[Disclosure: A review key was provided for the contents of this article]
Across the five or six hours it takes to complete, Deep End Games’ Perception steadily improves from what begins as a strange and unappealing walking simulator, to a stimulating supernatural thriller. There are certainly missteps along the way, but the strong story and thematic variety to make up for it.
Players tackle the role of Cassie, a blind woman who’s odd visions lead her to visit a peculiar and seemingly uninhabited mansion. As with any good ghost story, the house isn’t entirely uninhabited, and Cassie soon finds herself with company that is both hostile and benign.
Offering players no ability to fight back, Perception takes a leaf from the Alien: Isolation and Outlast playbooks, by providing ample hiding places. The enemy here is not the terrifying, inescapable Xenomorph however, and I was pleased to find that strong aural and visual cues provide plenty of time to escape.
A neat twist is that of Cassie’s echolocation ability, whereby she raps her cane on nearby objects to scan the room. Visually, this draws an outline of the objects and features that surround her, enabling the player to navigate. Unfortunately, it’s also a noise that the enemy is attracted to, so in the early stages at least, there’s a great balance between tension and speed of progress.
Unfortunately, I did find out rather quickly that the enemies are only ultra sensitive to Cassie’s noise in certain areas, and there are several moans and creaks from the house that precede any actual attack. This means it’s easy enough to avoid most encounters simply by dropping the pad for a few seconds.
The visual style, whilst distinctive, is also a little jarring. I have no frame of reference, but I feel like the simulation of blindness is literally as close to accurate as it might be possible to offer in a video game that is playable. So far, so good, but the white, blue, orange and red (depicting the current threat level) tones used to paint each area do become a little tiresome on the eye. It’s a unique perspective for sure, but not one that I would like to see overused in other games.
With limited visual appeal, it’s Cassie herself and the story that she is involved in that drive me forwards in Perception. It’s hard to say much more without avoiding spoilers, but you’ll experience the kind of script that would be right at home in a movie like The Conjuring, or Insidious. Perception is nowhere near as scary as those movies in the traditional sense, but Cassie’s blindness and her inability to fight, plus some clever use of sound and visual effects create a feeling of common (is not quite constant) unease.
There is a major twist that I didn’t foresee, and one or two other minor ones that enable the player to fully immerse themselves into the plot, and neither of these things is exactly commonly achieved in video games. As you would expect, there’s also a literal ton of audio files and written material to collect. Sadly, but not surprisingly, none of it has any artistic value because Cassie can’t see it, which is a shame for the player.
Perception is among the best walking simulators that I’ve played. It has a threat level that is relaxed, but nonetheless present, and a wealth of minor and moderate scares that accompany a clever and interesting script. What it lacks in visual appeal, it makes up for with a unique style, and overall if you enjoy walking simulators, you should: