STAFF REVIEW of Beyond Eyes (Xbox One)

Saturday, April 2, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Beyond Eyes Box art I'm a sucker for artistic and stylistic games, so it seemed a given that Beyond Eyes would be right up my alley due to its extremely vibrant and gorgeous water colour art-style. As I learned though, you need substance to go alongside with style to create a cohesive and entertaining experience. That being said, I didn't dislike my time with Beyond Eyes, as it's severely short game length (a little under two hours) didn't necessarily allow me too; however, it didn't leave a lasting impression on me either.

Beyond Eyes revolves around a young girl named Rae, whom after a tragic fireworks accident has lost her sight when she was younger. One day when playing alone outside her home in the garden, a stray cat comes along and they become friends. She names the cat Nani and looks forward to seeing him each day in the yard as a highlight to her daily routine. He keeps her company and feeling safe. As days go by Nani seems to visit less frequency, to the point of not showing up anymore.

This of course upsets Rae and she sets out in search of her lost companion. You would think that a plot revolving around a blind girl looking for her lost cat is a sure way to hook players into an emotional journey of hope and happiness, but it seems as if they were trying too hard, and as a result I didn't really feel that much for Rae's plight at all. Maybe that makes me heartless? That being said, maybe, just maybe I did want to find Nani as Rae wandered the landscape in search of him.

I expected a tearjerker given the subject matter, but the conclusion simply felt anti-climactic, bordering on disappointing. I believe part of the problem was the almost complete lack of narrative. There are occasional story tidbits that appear on screen, but it's so barebones to the point of only usually being a sentence long. The result is that you don't really care about Rae or feel emotionally connected to her the way you should to a blind girl looking for her lost cat. There are moments where some great instrumental music kicks in to help convey a certain feeling, but the music happens so rarely that the majority of your gameplay is slowly wandering in silence.

The artistic style Beyond Eyes utilizes is absolutely gorgeous, as if the world was painted as a watercolor portrait on a bleach white canvas. Given that Rae is blind, it's a beautiful way to convey that you're seeing how she envisions the world in her head. Everything is so vibrant and colorful which represents Rae's current feelings and mood. When she becomes frightened by loud and sudden noises the world becomes much darker with black and grey tones, representing her fear and nervousness.

To replicate how Rae 'sees' the world, you're only shown the environment directly around your vicinity as you walk forward. She knows the areas she goes through, so once you've been somewhere it stays colored, as if it's logged into her memory. Areas you have not explored yet are pure white, a blank canvas so to speak.

Every so often Rae will sense that Nani is nearby and can essentially see where he was, or thinks he may be. As you walk towards this area you are usually stopped by a wall or obstacle of some sort as it gets colored one you get close. Since Rae navigates mostly by her hearing, sometimes objects in the distance can be seen, such as a passing vehicle, bird, or barking dog.

The biggest complaint I think most players will have with Beyond Eyes is the speed Rae walks, which is incredibly slow. Now I understand that she's a blind girl and would be very cautious when exploring the outside world, especially on her own, but as an enjoyable gaming experience it's anything but. If you're able to empathize with Rae and understand her situation it may make it slightly more bearable, but it simply becomes frustrating regardless of understanding her situation or not.

There was something special though that I'll always remember about my time playing Beyond Eyes. My 3 year old daughter was sitting on the couch alongside me. Normally her attention span is a minute or two of whatever I'm playing at the time; however, she sat through over an hour of Beyond Eyes. What was really special though was how it opened up the conversation of blindness, sadness, and more. She was wondering why Rae was so sad, so I explained that we had to find Nani, but she can't see. It was a nice little moment that I shared with my daughter that I have Beyond Eyes to thank for it.

For how much of a serious tone the game is conveying, I have some serious outstanding questions: Why didn't the parents sue the fireworks company? Where are her parents this whole time? She wanders quite a far distance from her home and not a single person offers to help a blind girl clearly lost and scared. Lastly, what town does this take place in, as there's numerous dogs off-leash with no owner in sight causing a ruckus for blind girls.

In all seriousness, I didn't love the game, but I understand what it was trying to convey, which I can appreciate. As I said, it will have a special memory for me due to the interaction it gave my daughter and I. Strictly as an entertaining game though, even if you thoroughly enjoy it start to finish, once it's done there's no reason to play again aside from cleaning up some missed achievements and in the end it doesn't contain that much fun regardless of its good intentions and brilliant artistic style.

Overall: 5.1 / 10
Gameplay: 2.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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