It’s finally here!
It’s no secret that I’ve been beyond excited for Perception since its original announcement all the way back in May of 2015.
I’ve hung onto every word from The Deep End Games — boring listeners of Geekscape Games with my limitless excitement for the mysterious project, and flooding Geekscape’s front page with each image, trailer, and tidbit of information that the developers trickled down the pipeline. Perception has had one of the most detailed, involved Kickstarter campaigns that I’ve ever seen, and it’s been an absolute joy to follow in its development.
The game is the very first release from The Deep End Games, a team compromised largely of ex Irrational Games developers, who just happened to create what may be my favourite video game series ever, BioShock.
Rather than attempting to craft something similar to that famed series after Irrational’s untimely closure, Perception tries to do something that I’ve never seen before. It’s not underwater (or in the sky), and you don’t have a variety of guns, cool powers, or weird creepy bodily enhancements. In fact, the character you play as can’t even see.
This blindness makes for some of the most interesting visuals in a video game that I’ve seen in quite some time. As you explore the mammoth residence at Echo Bluff, the world you see will be predominantly pitch black. Cassie uses a form of echolocation to temporarily see her surroundings — walking will moderately light up the area right around her, while tapping her cane to make a louder noise will briefly show you more of your immediate surroundings. Things like doors will be marked in a different color (to give you an idea of where you could go next) and there’s even a button to force your perspective to the next objective, making it a little tougher to get too, too lost in the darkness.
The visuals reminded me of the incredible documentary Notes on Blindness (which should be experienced in VR, if at all possible) in which a sighted author and theologian, John Hull, recorded his experiences and changing perception of the world as he slowly lost his sight. In the documentary, as in Perception, the world around you all but disappears unless audio is being produced. In the game this could be a squeaky pipe, a dripping tap, or an open window down the hall, or more menacingly, a door swinging open or slamming shut, or footsteps that aren’t yours when you’re supposed to be the only one in the house. There are also creepy whispers all the time and I just want them to stop.
Naturally, in a game that can often feature pretty minimal visuals, audio is incredibly important. Every piece of audio in Perception, from Angela Morris’ performance as Cassie, to composer Jim Bonney’s haunting score, to the makes-me-jump-every-single-time sounds that the old mansion makes adds to the game’s impressive presentation. In a game that can’t overly rely on jump scares (it certainly contains some, but they’re pretty minimal as you often wouldn’t be able to see what’s jumping out at you), more often than not it was what I was hearing that was making me uncomfortable, rather than what I was seeing.
Did I mention how scary this game can be? I feel like I’m usually moderately good at being able to handle horror titles, but Perception is a game that really invokes the feeling that what you can’t see is often scarier than what you can, and this led me to taking a tension break much more frequently than I’d care to admit.
Perception takes place over four chapters, each during a separate era in the Echo Bluff mansion’s existence. The house itself feels markedly different between chapters, and through each section of the game you’ll learn about the sordid lives of the home’s previous inhabitants. Sure, at some points the game can feel like a very dark walking simulator (think Gone Home), but it’s in the exploration of the house and in learning about its past inhabitants that Perception truly shines. The tales told in each of the chapters are incredibly interesting, and at the game’s closure I simply wanted to know what other tales the Echo Bluff mansion had to tell.
The name of the game is exploration and discovery (and an interesting as hell plot that I would definitely watch a movie based on), but you wouldn’t truly be able to label Perception as a horror title if there wasn’t some sort of threat. The threat here is simply known as The Presence; a dark, hooded, clawed figure that is not happy that you’re exploring the house, and that will simply kill you if it’s able to locate you. You’ll alert The Presence by making too much noise, like sprinting too much, or tapping your cane too frequently. This makes for an interesting mechanic – do you tap your cane in order to better ‘see’ your surroundings? Or do you wander around in the ‘dark’ in order to keep The Presence away?
You’ll get through Perception in about four or five hours. Over this time, you’ll get to know the house, its previous inhabitants (and their often terrible fates), and most importantly, Cassie. The Deep End Games has created a truly memorable character in its sightless heroine, and as striking as the rest of the game can be, learning about her thoughts and feelings, friends and family (Cassie has a surprisingly full phone full of messages for you to explore) is by and large the very best part of this memorable journey.
Perception scores a creepy 4/5, and is available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
+ Amazing presentation
+ Extremly interesting plot
– Sometimes I got lost
– Not challenging enough