So here I am, Boston. The mansion that’s been haunting my dreams stands in front of me and I wish I wasn’t here alone, I wish Serge had been able to arrive with me but I can’t wait. I NEED to do this now and every step I take towards it makes me feel uneasy, physically unwell but I know I can’t turn back. I wish I could see it fully, the majesty of this place that even though it’s been abandoned has managed to stave off degradation and in this weather too… it has to be colder than my last foster home out here and it isn’t even the winter. The woman at the estate agents had told me about the house, its history was a bit of a mystery but that wasn’t important. What mattered where the dreams. The dreams … and that tree…
I have to admit I followed this games development for a LONG time so when It got released I was all over this, which is a real surprise as I openly admit that horror games are not my deal. I’m a coward and these games fuel my nightmares something fierce 😃 but the thing that drew me to this was the premise. The main character Cassie is Blind!? A horror game where you can’t see? Now that’s pushing the boundaries. Well that’s a stretch actually. As much as you’re blind you can still technically see but not in a conventional manner. The game supplements the sight with Echo location. For those that don’t know that’s where animals like a dolphin or a Bat use sounds to paint a picture of the world around them in their mind by bouncing sound from surfaces and calculating the distance from the object. The Echo location available to Cassie is reminiscent of the Daredevil series, A kind of hazy blue outline of shapes is briefly given through interaction from various sound emitting actions and objects.
The Story for Perception starts after months of violent nightmares about several objects and a large tree haunt Cassie and she decides that she must journey forth to the House of her nightmares which she locates in Boston. Upon arriving at the house though things start to go very wrong for the young woman as she learns that the nightmares had now become the very least of her issues. The mansion, this place, it’s got an agenda of its own… and it isn’t fond of the young girls’ adventures in it. As you snoop through the mansion you will gradually become aware that you are not alone and I must admit when the game told me “the house is listening” I got a little bit tense. At this stage, you don’t know exactly what that means and how to take that. You start to get tense when you walk. Am I making too much noise? What happens if I do? What exactly is listening?! Answers I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted but soon got. As part of the dreams that Cassie has been having she sees four distinct items alongside the tree at the mansion. Each of these items will have its own story and introduce new mechanics to the game. Each also comes with a new time period it seems as the house endeavours to send you on a Dr Who styled adventure through the history of the house and its occupants who unfortunately did not all end up having tea and cakes. Each story feels unique and drives the plot along quite well, some even address some great themes and issues as they do it. The second chapter for example explores the issues faced by women who had wanted to serve in WW2 but couldn’t. each is a painful tale of loss, Paranoia and dependency that the house has carried through the ages. Throughout these stories you’ll encounter characters from the past and present that give heart and emotion to the tale being told here. Serge is probably the most common occurrence in this game and plays the love interest of Cassie. His periodical phone calls help to give Cassie depth and also at points to add that emotional input that the game does sometimes lack. there is a weird option for this game called silent night which disables non story based speech from Cassie but I played this on my second run and honestly felt it detracted from the story fair amount. The fluff text that’s given in the regular game is at times rather enjoyable and overall adds to the experience in my opinion. Perception enjoys a lot of positives in its story which include great characters, world building which when you cant see most of it becomes very important and pacing. The game has some great pacing and I rather enjoyed the end of the game which after Outlast 2 was a relief because I don’t think I could handle more of that intense straining to understand the plot.
As you make your way through this tale though the biggest appeal of Perception has to be gameplay. In a game about a bling girl how could it not be, as stated before Cassie can technically see the world around her for the most part through the use of Echo location. When you walk, smack your cane off things and interact with some objects then what you get is a thing blue outline of the items not unlike Matt Murdocks vision in the Daredevil Netflix series. When you make noise though outside of some objects like using the cane and a radio you’ll only be given a brief look at the world around you and you won’t get a very clear image beyond maybe three feet in front of you so you’ll be testing those memory skills to keep yourself on track. You can use the cane on certain objects for them to retain a green glow, these are called Landmarks which later into the various chapters of the game start to get really important and handy for determining location and direction! The games unique approach to its play means that as you walk around each room feels terrifying, you cant just work the camera to see around corner or observe a nasty looking situation from a distance. There is a genuine feeling of risk involved in performing the most basic of actions. This is where the game deploys its biggest guns though in making you feel tense because each of the actions required to make things visible carries noise and noise is most definitely a double edged sword in Perception. After I got the house is listening message early in the game I’d already made the mistake of trying to sprint places because it made better visual imprints of my location and was faster to get about but this rapidly turned into the worst possible move in this game outside of trying to use the cane like you’re playing with a Piñata. Noise will help you see, help you get around but noise also attracts the presence (I know the name is weak but it is what it is) who will thoroughly come along and rain on your parade in the most unpleasant manner possible 😊. It reminds me of the Banshee from the Witcher 3 in appearance only this time I don’t have a silver sword and it is dialling on me like a student approaching a free sample station. You develop a real paranoia about even the slightest of noise really quickly in this game and funnily enough the presence develops such a love for you that it also jumps through time to haunt your ass. As you progress new mechanics for noise start to come into play like floorboards, bubble wrap in some of the rooms and broken glass in others. Hell even an owl starts to come into it at times!
Now the real kicker of this for me, the same mechanics I think really make this game what it is are also some of the most frustrating that you’ll encounter at times. Because of the noise issues you’ll often only be able to use the cane sparingly lest you want to get your ass lawnmowered down by the presence… so if the room is say rather open but has a fair number of items scattered in it then you’ll start to see the drawbacks. For example, there is a room in the first act filled with paintings done by one of the former residents and various intractable items but moving between the items gets really frustrating after you’ve already used the cane and it didn’t show you that say a gap was between something. Or when you have walked yourself into a corner and you’re a little bit stuck as you don’t walk on the spot so unless you’ve turned around correctly you’re just not seeing jack. for the most part of around 90% of the game the mechanics. Another key mechanic that will often change between a help and a hindrance is the objective locator. For the most part unless the room requires a little more exploration you’ll often be given a white highlight of the place you need to be but not of the next stage to reach it, no you get a white imprint of the end result. Often something that requires a little bit of navigation to reach. So you see the door frame two rooms away but get no indication you have to actually go upstairs and around a few rooms to come down and reach where you want to go!
Another core aspect of this game clearly because we are blind as all hell is sound, more importantly sound work. In a game where you do a lot of listening this has to be done well and I feel The Deep End Games has done this really well. The voice acting is on point for the most part and feels like its full of emotion and intent and even thought the game doesn’t exactly rock a huge list of characters it has enough to keep it from getting tedious, especially in Silent night mode where you will need something to supplement. You get various noises from the cane striking different objects and the presence even manages to have a variety of lines and tones as well to prevent it from becoming a little bit monotonous.
Overall I really liked this game, I felt it brought something totally new to a genre of games that has relied so heavily on a very tried and tested formula for a long time, the new aspects aren’t perfect though and are sometimes more of a hindrance than a benefit but as a whole the game shines through with it. Backed up by some good voice acting, a great visual aesthetic and a story that works to drive the plot and be enjoyable at the same time this is a good choice for even those not fans of the horror genre.