Everyone likes a good thriller, and while the concept of a blind woman walking around a house might not sound very horrific, having limited awareness of your surroundings using echo-location proves a spine-tingling suspense builder to create a unique and intriguing game.
Cassie is a young woman that’s been troubled, while her blindness doesn’t hold her back, using the method of echo-location to use sounds to build the world around her, she’s coping well. Until nightmares start to disturb her sleep night after night.
Within these nightmares there’s a house which Cassie tracks down to a place appropriately called Echo Bluff, and decides to visit, alone.. Sure this isn’t the most intelligent thing to do, but desperate to get to the bottom of her recurring dreams, the reassurance that her partner will join her soon is enough for Cassie to head into the house.
You start the game at this point as the narrative explains a little about Cassie, straight away you’ll witness how unique Perception is, you step forward and the ground lights up before you, with very limited visibility, you can click the right trigger to send a wave of sound all around you which gives a much great representation of your surroundings, the more noise, the more you’ll see, but once inside the house, especially after the first hour, you’ll be wanting to keep noise to an absolute minimum.
The story of the house, what happened to the family who used to live there, and your dreams slowly start to unwind, but it’s soon apparent that you’re not alone, there’s someone, or something within the house that doesn’t want you snooping around, you’ll occasionally get a notification up on screen alerting you that the house is listening. I immediately restricted using the click, and even resorted to crouching to try and minimise sound as much as possible, sometimes using memory to navigate rooms with only limited clicks between. Unfortunately what looks like a large house, soon becomes a maze and navigating past your current room without relying on your echo-location is near impossible. Locked doors unlock, blocked paths open up and as you delve deeper into the house and it’s history you’ll become more and more aware of the noise you’re making.
While incredibly unique, this soon starts to feel a little tedious, entering a room completely blind to what’s more than a few yards in front of you is great for building suspense, but not so good for making me want to hang around and explore, looking for items to pick-up revealing more back story.
Sometimes the narrative feels a little forced, while others I would have liked more information in fact, rather than Cassie jumping to conclusions every time she hears a flashback of what might have happened.
Perception is the work of Bill Gardner, former lead designer of Bioshock at Irrational games, After the downfall of Irrational Bill joined forces with his wife Amanda and a handful of industry veterans to create Deep End Games with Perception being their first title. You expect an intriguing narrative and unique approach to games from such a team and while graphically Perception isn’t anywhere near the aforementioned Bioshock series, it’s still incredibly impressive how the world unfolds with every sound.
This does mean textures and detail are somewhat limited but the almost x-ray styling fits perfectly and never feels out of place, stand still and you’ll rightfully feel alone and stranded in nothing but darkness, but use that click and it’s difficult to not be impressed as the world echo’s around you.
This obviously puts a lot of emphasis on the sound and it’s safe to say Sound is more than capable of holding the fort, there’s constant chatter from Cassie and the audio flashbacks are a great way of ensuring you have the sound on, there’s eerie music and enough tension in the air to add to the flow of the game.
It’s safe to say Audio is the star of the show with some above average voice acting across the board.
As well as the main story mode, there’s additional options when starting out, firstly you can choose whether Cassie will chat more, giving her view on the world and events around her, or ‘Silent Night’ which limits Cassie’s chatter to only plot-critical lines. Then there’s the option of Story, Spooky or Scary, Story puts the emphasis on exactly that, with very little danger allowing you much more time to experience the story and explore your surroundings. Scary produces much more aggressive enemies, providing a stern challenge and returning you to the main menu if you die and finally Spooky is the original main story mode, which gives a nice mix of the two, dying reverts you back to the entrance of the house, but maintains all of your progress so far, and while there’s still plenty of danger to be aware of, it’s not critical if you die.
for many the original mspooky’ mode is a safe bet, but it’s well worth considering enjoying the story first and then playing through again on Scary as those two provide quite a different approach to how you’re going to navigate the game.
The story does start to drag a little later on, and the pre-warned threats do detract from the scares a little, but Deep End games have to be applauded, not just for focusing a game on disability, but also for producing a unique and intriguing narrative experience with or without the danger or enemies.