Beyond Eyes


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Complete Review & Description

I like a good exploration game. A game where there’s not as much emphasis on dangers and threats as there is to discovering the world you’re in. Or experiencing new ways of seeing the world. Beyond Eyes seems like exactly that.

You play a blind little girl, Rae, searching for her lost cat. With a description like that you need to expect a tear-jerker of a story and some incredibly innovative gameplay. So let me preface the rest of my review by saying Beyond Eyes disappointed me; I liked it but didn’t love it.

I came into the game expecting something like Unfinished Swan, a world that was unseen until you touched it in some way. Instead, Rae’s world is a watercolour painting on a white canvas. It reminded me a lot of the heaven sequences in What Dreams May Come (if you’ve seen that movie). The watercolour world makes immediate sense when you realise that this world is all in Rae’s head. When she’s frightened the colours go from vibrant blues and greens to darker greys and blacks.

As Rae moves through the world the painting is filled in. Sometimes this is due to noise, like a bird singing or a stream burbling along. Sometimes it’s because Rae bumps into something, like a wall which pop into existence even if Rae has already “seen” trees on the other side.

Luckily Rae is in possession of a fantastic memory. So even if you wander a long distance, she can remember what she has already passed. At first I thought this was a bit of a stretch and didn’t give much of a feel of being blind, but then the game creators did clever things with it.

As Rae wanders about the small town and countryside there are other people about, though none seem to have an interest in the well-being of a young blind girl wandering around by herself (I kept thinking that there must be a county-wide police search for Rae). They do change the landscape however. So, when Rae remembered a gate being open, it was displayed as such on screen, but getting closer would reveal that it’s now closed, changing how it’s drawn.

This was the most interesting part of the game. Rae’s memory of where she’s walked is only true as long as nothing changes. I thought I was trapped in one part of the game until I discovered that the boxes placed in my way had been removed by an unseen agent.

Rae’s memory of where she’s walked is only true as long as nothing changes.

Similarly Rae hears things or feels things and translates them as experiences she has previously had. For example, in the garden from the first chapter she hears a woodpecker. When she’s wandering outside she hears it again, so a woodpecker appears on screen – only it’s actually something different (no spoilers!). this is played to excellent effect in the final chapter.

Later in the game it begins to rain. This suddenly hampers Rae’s memory as your previous path fades faster and faster as the rain increases until soon you can only see a small radius around you. This is what I expected the game to be like from the start. Suddenly it becomes very easy to get lost, which makes more sense to me.

What Beyond Eyes doesn’t do is make me feel blind. This is an odd thing to say about a game that I am playing through a visual medium but this is supposed to be an experiential game about being a young blind girl. I never felt like I was confused about where I was or what was coming up. If stopped walking it was probably because I had walked into a wall, which would then be drawn in front of me. The game removed the mystery of thinking “what is that?” of a partially discerned shape. This is something that Unfinished Swan did really well, Beyond Eyes only part of the way.

For example, at one point Rae smells fish from a distance. On screen you see fish, outside a fishmonger sitting in boxes waiting to be sold. Rae doesn’t have that much information yet to even imagine it looking like that. I feel like it would’ve been better to even just have the word on screen, “fish”, as a visual placeholder.

As I said earlier you know the story is going to be sad at some point when the premise is “blind little girl loses her cat”. But even here I felt that the writers over-egged it, so much so that I found the conclusion to be anti-climactic. Don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of emotional stories, Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons was amazing for example, Beyond Eyes just seemed to try too hard to get me emotionally invested.

Overall I think the creators reached too far with Beyond Eyes. Even the name feels wrong attached to this game. It needed more challenges or a more intimate sense of gameplay. It’s a hard task recreating within a visual medium the feeling of being newly blind. Close your eyes, even in a familiar space, and then walk around. Now think how you’d make that into a game. I think Beyond Eyes takes a good stab at it, but ultimately comes up short.



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