Be­yond Eyes

Walk a mile in some­one else’s shoes

XBox: The Official Magazine - - REVIEW -

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

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