Be­yond Eyes

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher Team 17 Devel­oper Tiger & Squid For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now (PC, Xbox One), TBA (PS4)

PC, PS4, Xbox One

Rep­re­sent­ing blind­ness in a vis­ual medium is quite the chal­lenge, but Tiger & Squid has found an in­ven­tive and at­trac­tive way to do so. Rae, blinded in a child­hood ac­ci­dent, steps out into a world of white that is steadily coloured in as she ex­plores, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of mem­ory, imag­i­na­tion and the feed­back of other senses. Thus the area around her be­comes an evolv­ing, per­ma­nently in­com­plete piece of wa­ter­colour art that’s grad­u­ally painted into ex­is­tence. Dis­tant sounds – a chirrup­ing bird, a creak­ing fair­ground ride – ap­pear as puls­ing orbs, fad­ing in and out un­til Rae gets close enough for her mind’s eye to ‘see’ them.

As Rae leaves the com­fort­ing sur­round­ings of her gar­den and heads into the wider world to search for Nani, her miss­ing cat, we see a smil­ing, in­quis­i­tive girl who’s keen not to let her im­pair­ment dent her cu­rios­ity. She lets out a quiet gasp when the path in­clines and she re­alises she’s on a bridge; later, she gingerly crosses step­ping stones with a com­bi­na­tion of ner­vous­ness and ev­i­dent de­light. Nat­u­rally, her jour­ney takes her into more per­ilous ter­ri­tory, and though she’s never un­der any se­ri­ous threat, we sense her re­luc­tance to press on. As her mood dark­ens, so too do the colours of her world, the am­bi­ent sound­track grow­ing more omi­nous as she in­stinc­tively hunches over, cross­ing her arms pro­tec­tively over her chest.

She isn’t to know that a bark­ing dog is tucked safely be­hind a fence, of course, and Be­yond Eyes is at its most af­fect­ing when play­ing with the idea of her re­main­ing senses be­ing some­what un­re­li­able guides. One stand­out se­quence sees a rain­storm cur­tail the vis­ual cues to the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity, evok­ing a tan­gi­ble sen­sa­tion of both dis­ori­en­ta­tion and claus­tro­pho­bia – the feel­ing of be­ing trapped in a tiny part of a big world. It’s a pity, then, that Be­yond Eyes never quite ex­plores or de­vel­ops this con­cept as fully as you would hope.

Some­thing it achieves more suc­cess­fully is the frus­tra­tion of sen­sory im­pair­ment. Rae’s move­ments are care­ful and her walk­ing speed very slow. When progress in­volves mak­ing your way to­wards the source of a sound that’s seem­ingly close by, but means trac­ing a cir­cuitous route, we gain em­pa­thy for Rae’s con­di­tion, but these sec­tions will test the pa­tience of even for­giv­ing play­ers. No doubt that’s the point, but the sheer num­ber of wind­ing paths feels con­trived, while oc­ca­sional in­con­sis­ten­cies ran­kle: there’s no good rea­son why some walls should ap­pear from a dis­tance, while oth­ers only re­veal them­selves on con­tact. By the time a touch­ing coda sweet­ens the bit­ter taste of an abrupt end­ing, an emo­tive game has, like its lead, wan­dered down one cul-de-sac too many.

Height­ened senses may be able to com­pen­sate for a lost one, yet for its two-to-three-hour span, BeyondEyes mostly ex­plores im­proved hear­ing; Rae’s sense of smell is con­sid­ered, but fac­tors only into a sin­gle fetchquest

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