The brainchild of Deep End Games, a small team of ex-Irrational Games developers who previously brought you the likes of Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, and Dead Space, Perception is a highly original, first person narrative horror-adventure. Or walking simulator, if that's what you like to call them.
It's unusual in the fact that it features a blind protagonist. Yeah. You read that right. The player takes control of Cassie Thornton, a blind heroine who uses echo-location to "see" the world around her. Think similar to Daredevil's super-power, but a little more down-to-earth and limited.
The story is set in the Estate at Echo Bluff in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a place that Cassie has had visions of for months. After figuring out the location of the Estate from her home in Phoenix, Arizona, she flies across the country to try to find out what's going on. The game starts as she arrives at the sprawling, creepy abode.
To "look" around, Cassie taps her cane on the floor, which briefly gives a glimpse of her immediate surroundings rendered in a variety of blue hues, before everything fades to black. This sounds easy enough to deal with, right? Just wander along tapping the cane all of the time? Unfortunately for Cassie, there's something stalking her known as the Presence, and it's drawn to sound. Which means she has to use those taps of the cane very sparingly so that she doesn't attract its attention. If she does, Cassie can run from it, and there are hiding places throughout the house where she can take refuge in similar style to Alien Isolation. Alternately, if she's picked up an object, she can throw it to create a distraction while she attempts to escape the Presence's clutches.
The overall objective is to figure out what's going on, which means exploring the house… and even traveling back in time, experiencing different eras and generations of the Estate as its mysteries unfold. It's a highly unusual storyline, and one that has the trappings of a classic gothic horror tale.
Playing the GDC demo of Perception was a really interesting experience. Despite being in the middle of a packed expo, the game made me feel really tense and, dare I admit it, scared. The Estate is incredibly creepy, and I felt totally vulnerable as I tried to navigate through the house using echo-location every few seconds. I'd have a brief view of what was around me, and then I'd have to move from memory, with the occasional ambient sound like footsteps, and creaks from the floorboards giving me a very short-range flash of what was in front of me. It's a very clever effect that works incredibly well to feel really unsettling.
The house is full of weird, creepy stuff like mechanical dolls that move around on tracks, and there are strange recordings to discover, as well as manuscripts that you can "read" by scanning them with your cell phone, which converts the words to audio via a Siri-like app. All these narratives are well executed, and sound very authentic, further enhancing the game's already rich atmosphere.
Perception did a great job of sucking me into its story, and I'm really interested to see the finished game. It reminds me of a seriously scary Gone Home, played half blind. If that sounds like your cup of tea, watch out for it on PC and Xbox One later on this year.
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