Release Date: 8/4/2015
Developer: Tiger and Squid
Video games, as a medium, tend to conventionally put us in the shoes of capable individuals with the ability to defend themselves. Rarely do we see a game put us in the shoes of an utterly defenseless protagonist, and even more so a disabled one. Even the seemingly defenseless protagonists of games like Outlast and Amnesia, put us in the shoes of completely physically capable and competent individuals who can run, hide, and sneak. Beyond Eyes breaks this convention, putting you in the shoes, or rather boots, of a small blind girl.
This concept intrigued me greatly. It is something that hasn’t really been done before in the interactive medium, and I just couldn’t stay away from it, even if it was, quite obviously, not going to be very fun. I think that was the point however, as I can’t imagine being blind would be very fun. Are there things Beyond Eyes could have done better? Sure, but I think it hit pretty close to the mark on what it was going for.
Beyond Eyes follows Rae, a young girl blinded in a fireworks accident as a child, on a journey through a beautiful watercolor world to find her cat, Nani. This journey is slow, monotonous, and frustrating. Rae can’t see, so she uses her other senses, touch, hearing, and to a lesser extent, smell, to visualize the world around her. For the most part the world is revealed to you within a very small radius around you. Objects materialize in the white void when you get close, hear, or smell them, and slowly walking towards a sound in the distance before getting fenced in and slowly retracing your steps is one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had in a non-combative game.
The experience was like doing chores, or to reference a way better article than I’ve ever written, eating your vegetables. Its not fun, its slow, and its monotonous. All you do is walk, move the camera, and every once in a while press the “a” button. Rae moves at a disgustingly slow pace, at any normal video game walk cycle this game would have been around 45 minutes.
But honestly it doesn’t last all that long and it helps better your understanding of the subject at hand, and even furthers you as a gamer.
I felt like Beyond Eyes really captured how it would be to go blind. Blind from birth, probably not, but as someone who had once seen the world and what it looks like, I feel like it did a good job. I felt helpless and lost most of the way through the two hours it took me to finish it. Rae is an unreliable narrator, imagine things being much more scary and confusing than they actually are being she can’t rely on sight to see that those crows aren’t on a scarecrow in a spooky field but just resting on a clothesline, and this translated fairly well throughout the game. I wasn’t sure if what I was “seeing” was actually how it was or if it was just Rae’s terrified imagination running wild.
Certain moments could have been improved by leaving out certain texts, or even adding a few puzzles to add some spice to the game, but overall I feel it did its job, and hopefully Tiger and Squid, or maybe even other companies take this idea and make tweaks and improvements.
And while the game isn’t very fun I felt like it conveyed a message very well, unlike most of these gamer dubbed “walking simulators.” I felt scared, I felt alone, and I felt hopelessly lost as I searched the beautiful town for Nani. This frustration and monotony help work towards the end goal of the project, and create a beautiful ending that wouldn’t have been nearly as moving and thought provoking if I was shooting zombies and jumping on mutated mushrooms having a blast.
Obviously, if you’re not a fan of exploration based games then you aren’t going to like Beyond Eyes, but you already knew that didn’t you champ? I’m speaking to the rest of you. Beyond Eyes isn’t fun, its not meant to be fun, and I will never go back to it. However, I will remember Beyond Eyes as an experience for as long as I continue to game, and it certainly is not to be missed by anyone who is typically intrigued by little indie experiences. Its a very interesting concept that I hope will grow and translate into other genres, such as a blind survival horror protagonist, or even move on to other disabilities such as deafness and mental impairment. As a video game, it falls flat, but as an experience, it excels.