Perception: Embrace the Darkness in this Unique Horror Game
Have you ever been afraid of the dark? Prepare to relive that fear. The Deep End Games’ first title Perception throws players into the eyes of the blind, forcing them to wander a haunted mansion using little more than sound and wits. At PAX East, Stack-Up managed to play a demo of this bold twist to horror games.
You’ll first notice that this game is dark—in more ways than one. You play as Cassie, a young blind woman investigating an abandoned estate in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Without her sense of sight, Cassie must tap her cane to “see” through echolocation. Each tap, break, or crash creates ripples that reveal part of the screen, though the world returns to black once the ripples die off. You might be tempted to raise a ruckus just to see everything in your way, but that’s not recommended. Cassie isn’t alone in this mansion: a malicious creature called The Presence haunts these halls. If it finds you, you’re in deep trouble; running blind through a house never ends well!
Aside from the crippling darkness, Perception’s gameplay doesn’t feel too different from other horror games. Cassie can sprint, hide, and pick up essential items and collectibles. Like most horror game antagonists, Cassie cannot fight or kill The Presence, and must outsmart the thing instead. Luckily, it seems that The Presence is almost as blind as Cassie. Hide in wicker baskets, turn on a TV, or just throw an object across the room, and you can get to a safe distance.
While the game’s controls feel familiar, its sheer blackness makes Perception an entirely new experience. Players can “cheat” most dark and spooky games by cranking up the brightness, but Cassie’s blindness makes that trick next to useless. The game’s features even turn some of the most popular horror tropes on their heads. Creaks and jump-scare noises almost become welcomed reliefs, since they let Cassie see a little bit more without tapping her cane. Perception drowns itself in darkness, so any moment can make the player uneasy. After all, who knows what lies just beyond those dying ripples?
Fortunately, the developers have recognized that a blind horror game might build a bit too much anxiety. Players can choose to have a “talkative” Cassie or a “silent” one. The chatty Cassie makes quips and comments about things around her, while the quieter version never speaks unless it’s necessary for the plot. Players who want the full fearful experience should pick the silent protagonist, but Stack-Up found that a few jokes now and then helped make Perception more enjoyable. If anything, Cassie’s snarky comments fleshes out her character.
Overall, Perception shows promise to become a thrilling horror experience unlike any other. Aside from the obvious tweak in dynamic, the demo forces you to ask questions about where the game will lead you. What is The Presence? Who are husband and wife who lived in this estate? Why does Carrie dream of this house in the first place?
Perhaps none of these questions will get an enjoyable answer, but when one of Stack-Up’s members passed Perception’s PAX East booth, they heard a grown man playing the demo shriek at the top of his lungs. If that scream didn’t tell gamers what to expect, nothing will.
The Deep End Games has yet to announce a release date, but the game should hopefully be finished by the end of the year.