An enjoyable and visually stunning experience that places you the shoes of a little blind girl exploring the world one step at a time. Beyond Eyes, released August 4th of this year brings a new kind of adventure to consoles and steam-play systems. A game of exploration and experience, that relies less on sight and more on sound and touch.
How do you bring to life an experience that is uniquely non-visual? Beyond Eyes tells the story of Rae, a young girl who has lost her eyesight as a child, and tells the tale in a friendly way as she explores her world. The game, which really should be looked at more like an experience, utilizes a very simple control mechanic; using just the look and move joysticks to allow even the most inexperienced or young gamers to enjoy the story. The art style is beautifully done, and portrays a sense of innocence and bright colors from the imagination of a child.
The game starts out with our young heroine Rae sitting on a bench next to a house listening to a kitten meow. The girl takes her first steps into the world, which is bleak, grey, and empty until she moves into it. As Rae walks forward, the world comes into view as she touches it or hears it. This provides a very interesting aspect of gameplay in that the world does not exist until she experiences it (eg. bumping into a wall or passing by a bush or tree that whistles in the wind).
Songbirds sing from nearby areas and pulse into view as their song’s reach the Rae’s location. Because everything is imagined by the mind of a child, the scenery is beautifully bright and hazy, with very few objects coming into sharp focus. Once Rae has passed over or near an area, it’s permanently added to the world around her, as she commits it to memory. A very charming effect.
The game does a great job of forcing you to experience everything you come across, rather than just showing it to you. Certain things that sound different and appear in front of you are often completely different when you get closer.
So lets chat about the gameplay:
There is not very much of it, in that it operates more like a storybook where you guide the character through the pages and towards her destiny. While the controls are responsive, Rae’s walking speed could be likened to an excited tortoise, ultimately lending itself to the immersion as she cautiously navigates the world. One would not expect someone who is blind to sprint into the unknown. This has the effect of adding to the feeling of actual visual impairment, but after a time becomes somewhat laborious when heading back into areas you have visited previously and therefore can “see”.
There are also some surprisingly non-intuitive and difficult puzzles in the game, which I feel detract from the experience slightly. This isn’t intentional I believe, as they weren’t brain teasing challenges to solve, but rather a complete lack of instruction on how to proceed with the story. There were more than a few instances of backtracking where I became lost pressing every button until finding the one that lets you hop a fence, or push past a puzzle out of frustration only to discover that the only way to solve it is to leave the area.
Having said this, the story is absolutely worth playing once. There is very little re-playability, but because of the family friendly content it can be played with younger family members for extended periods. For more information, visit the developer web page.