Let me be clear. I am not a big horror games fan, despite putting Resident Evil 7 as one of my favourite games this year. But something about the concept behind Perception gave me pause – confronting one of the most primal human fears.
Perception is the first title developed by The Deep End Games, a company of industry veterans from storied works like the Bioshock series, Dead Space and Little Nightmares. The game puts you in the shoes of Cassie, a blind woman who has been plagued with nightmares, leading her to a mansion in New England. Using her weird psychic connection to this location, she uncovers the dark story that surrounds it. But it’s no walk in the park as there’s a sinister spirit called The Presence that haunts the mansion.
The most interesting part the game is how we navigate the house while blind. Cassie uses echolocation to “see”, with each of her footsteps generating a small field of vision around her. If she taps her cane on the ground, you get a much larger area. Apart from this, you can also notice that the echo-located areas are generally blue in color, which means Cassie is calm at the moment. Significant locations like hiding spots and doorways are lit up in green, whereas when you’re in danger, the screen turns red.
Perception throws you headfirst into a moving plot, which can be confusing at first.
Thanks to flashbacks and random phone calls, I was able to piece together Cassie’s role in the story and develop a sense of connection to her character. Through her exploration of the mansion, we collect evidence and audio diaries that paint a picture of what happened here.
While it may sound like a simple point-and-click game, we must not forget that this is also a horror game. And this is where the interesting mechanic of echo-location comes into play. Players must carefully navigate the mansion without generating too much noise, which is difficult if you really want to see where you’re going. The more noise you make, the higher the chance that the Presence will awaken. If the Presence starts coming after you, there are a few options available to you. The player can hide and wait for the Presence to subside, run like a mad person or distract it with other sources of noise like arcade machines.
There are also more subtle mechanics that really show just how much thought was put into developing these features solely for this game.
I won’t explain all of them right now, but one of my favorites is how Cassie is able to use her phone app called Delphi to convert text from notes into speech. I’m not certain how much of what the game portrays is true to blind people, but at least Delphi seems to be realistic.
Perception’s story takes place over four chapters centered on specific items from Cassie’s nightmares. There are also different eras that cross over your story, showing the mansion grow and evolve in décor. Over time, I started to get used to the layout of the mansion and it became easier to navigate without the use of the cane.
While the animations in the game are on point, for the most part. However, there are certain situations which highlight strange limitations. They become more evident when you’re watching someone play the game as opposed to actually controlling the character, so it’s not something I felt bothered by.
One of the major positive points I noticed about the game is that it doesn’t overdo the horror part and lets you get engaged with the story.
The Presence doesn’t always get triggered by repeated cane taps, so you have some wiggle room to move around in case you can’t find the door. The mansion itself shifts and changes layout over different eras, which offers an unsettling feeling that I quite enjoyed.
The ambiance and sound effects are brilliantly handled in Perception, which makes sense as it is one of your major senses after all. The voice acting feels natural too, although the characters seem chatty at times. The game offered me an option to reduce dialogue to only the major plot points, something I regret not taking.
While I may not be the most hardcore horror games fan, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Perception and intend to give it another go soon. There’s an achievement in the game for people who manage to finish the entire story without tapping the cane, something that seems difficult to a first-time player but not impossible.
Perception offers a unique experience that is both intriguing and thrilling. I would highly recommend spending an evening dedicated to this game as it lasts about 5 hours.
While it may seem straight-forward at first, there’s a lot more in store for players than meets the eye. That pun… was not intended.
Perception was reviewed on the PS4 using a code that was provided by the publisher.