Perception – Indie Game Review
Update(12 Dec 2017): Keys are now remappable, updating to 4 stars.
Are you afraid of the dark ? Perception lets you explore a haunted house through the eyes… well ears of a blind girl, trying to uncover it’s mysteries…
Here is one I’ve been waiting for a while. So earlier this week Perception released on Steam. For those of you who don’t know, Perception is the debut game by new developer The Deep End Games.
The game sees you please as Cassie, a girl exploring a haunted house, and in the process exploring the demons of her own past. Now the twist to the tale is that Cassie is completely blind. As you try to navigate your way through the environment you have to rely on echolocation, think bats, dolphins, and Daredevil. Interestingly this is something that some blind people have actually learnt to do. This is something I’ve always found interesting, and is what lead to me first hearing about the game.
Cassie can tap her cane to the ground, sending out a pulse of sound that briefly highlights the environment. Now while sound is essential to seeing, it also gives away your location to the presence, a malevolent spirit haunting the place. Items revealed by sounds echoing off them have shape and texture but no colour. Things that need reading are also obviously blank and Cassie must scan them with a text to speech app on her phone.
The ambient colour of the echolocation shapes shift between blue, yellow, and red. Depending on how calm or panicked Cassie is. Not sure if intentional by the game or just a neat coincidence, but research has shown we are more likely to make rash decisions around reds and more calculated ones around blue. So a nice way to make the already terrifying prospect of running away from bogeymen you can’t see, while avoiding obstacles you can’t see even worse by simulating your decision making in a panic.
While the mechanics aren’t completely new, we saw the concept used in Lurking, they are much more fleshed out and refined. As well done as the visuals are, the sound design is even better. The lack of music leaves you completely alone with the ambient house sounds, that constantly keep you on edge. There are a lot of little subtle little touches to the sound The chime of a baby cot’s mobile is instantly recognizable as the same tone as the music box from the memory it triggered, for example.
Another really nice touch I noticed is that the sounds you make to echolocation vary slightly based on the environment. Standing in front of a box or couch ? Then the thud is softer and more muffled than an open room or hard wall. If you are on stairs where you can’t tap the ground, you swoosh the cane through the air. While the game would work just as well with one generic sound, it adds to the immersion and shows the research the developers put into echolocation.
Being the first game from a new, small studio Perception does have a few bugs /issues. It has a tendency to be a bit laggy on my mid range machine. The game does however warn me upfront it doesn’t like my current graphic drivers. That should be sorted once i get my new graphics card next month. The menu is a bit clunky. Especially trying to select from the correct field in the options menu, but not impossible with some fiddling.
The largest drawback however is the inability to change the keybindings. You are stuck with the key settings the developers have chosen for you. For most players this is probably not too much of a drawback, but for people like me who play left handed or with finger injuries may struggle a bit.
Overall though this is a good concept and a fun game. With a little refinement through later patches (hopefully) this will be a really great experience. The founders of the studio include former Bioshock and Dead space developers, So I’m sure given time they will clean up most the issues. Although difficult for me to play currently I do recommend Perception if you enjoy indie horror.