by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Back in my review of Lifeless Planet last year I talked about the current trend of ďworld immersionĒ games, where there arenít really any enemies to fight, difficult challenges to overcome, or other traditional game objectives. Instead, these games are content to simply plop you down into their virtual worlds and let the player swim through their interesting premises. While theyíre certainly not everyoneís cup of tea, I rather enjoy them, and Beyond Eyes may be the most minimalistic, yet unique example Iíve played yet.
Beyond Eyes is an incredibly simple story, putting players in the shoes of the young, somewhat-recently blinded Rae. A close bond grows between Rae and a wild cat Nani, and when the cat fails to appear for its daily visits Rae decides to adventure out into the unknown and try to find him. Thatís really all there is story-wise. On one hand the simple experience is refreshing, but on the other, and the more I think back on the game the more I lean this way, I canít help but feel there could have been a bit more. Itís impressive that developer Tiger and Squid could make me care about this young protagonist in such a short time, and there are certainly some more emotional moments peppered throughout the experience, but a tad more narrative would have really brought the game to another level.
Raeís journey may be slow and of small scale, but the way the game presents it makes it seem as large and imposing as any heroís tale. It may be hard to imagine how a game could portray being blind save for giving you a black screen, but the way the world is revealed around Rae is its most beautiful feature. Traveling through something as mundane as a back yard seems like a herculean task when everything is only painted a few feet around you at a time. It really is painted too, the visuals a surreal watercolor painting that blossoms and fades as Rae discovers her world with sound and touch. While it may be frustrating to get turned around in a large open space, itís equally rewarding to get a woodpecker off in the distance, and terrifying to be surprised by a loud, barking dog mere feet away. Like I said, itís not for everyone. If youíre someone that needs collectables or measurable victory youíll be sorely disappointed, but the game is the perfect length to make its ďgimmickĒ work without it becoming repetitive or a drag.
The only real mechanic to discuss is movement, as walking around is the only thing you can actually do. Whatís interesting is how many twists on walking around there can be. Itís a bit challenging to start with as you can only see a few feet in front of you, but it gets more difficult when bushes, walls and even buildings and bridges can appear in front of what you thought to be a simple babbling brook or blank field. Sounds can also be deceiving - what you may initially see as a babbling water fountain turns out to be a dirty drainage pipe as you walk closer, clothes drying on a line suddenly turn into a fairly sinister looking scarecrow upon touch, and a murder of crows transforms into a group of frolicking chickens. It keeps you guessing and illustrates, with an obvious amount of liberty taken, some of the challenges and tricks associated with the loss of a sense. Unfortunately this is partially hampered by somewhat ďstickyĒ movement. While I appreciate that Rae automatically runs her hands along close objects and flinches at sudden noise, sometimes the animation would get ďstuckĒ when Iím close to objects. Turning around between bushes or next to a wall would occasionally have me freeze or move extremely slowly for unknown reasons. If itís a design decision itís a poor one, and if itís a glitch itís an incredibly frequent one, but no matter which is the case itís an annoying occurrence that hampers the otherwise enjoyable experience of exploration.
Sure to stick with you
If youíd have told me Iíd enjoy a game about helping a blind girl find her cat by navigating through fields and yards Iíd have had my doubts, but here I am having done exactly that. There are definitely some issues with the game that should have been improved upon - most notably occasionally questionable movement controls and a story that errs on the side of being a bit too minimalistic - but the overall experience is charming, unique and beautifully crafted. Itís a game that can, and should be, completed in one sitting, and one thatís sure to stick with you, either for its unique mechanics or dazzling watercolor environments, after the story concludes.
Beautiful visual design, interesting expression of blindness and an enjoyably simple musical score.
While I appreciate their minimalism to a point, I could have used a bit more story, and movement needs to be smoothed out a bit.