Today’s title that we’re reviewing is one that I was completely taken aback by. We’ll be diving into the world of Perception (The Deep End Games, $14.99). This is one of the first fully 3D action adventure titles on the Switch. But, could it truly be more spooky than that? Could it actually be something more akin to a scary game? I’m going to sift through everything for you and really talk about what it’s like to play as a blind person in a haunting scenario. As more of a treat, I have a small interview where co-creator Amanda Gardner answered some of my curiosities. You can find that at the bottom of the page underneath their ‘The Deep End Games’ logo.
Here is a list of the game’s features for you to feast on:
- ‘”See” using echolocation. Every sound creates a visual.
- Engage in a deadly game of hide and seek with relentless enemies, including The Presence.
- Trigger radical change at the Estate at Echo Bluff each time you solve its mysteries.
- Travel back through history to exercise your own nightmares.’
The Switch Version has some extended features as well:
- ‘Newly recorded lines for the story’s protagonist, Cassie (Angela Morris)
- New audio to further enhance immersion and clarify narrative.
- Reworked gameplay systems including balance changes, new checkpoints, overhauled
warning system and much more!
- Narrative enhancements to emphasize the story’s themes of control, judgment and
oppression; which co-founder/writer Amanda Gardner found was not clear enough in the
- “Fortune Favors” achievement/trophy for completing the game on “Scary Mode”
- We’ve also streamlined the levels, added new art, and tweaked most every part of the experience.’
Here is a delicious trailer to give you the chills:
Audio & Soundtrack:
Right off the bat, just because of the way that this game is played, you have virtually zero musical elements. Without giving too much away from the gameplay, it involves a type of echolocation and all sounds matter to the player. So what we can focus on here though is the audio and voice acting. Let’s start with the voice acting. I didn’t really know that there would be any voice acting, to be honest. I thought that the character searched this abandoned house to find clues. And again, without giving too much away, I can conclusively state that there is voice acting. The voice acting in this game blew. me. away. You simply do not hear voice acting in lower budget games and when you do, it doesn’t come at this high of quality. One of the voice elements comes from Delphi which is a cell phone app that can scan pieces of paper or labels to read to the blind main character so that she knows what she’s looking at. To her, they just feel like dry pieces of paper but she doesn’t know if the piece of paper is blank or not without the help of Delphi. This voice though is a computer-generated voice, something more reliable than Google Voice, but older sounding than Siri.
The rest of the voice acting appears to be from the two who once lived in the household. You can touch elements in the house and hear the voice of the person who used to own it with a “memory” system. Other times you’ll come across tape players that need to turned on to hear the recording on it. Other times, the voices are more direct, for instance, the first one you really hear is something more akin to a ghost right in front of you. I think maybe it’s supposed to be a memory associated with a room, similar to the memories associated with items. But the point I’m driving to here is that the voice acting in this is second to none. Especially the female who used to live in the house, that actress has become my new favorite video game voice actor.
The primary sound elements in this game are your feet as you walk and your cane. You’ll walk across a lot of wooden surfaces as well as going outside and walking on snow and gravel. Your cane pokes the ground a lot and makes a crisp snap frequently. However, you are bound to poke a rug or whatever may be along the edge of the wall as well in your ventures. All of these things sound really nice. There are small exceptions here and there, like poking a bed sounds identical to poking at a towel hanging on the bathroom wall. I’m splitting hairs here, they obviously couldn’t have a sound for each and everything that you come across. The audio was such an integral part of the game that I’m really honing in on it. But all in all, they nailed it. 10/10
So, strangely enough, this game does and does not have visuals. If you stand and do not do anything whatsoever, the game is blank. There are no shapes, objects, walls, there’s nothing. If you start to walk, you’ll get a little echolocation off of the sound of your footsteps. Now this shows you a little bit of the world under and around you. It awakens what is really possible even if you’re blind. The game will recommend that you use your cane and when you tap your cane, you get a wave of sound that echoes everywhere and for a good 2 seconds gives you some usable sight. Not every blind person has this mechanic. But our main character in this game can use some quick echolocation. The visuals are only filled in when you make them filled in. If you walked around in this game without using the cane, you would of course bump into objects and things, but the game is not playable that way.
So tapping your cane unlocks all of the objects in the room for a brief period of time. At which time, you the player can see all of the fully detailed world. In terms of visuals, this game looks great on both docked mode and on the go. But because of how the game plays to get the visuals, I would probably only really recommend it for docked mode. I had something more akin to a headache or maybe my eyes were just stressed while trying to play this game on the go. Of course, the game does not warn of anything like that, so it could really just be a personal game. It’s really up to you as the player to find what is comfortable for you. But if you only play games on the go, it may be one to skip over in the off chance that your eyes may become fatigued.
Other than that though, the detail given is astounding. They even focused on the fact that just because echolocation unlocks you finding a TV, you still cannot watch the TV while it’s on. The same goes with paintings on the walls, you can’t suddenly see what’s painted on it, only the frame and canvas itself. The game taught me so much while I was just looking. 8/10
The gameplay in this game can be crazy or it can be mild. This game lets you choose which way you want to explore it. I decided to try it more on the story end of things. This left out some of the gameplay mechanics, which is fine, but I feel as though I should go over what is left out of my experience. I’ll do this after I’ve first talked about my time with the game.
