Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes
Beyond Eyes’ heroine isn’t your usual kind of videogame protagonist. Rae is a young girl who was blinded in an accident as a toddler, and the story begins when she finds she has to leave the safety of her garden in order to find her missing best friend – a fat ginger tomcat who goes by the name of Nani. It’s impossible for someone with sight to understand how a blind person experiences the world, but if the journey you take in Beyond Eyes is anything to go by, it can be surreal, beautiful, confusing and frightening – and sometimes all of those at once.
The world you walk through is constructed entirely through Rae’s memories and remaining senses, in a natural way that makes the concept abundantly clear. The game starts as a blank white canvas that blushes as if painted in watercolour as Rae moves slowly forwards. Individual sounds and smells cause new areas to blossom and die: birds, for example, only exist for as long as their chirping lasts.
This mechanic serves to make the world disorientating. You will hear a river but not know the bridge is there until you step out onto it. When it rains the game shrinks to just the island of colour around Rae as the pitterpatter of the raindrops drown out the ambient noise of the world around her. Other deceptions are much crueller: what first appears to be washing flapping on a line becomes, as you get close enough to touch it, a looming scarecrow host to cawing crows.
Sounds like these – aggressive birds; a growling dog; a busy road – frighten and confuse Rae, and she must find another way around. During these moments the whole world becomes tinged with grey and black, reminding you that the entire game is filtered through Rae’s interpretations.
This realisation helps offset any frustration you might have at Rae. She moves agonisingly slowly compared to a standard run-and-gun space marine, but then of course she does. If you spin the camera you can see that her arms are open and her face is lifted, ready for the unknown world.
If Beyond Eyes has a flaw it’s that it doesn’t do enough with the concept it is built around. There are many touching moments that open a window to a world most of us will never know, but yet Rae encounters only a few moments of genuine emotional tension over the course of her journey. It makes you hope for a sequel, if only to see the boundaries pushed a little further. OXM