If horror movies have taught us one thing it’s that if you start having recurring nightmares about a creepy old building, it’s probably not a good idea to actively go look for it. Clearly Cassie, the protagonist of Perception, didn’t get this memo because this is exactly what she sets out to do. Her endeavor is also a bit more tricky than what it would be for the average person due to the fact that Cassie is completely blind. Luckily, her lack of sight has sharpened her sense of hearing, which means she can actually use echolocation to find her way around. Ambient noises, such as the wind can paint a picture of her surroundings, but Cassie primarily uses her cane to figure out what is going on. Unfortunately for Cassie, she not only finds the house of her nightmares, but also discovers that it is very haunted and one of the ghosts in particular appears to be provoked by noise.
While at first glance Perception might look like just another horror themed “walking simulator” there is a bit more to it than that. Since Cassie is blind, it makes navigating the house a little trickier for one. We are used to dark or gloomy locations in horror titles, but unless she is tapping her cane or there are some ambient noises present, Cassie surrounded by pitch blackness. After the sound of your cane fades away, so does the outlines of your surroundings, plunging you back into oppressive darkness again. Fortunately, the house is never totally quiet and Cassie remembers the location of doorways, which makes it a little easier to find your bearings. Of course, you can simply keep tapping your cane constantly to get a good view of your surroundings, but this is generally not a good idea. This is because the abandoned estate holds more than just secrets and making too much noise will draw out “The Presence.” Cassie is just an ordinary person, so she doesn’t have any way to fight off the evil spirit that roams the halls of the house. Instead, it is better to make as little noise as possible or make a dash for one of the many hiding spots in the house if The Presence shows up. From cupboards and chests to beds, there are plenty of spots for Cassie to conceal herself, but players who are careful shouldn’t worry too much about the malevolent presence. If you do get caught and killed, Cassie wakes up again at the starting location for the chapter, although thankfully you don’t lose your progress. One thing to watch out for is the fact that the game doesn’t have any form of manual save and instead auto-saves at certain spots. Make very sure that you have reached one of these spots before exiting the game or else you might be in for a nasty surprise when you continue in the future.
While exploring the house, Cassie can pick up certain objects to trigger memories about its owner. These memories reveal more about the story and the events that transpired in the house. Each chapter represents a certain time period in the history of the house, which also results in the layout changing slightly. The layout of the house also changes slightly in each period and while Cassie is trapped inside for most of the game you also get to venture outside on a few occasions.
In addition to the memories she can trigger, Cassie can also find notes, recordings and other items of interest. Since she is blind Cassie is unable to read the notes, but this problem is solved with her phone. Clicking on a note automatically causes Cassie to take a photo of it and listen to the playback from her text-to-speech app. In addition, she has a “Friendly Eyes” app, which sends any photo you take to a person who then describes it to you. Like the text-to-speech app, the Friendly Eyes app can only be used in certain predefined situations, but it is a cool touch nonetheless. At some points Cassie’s progress is hampered by locked doors or obstacles in her way, which requires you to find keys or other items. This is where Cassie’s ability to “sense” where to go comes in very handy. This is activated by holding down the “Ctrl” button, but only shows you where you need to go and not how to get there.
Perception is viewed in first person and, according to the press release we got, the developers previously worked on titles such as BioShock and Dead Space. However, it is still an indie title and clearly didn’t have a huge budget. Visually, your surroundings are mostly shades of blue and white, which fits in with the echolocation aspect of the game, but also makes everything look a bit drab. The only time that you’ll notice any other colors is when your vision turns amber or red, which happens when you make too much noise and the Presence makes an appearance. Although you are alone in the house you’ll sometimes run into the ghostly apparitions of previous owners, but they cannot harm or interact with you. The same cannot be said for the mechanical dolls that you encounter in one of the chapters and these pint sized poppets caught us by surprise on a few occasions. While not as terrifying as some horror titles, Perception does have a couple of jump scares, which works rather nicely in conjunction with the echolocation feature. The fact that your surroundings are purposefully kept dark and low in detail makes it easier for your imagination to fill in the blanks. Having said that, Perception is really a title that has to be experienced under ideal conditions to get the most out of it.
Appropriately enough for a game about a blind protagonist, the audio in Perception is definitely the highlight of the game. With a good speaker setup you can hear every creak and groan in the house thanks to the brilliant ambient sound effects. You’ll also hear some musical snippets at times, but for the most part the game keeps quiet to enhance the atmosphere. On the other hand, Cassie is quite talkative and will constantly make observations or wonder out loud about certain things. Her voice actress has done a great job in providing her with a charming personality, but some players might find her a bit too chatty. Luckily, the developers know this and included the option to tone down the voice acting for those who prefer their horror games a little more quiet. The rest of the voice acting, heard through the memories or recordings you find are just as good and definitely elevates the audio above what can usually be found in indie titles. The controls are standard first person fare, although initially the game didn’t support keyboard remapping. This feature was eventually added in an update, but changing keys mean you won’t be seeing the correct prompts in the game for certain actions as it still displays the default prompts.
In total, it took us about five hours to complete Perception although this would have been a lot shorter if we didn’t explore as much. We also really enjoyed the story and how it all ties together in the end, but since it features quite a few genre tropes, more discerning horror buffs might not appreciate it as much. The market is flooded with plenty of horror titles at the moment, but Perception does offer something a little different from the usual, which helps to set it apart. It’s by no means perfect and the horror elements never quite live up to the expectations we had for such a unique protagonist, but it still kept us hooked right to the end.
- OS: Windows 7 (64-bit)
- Processor: Dual core CPU @2.4 GHz +
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 470 GTX or Radeon 6870
- Storage: 7 GB available space