To call it a “game” in the mode that I played could probably not be considered a game in the conventional sense. This is almost more like old point and click adventures from back in the day. You see something, you make your way to it, you interact with it, get the information you need from it and move on. Some of you may have played the title “Gone Home”. It’s similar to the gameplay of that, but you get more interactive elements. The interactive elements are things like using Delphi to get a lock code from a random note that was made so that later on you can unlock a cabinet. In this way, you’ll find it’s a bit like older PS1 games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil. These are the things that I live for as a gamer. Uncovering clues, meticulously pouring over details, and connecting dots. This game has that in spades (but also there’s not really combat/horror, hence why I said it’s less of a game).
If you’re a story person first and foremost like me and you’re in it for a few jump scares, I would absolutely recommend playing it the way that I played it. Using echolocation finds you most items and then you can see what those items have in store for you. There are green items that are permanently green instead of the blue you see everywhere. They’re sort of markers for you to keep your oriented (I believe) and maybe had something special occur at one point or another in your gameplay. There is one more visual mechanic that is sort of like an objective marker. If you press the L button it will show you an item off in the distance that you need to somehow get to. It can show you this even through walls and so sometimes the item may be small and far away.
The part that didn’t seem to matter in my story based gameplay is the hiding system. You’ll come across beds and maybe large hampers or low clearance areas. These areas will usually have a button prompt allowing you to hide. Now in all of my playing I never once had a reason to use this mechanic, so I can only assume that it’s more of a necessity in the scarier modes. And if you have a scary game and it requires you to hide, I can only imagine that that is really damn scary.
The story in this game can seem kind of disjointed if you find things out of sequence, however, there isn’t exactly a sequence to find things in. Sometimes you’re just trying to uncover your next objective and since there is no map of places that you’ve already been, you may keep finding things you’ve already found. At times it can seem entirely unaccomplished and as if you’re out of ideas and places to go. But I think, and this is just a guess, that this is more of the developers trying to show you that being blind, even with echolocation, can be difficult at times. I’m sure some days you feel as though it’s harder to do things. On the other end of that, you feel as though you hit your stride and you’re getting somewhere. And I can only imagine that somedays the blind wake up, ready to take on the world. 7/10
I couldn’t find my replay value in this title. It’s actually very fun and thrilling. The way you go through the game is really up to you, there’s not much linear progression. So you find things on your own time in your own order. To that end, I’d say that you could probably play this game and come back to it a year later and play it again and find new things or remember small things. This way you’d be experiencing the game again with some memories from the previous playthrough with some new memories mixed in. This game lends itself so well to multiple playthroughs. This is especially true because you can adjust the difficulty from more of a story-driven mode to a more thrilling mode. The main point here is that you can play it over and over in a way that suits you, or you can play it and increase the thrill each time. But other than just replaying the game, it’s one and done, so keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to purchase this title. 6/10
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1.You mentioned previously [in a correspondence email] that you and your husband created this game together while juggling your busy lives. How long did that take you?
Three years and two babies. 😉 No, seriously, we doubled our children during the three year span of making this. It was the most insane few years, but totally worth it!
2.Is this game fully polished or will there be some enhancements over patches in the coming months?
Bill spent a LONG time tweaking things and really making this version just right. That being said, I’m not saying no, but we are really happy with this version.
3.This game features great voice acting. How did you guys get your hands on such great actors? (Seriously, it’s like AAA quality).
We are SO LUCKY to have such talented VO actors! We only use union talent, so we got an account at Voicebank.com and did auditions. Angela Morris BLEW US AWAY as Cassie, and then we realized she could do other voices, so she does four total! Anne Bobby was Tenenbaum in BioShock (Bill’s mom…oh, if you didn’t know, Bill is the face of Jack in BioShock) so we HAD to use her, and wow, Richard Orlow is like the man of 1,000 voices. Incredible. And to round off the cast, the amazing Alain Mesa and my former student Nick Grava as Friendly Eyes.
4.Do you know some blind people personally or did you guys have to do some research on the subject to help inform how your game worked?
Bill did his entire graduate thesis on it! We wanted to absolutely do this right, and respect everyone in the blind and low vision communities, so we interviewed countless people from World Access for the Blind, Perkins School for the Blind, and many more. We even got to hang out with world famous echolocator Daniel Kish! His TED talk on echolocation was pivotal for us.
5.In terms of the game the way that the end user sees it; are there any differences between the 3 console versions?
Well, the Switch is portable so you can play it under your covers. 😉 Other than that, pretty much the same once you patch the XB1 and PS4 versions.
6.Would you consider doing a Joy-Con specific move? Such as swinging the right Joy-Con in a downward motion to simulate the hand tapping a can on the ground?
This would be VERY COOL but it wasn’t something we could implement at this time.
7.Any plans to bring this game to the PlayStation Vita or iOS/Android?
8.What, if any, were your inspirations for this title?
The Shining, Fatal Frame, Silent Hill 2, and a bunch of classic literature by Thomas Hardy, Arthur Miller and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
9.How long did it take you all to find the balance of how long the player can see after making a sound against how far they can see in front of them?
It was the longest tuning ever! Seriously, it had to feel really right. How big was the radius? How long until it faded away? How fast should it go out? It was just endless, but we finally got it how we liked it. We hope you agree!
10.Does the game yield itself to having a sequel and if so, is that something that you guys would be interested in?
Play and find out! Kidding. It’s possible, but there are no current plans. Definitely open to it, but it’s not like a cliffhanger. 😀