Everyone deals with the horror genre in different ways, for some they just open themselves up to the world get immersed in the setting. My friend Beth assigns names to everyone, good or bad, and greets them when they appear “Hello Garry!” as a monster leaps at her in Resident Evil. I myself become even more jaded and cynical than usual. After years of watching horror films and playing games in the genre I’ve learned to spot when the jump is coming. Like a drum and bass fanatic I wait for the drop and can call it to the beat in any scary experience. Perception plays on this by taking away a key feature of most games, your sight.

Clearly ripping on Ben Afleck’s Daredevil film (as everyone should because it’s actually quite good) you take the role of Cassie, a blind woman who using echo location can get an outline of the world around her. Whether it’s ambient surroundings like a radio, TV or crappy heating system or by tapping her cane on the floor you can reclaim some vision of the world and rather than just be met with pitch black you instead get a blue outline showing you tables and boxes and ghostly figures. The crux of the game is based around a mansion you make your way to after having recurring nightmares featuring it. The setup is a little confusing, you get told that this is the house of your nightmares and you’ve travelled across the country to get there leaving your boyfriend behind as this is ‘something you have to do’. Not exactly the most justifiable cause I’ve ever heard.

Once inside you must guide Cassie around the mansion as best you can to find out what happened there and why it’s haunting your dreams. The opening chapter lays the foundation for the rest of the game, the house is in disrepair and between occupants currently, as you tap your cane you must navigate your surroundings finding clues explaining what happened between a pregnant woman and her doctor husband. You’re given snippets of story as you wander around, seeing ghostly memories play out scenes in front of you and reading letters and other things. The house for no apparent reason at first rearranges itself from room to room causing a mild inconvenience rather than something more sinister.

The reading element is all achieved through Cassie’s mobile phone with it’s text to speech app. This mechanic works to justify why everything in the world isn’t an audio recording. The problem is that this means you will many times in each chapter find yourself just waiting for some audio to finish before you can put down the bottle of pills and carry on with your journey. Later in the game I was horrendously stuck in a section where it turns out I was meant to return to a box that was locked and interact with it a second time, at this second interaction Cassie phones a service for blind people where they can send a picture to a fully sighted person and get the picture described. Mostly this is handed to you on a plate and this actually became a relative high point for me as the things you’re sending the poor man on the other end become more and more horrific including police corpses blocking drains in a flooded crawlspace.

Mostly the game just sees you walking from point A to B, interacting with something to read a horrific new detail of the chapter’s story and then move to point C. As I wandered around chapter 1 and chapter 2 I kept seeing places I could hide, I would sometimes just hop into the chest or cupboard to see what happens but at no point was I in danger, it took a couple of hours for me to hit the end of chapter 2 where I was finally shown that there was an entity in the house hunting me down. My understanding is this is down to how many times you tap your cane, if you go over board on it your just encouraging a creature to come and get you. With this not being explained at any point I was just trying to role play the game and not be an arse tapping away like a Morse Code enthusiast.

With its main crux of horror coming from the lack of vision I spent a large amount of time playing the game wondering why it wasn’t in VR. Keeping the real world player’s vision impaired as well as the characters would have done wonders to the immersion in the game. I know it’s uncouth to play backseat designer but the echo-location doesn’t seem like quite enough of a gimmick to push this game into people’s wish lists on Steam. Adding VR functionality could have made this something really special.

Perception is at its core a solid bit of fun. It owes a lot to Gone Home but doesn’t quite hit the same nuanced script or voice cast, instead you have a slightly confused story of a blind time traveler experiencing almost a horror anthology all set in the same house. Whether it’s over possessive doctor husbands or a lonely World War 2 woman or a somewhat mad scientist with evil gun-toting dolls you are bouncing from time to time experiencing what ‘the house’ has done to its residents. The game is clever in its portrayal of suffering with being blind. It’s frustrating to an unnerving level and not something you would wish upon anyone. Perception does a lot with a little, it wants to be up there with games like Gone Home, Firewatch and Amnesia, you’re merely a player in someone else’s story and unable to truly defend yourself. Does it reach those heady heights? No, unfortunately not, with some elements just not feeling polished enough and the game feeling like a chore in places it doesn’t stand on the shoulders of those giants. It does do a lot with a little though, it keeps you unnerved throughout with its constant dwindling of vision, its jump scares and a series of individual stories that will creep you out, I just wish it had that little something extra to push it into being great.

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Ruaidhri

Big-Boss of PixelBedlam.co.uk
Ruaidhri has been writing for a number of sites over the past few years, spewing his vitriol and love in equal measures on all topics from Video Games to Film and Board Games to Geek Culture. He started PixelBedlam in September of 2012. Follow him on Twitter!

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