good chunk of your time following a highlighted goal in the distance as your personal shining star of guidance. As the few puzzles that do exist are trivial at best, much of the game’s obstacles appear in the form of the player’s inability to find the correct path, the right door, or that one specific key item. Navigating through the dark can be quite a nuisance – there was that one part where I wasted a solid 15-20 minutes trying to locate a flight of stairs – but there are no mental challenges or even intense fear to accompany it, reducing gameplay to just “wandering around in the dark, being bored”.

As for the storyline – the meat of any adventure game worth its salt – well, I’m not even sure what to say. Perception operates with an episodic structure, with each new chapter introducing a different mini-plotline of about 30-60 minutes in length, yet none of them are particularly engaging, surprising, or even memorable. And just when the player thinks there might be a grand finale coming that ties all the plotlines together to bring some order into the chaos via a cathartic “a-ha” moment, the game promptly rolls the credits and ends, just like that. And there I was, scratching my head in confusion, wondering what the point of my four-hour session with the game even was – because that’s about how long it takes for a playthrough of Perception to wrap up, deaths and aimless wandering included.

Blind to greatness

I can’t help but feel like Perception missed its opportunity to be something really special. It could’ve been a fascinatingly unfolding tale with touching moments about either blindness or a myriad other potential topics – instead, we ended up with tedium, jumpscares, and a plot that ends before it has any chance of getting to the point. It’s a shame, really.

As an addendum, here are Csiri's own thoughts on the game

If, as a game developer – or any kind of creator of artistic content – you must resort to two or three slides at the end of the game (or work of art) in order to explicitly explain why you created it in the first place, you probably didn’t do a good enough job with said game. Because if you had four hours’ worth of game time at your disposal to express the morals of your tale, you shouldn’t need another thirty seconds for some extra subtitles. Still, I do realize this can be a challenge when the game itself lacks both a story or any sort of moral teaching.

It is particularly appalling to see a game utilize human injustices and our own social fragility to retrospectively make itself be seen in a more positive light, especially when it makes use of the wrongs committed against the creator’s own ancestor. I mean, let’s be real here: in the not-so-distant past, people’s ancestors and relatives were exterminated due to their heritage or sent off to die in wars – there’s not a single person who couldn’t list at least one forebear that suffered and died as a result of their ancestry, religion, or way of thinking. Heck, even some of mine were Huguenots.

Prejudice is a harmful thing – I doubt I need to point this out. It inflicts far more harm on the person whose mind it poisons, than those who suffer as its result. Nonetheless, those who, like I have, look at this game without any prejudice, will be left disappointed. A horror game from a blind woman’s perspective was indeed a promising and welcome attempt, full of potential that ultimately couldn’t be realized.

You can check out our full playthrough (with Hungarian commentary) over here