STAFF REVIEW of Perception (Xbox One)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Perception Box art I’m not usually one for survival horror games, as I become very tense with the suspense and jump scares that ensue. I’m also not usually one for walking simulators, as they usually don’t offer a lot of gameplay other than, well, walking around. The recently released game Perception seems to have blended these two together, which seems like it would be my worst nightmare, but given the fact that the development team houses some industry veterans, I went in with no expectations.

Perception has you navigating a haunted mansion as a blind girl trying to solve its mysteries, all while some “presence” chases you down. Given that you’re blind, you navigate with echolocation, which makes for some unique visuals, but sometimes lackluster gameplay as well. Perception is an unusual title with some good concepts, some that I’ve not played before, but there’s a few issues that need to be addressed.

Story wise, you play as Cassie, a blind girl who has reoccurring nightmares about a certain mansion, so just as any sane person would do (note sarcasm), she seeks out the haunted mansion, alone of course, and decides to investigate it. It’s seemingly been abandoned, but it doesn’t take long for Cassie to realize that something isn’t right here, as if there’s a presence watching her every move. You’ll be searching throughout the house, through the previous owners’ things, to gather clues to explain what’s happened.

As it turns out, there’s a spirit of some sort that inhabits the house, seemingly for generations, and now that Cassie is trapped within, she must solve its mysteries if she wants to survive. The narrative is broken into separate chapters, each of which revolve around a different story of each one of the house’s previous owners. You’ll explore vastly different stories, and each one also makes the house itself slightly shift to match its narrative. There’s one chapter that revolves around a wife worried about her husband deployed overseas during the war, and certain hallways will transform into bunkers with barbwire. Another chapter will have you going to the 1600’s. This 'shifting' is an interesting way to change the backdrop even though it’s still confined within the mansion itself.

Due to Cassie’s blindness, you ‘see’ with echolocation, much like how Daredevil does, with sound reverberations. Stand still and you’ll see nothing, but tap your cane and take some steps, or turn on a fan, and the soundwaves allow you to see a short distance all around you. It has an interesting aesthetic, as everything is outlined in a blue hue for the most part, with doorways and hiding spots highlighted in green. Even though you can somewhat see due to this, you’re still at the mercy of your disability though, especially in the later chapters where you don’t want to constantly be tapping your cane, as sound also attracts “The Presence”, the ghastly creature trying to find you.

You tap your cane with the Right Trigger, and anything in your immediate vicinity lights up, allowing you to essentially see for a short period of time. This means that you need to constantly be tapping your cane, which does become annoying after a while. On one hand you need to tap to navigate, but on the other you’re also discouraged from doing so, as it allows 'The Presence' to find you as well, so it’s a mixture of a unique way to display Cassie’s handicap, but it also makes for frustrating gameplay.

You have no weapons to defend yourself, and while there’s no combat in the game, as you simply need to run or hide when you’re being chased, the bulk of your gameplay will be fumbling around in the dark, searching for objects to help you explain what’s happened in the mansion. Cassie does have a phone, which she will use from time to time to allow for picture-to-speech, and it is also a clever way around her blindness. There’s also an app that she has that allows Cassie to upload a picture to a representative whom will describe what they see.

The suspense in Perception is quite high, as you’ll constantly be hearing sounds from afar, not knowing if it’s something nearby or simply the house itself. There’s no real enemies aside from the handful of times when 'The Presence' chases you, but there are a bunch of jump scares that you’ll need to endure. Most of these are cheap scares, but there were a few instances when I was really creeped out. For example, I came into a room with a disturbing doll held within a barbwire cage and a single note on the ground at a dead end hall. I used my phone to scan the note and it translated it to say “behind you”. Needless to say, I didn’t want to look behind me, and it’s these moments that the game shines when Cassie’s vulnerability feels like yours as well.

Even though the gameplay itself is quite slow and simple, I ran into some problems that really brought down the whole experience. One time I was getting chased by 'The Presence', and as I interacted with a hiding spot to escape, but I guess it caught me at the exact same moment, killing me and having me fall through the world. No buttons worked and I was forced to quit and retry that section once again. Another time had me opening a door, as usual, but the game completely froze, forcing a dashboard quit, only to restart from my last auto save, losing a half hour of aimless wandering progress. Needless to say, with these two issues are examples of what you might experience, and I know that I felt frustrated and wondered why they occurred.

What Perception does do right, and very well, is its narrative, especially once you piece together the story arcs and figure out what’s going on. More importantly though, the voice acting is a highlight. The woman who voices Cassie does so amazingly, as her performance sounds completely believable, even when doing a quick monologue about the mundane objects she’s inspecting.

Sadly though, the majority of the gameplay focuses on you fumbling around in the dark, trying to find the next object that triggers a door to unlock or pathway to open. Given that the house can literally shape shift and change, it’s hard to sometimes keep a bearing of where you are or where you’ve been with your lack of sight; a conscious decision I’m sure, to play into the blindness effect, but it really makes the gameplay mundane and frustrating.

There’s very little reason to reply the game once you’ve completed the story unless you’re searching for all the hidden collectibles. The gameplay is very repetitive and generally devolves into you frustratingly getting lost and going in circles until you happen upon an object you missed the first ten times you walked by it. Perception has some great ideas and concepts though, and there’s definitely some tension and suspense that highlights the horror aspect, but as a game, it’s more unsatisfying than it is entertaining. I applaud its uniqueness and blind girl heroine, but there’s too many shortcomings and bugs to offer it a full recommendation.

Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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