Perception PS4 Review

Publisher: Feardemic  Developer: The Deep End Games  Genre: Horror, Adventure  

Players: 1  Age Rating: 16+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One, Switch

There are few games that focus on blindness – the only other game I know of is Beyond Eyes, in which the young protagonist walks around her environment, listening to the sounds and forming a picture in her head based on what she can hear. It is a simple game, with no gimmicks, and although it never conveyed what a blind person experiences, it still managed to capture the emotions such a person might feel.

Perception takes a vastly different direction, putting you in the shoes of Cassie, a blind woman who has been experiencing strange dreams of a mansion, and so heads there to explore and uncover why she is having these nightmares.

There are some cutscenes, with characters appearing as ghostly images as they move.

You know the drill with a lot of indie titles by now – a lot of them focus on trying to convey a message, and Perception is no different. What sounds like a promising game though becomes a generic horror experience, and you could easily replace Cassie’s blindness with regular visuals and you would still have the same result; it seems the blindness is merely a gimmick, and not one done very well.

For starters, Cassie isn’t entirely blind; instead it seems she went to the Daredevil school of echolocation, as any noises produces soundwaves that Cassie then interprets as blue images. To explore the huge mansion, Cassie also isn’t without assistance – her mobile has multiple functions, including text-to-speech software that allows her to read the numerous customary notes, letters and other bits of stationary laying about, and she also has access to the Friendly Eyes app, which connects to a live service user who will describe to her anything she needs interpreting visually, such as photographs, or certain areas of her environment.

Cassie also comes equipped with a guide stick, and unfortunately this is where some irritations start to set in. You’ll quickly learn that Cassie’s actions are very repetitive, and the constant tap, tap, tapping of the guide stick will quickly grate. Tapping the cane allows Cassie to ‘see’ more of her environment, and although you’d think that constantly tapping the cane would make the gameplay too easy, later on there are consequences, when tapping the cane too much will alert an enemy to your location, resulting in a one-hit kill. This adds some tactical thinking to the gameplay, though mostly you’ll find yourself becoming annoyed that you can’t see very much at all.

The visual style of the game also doesn’t help when exploring such a huge area – the mansion is quite big, and it is very easy to lose yourself. With the blue colour being the predominant colour present, it’s difficult to pick out aspects of the environment to memorise where you have actually already been, and you’ll find yourself unintentionally backtracking. The flashing of the colour will also become irksome, especially when you are being chased by enemies and keep running into walls and other obstacles. Any doorways are coloured green, as are any hiding places, though this still doesn’t help you to find your way around as everything looks too identical.

Another cliche: creepy dolls abound, and some are packing heat!

If you are unsure of where to go, there is a hint system of sorts – pressing the L2 button will highlight your next location, though sometimes it isn’t always helpful as you’ll need to do something else first before you can reach it, and this is what will have you trailing off the beaten track. Exploring the mansion will uncover more details about the story, though once you’ve been through an area for the fifth or sixth time, it’ll start to annoy.

Perception isn’t without it’s cliches either. You’ll come across dead bodies, ghostly images that pop up and disappear just as quickly, and laughing, mischievous children. The main enemy itself isn’t anything to be frightened of, and after you have that first encounter, any sense of threat is diminished. In any horror platform, it’s said that it is what you don’t see that is the scarier than what you do, so I question the necessity of this particular enemy – its sole purpose seems to be to prevent you from over-using the guide stick, and for something for you to be scared of, because it’s a horror game. Thankfully jumpscares are minimal, though you may still find yourself startled by some particularly loud sounds.

Perception also lacks any atmosphere, again thanks to the muted visual style. Because of this, any sense of an atmosphere has to be developed through the story, though the plot is as predictable as you might expect. Cassie is involved in somewhat of a supernatural event, with her seemingly time-travelling through various periods of the mansions existence, from a wartime period, right back through to the times they burned witches at the stake. Cassie has to solve certain mysteries to progress, though it has nothing to do with her blindness at all.

With the visuals lacking, other elements have to hold the game up, but unfortunately these are also lacking. Story-wise, I would have expected the plot to focus more on Cassie’s blindness, instead of making it a bit of an aside; her blindness seems irrelevant to the story. Instead we are given a generic horror plot and gameplay that could manage just as easily without Cassie’s blindness – think of any other horror game where you search a spooky mansion for its secrets and replace the gameplay with that depicting a blind person.

There are a total of 4 chapters, each connected by this strange tree that acts as a type of hub.

The voice acting is decent though, and you can tell that effort has been put in to making Cassie feel like a regular person, as well as any other characters. It feels as though they are real people speaking to one another, and there is some tension when Cassie connects to Neil, who works for the Friendly Eyes app, and he is describing to her certain parts of the environment with panic in his voice. This does leave you wondering what he can see that you can’t, and more of this would have helped to build tension.

The  biggest issue with Perception though is that it is a horror game, and horror is a very visual medium, of not knowing what is around the next corner. Whilst the developers have tried to instil some sense of threat with the enemies, the visuals are too much of a distraction to pull you in to the environments, fighting against the flashing blue hues as you try to make your way around, in turn breaking any immersion. The story is too predictable and the message at the end feels tacked on – the story should convey the message and leave players discussing its meaning. Perception perhaps would have worked much better as a psychological game, with Cassie’s blindness being brought more to the forefront and being given more focus.