Published on June 20th, 2017 | by Michael Newman0
Perception is a first person, adventure/horror game inspired by true events about a young woman named Cassie whose dreams take her to an old abandoned mansion in Gloucester, MA. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a typical run-of-the-mill haunted house adventure, if it weren’t for the twist. You see, Cassie is blind, and has spent months of research trying to identify the house in her dreams. What does a rope, an apple, a ticket and an axe have to do with this place, and how is she connected to it all?
Perception is produced by The Deep End Games, by a team of developers who have worked on critically acclaimed horror franchises such as Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, and Dead Space. The team launched a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $160,000 to bring this game to life.
As Cassie, you venture forth into the run-down estate of Echo Bluff, with only your keen senses, your smart phone, and your determination to get to the bottom of this mystery. Cassie can utilize a power known as echolocation to “see” her way around the house. This provides a view of her location in a similar way as the comic book character Daredevil (for those of you who are familiar with the Marvel Superhero).
As you wander through the mansion, you press the Space bar to tap your cane, which activates the echolocation feature and illuminates the room around you in a pale blue glow. While this provides you a view of much of the room, you are warned not to use it too often, as the noise will also attract enemies to your location. The game also provides other ways to “see” such as items that generate sound (televisions, radios, radiators, etc.) will also light up the room around them and as Cassie walks across the floor each step illuminates a small area in front of her.
Cassie’s only connection to the outside world is her smart phone, which includes a text reading application (known as Delphi), that allows her to scan documents and have it read out loud to her, as well as an app that puts her in contact with a live person who can describe her surroundings, pictures, or various other items strewn about the mansion.
The bulk of your adventure takes place in the mansion, and is divided into various chapters, each concluding with an item from your dream. At the beginning of each chapter, the mansion seems to shift, and Cassie finds herself in the same place but in a different year. In this way, the mansion is always changing and your surroundings are rarely ever the same, even in the numerous rooms that you will revisit. In this sense, your surroundings are constantly fresh, and each chapter brings its own unique twist (and story).
As you struggle to unlock the mystery, solve puzzles, and navigate your way through the numerous rooms, you are always aware of “The Presence” that is tracking you, attempting to prevent you from reaching your ultimate destination and uncovering the mystery of Echo Bluff. As “The Presence” approaches the screen will turn from blue to red which will lead you scrambling for a place to hide. Thankfully there are numerous places where Cassie can hide until the enemy has left, such as under a bed, behind curtains, and so on. You are warned regularly that if you make too much noise, you’ll attract the attention of your enemies, including “The Presence”. I really liked this concept in theory, but found that in practice it was not nearly as effective as it could have been. I never felt that I was in a position where I utilized my echolocation too frequently for it to be a concern even when I was using it regularly. I wish that the game would have been less forgiving with this, and would have brought “The Presence” more frequently. There are plenty of places to hide, but unfortunately with the exception of a handful of times, I never had a reason to utilize them. When this part of the game works, and you are running trying to find a place to hide before “The Presence” finds you, it’s a heart-pounding, dread inducing, experience. I just wish it was more frequent or that the game allowed the difficulty to be tweaked to allow for this.
Along the way you will come across various puzzles that are fairly standard in adventure games, such as finding a key or searching for a combination. None of these were particularly difficult to find or complete. Considering Cassie is blind, the game does a good job of keeping you from getting lost. She possesses a “sixth sense” which illuminates an item or the location where she needs to go next. I found it to be an effective way of keeping track of her next objective and ensuring you are headed in the right direction.
Graphically the game does a tremendous job portraying the scope of the mansion, and the impending sense of dread that looms just beyond your “sight”. However, it is the sound design where this game truly shines. As you wander from room to room, the audio cues help to paint the picture of where you are – the weight of your footsteps as you walk across the stone floor; the sound of metal clanging as you strike your cane on a table; the moaning as “The Presence” draws nearer, or your heartbeat as you hide behind a curtain are all masterfully done, and truly give you the sense that you are part of the game.
This becomes most apparent near the end of Chapter 1, where the brilliance of the sound design really shines. As much as I would love to share exactly what “it” is, I simply would not be able to do it justice. You’ll have to play through it and experience it for yourself.
The voice acting is also superb and each of the various characters were brought to life in a believable way. There is an option when you start the game called “Silent Night” which essentially mutes Cassie from talking to herself, except during key moments in the game. Oddly, I never once felt that Cassie was talking too much (in fact as the game goes on, she talks to herself even less frequently), so while you might be tempted to turn off her chatter, I’d recommend sticking to the default.
Perception does start off a bit slow, and somewhat confusing, but it begins to hit its stride quickly (for me it was about 15-20 minutes into the game). While the game in my opinion is more of an adventure/mystery game and less of a horror game, it does have those elements that appeal to those looking for an adrenaline rush. There are numerous jump scares littered throughout the adventure and while I play numerous horror games, it even had me jump from time to time. There is a constant feeling of being hunted and a fear of what lurks among the shadows. If you are looking for the type of game that will keep you sleeping with the light on for the next week and cowering under your blanket then this is likely not the game you are looking for. This is a game about exploration and unraveling the mystery of the dream, the house, and the people who lived there. It’s the mystery, and the story that kept pushing me forward and coming back for more.
The game itself is fairly short (only 4 hours from start to finish), and unless you are someone looking to maximize your Steam achievements (there is an achievement where you complete the entire game WITHOUT using echolocation), there is little reason to go back and play it again.
This is an indie game with a blockbuster feel and considering it is “inspired by true events” it will leave you curious about these events and the people involved. Perception is all about the story and the ride that it takes you on and for its $22.99 Steam price tag is something that I would most definitely recommend.
What I liked: The story, voice acting, sound design, and changing years which kept the location feeling fresh
What I didn’t like as much: The lack of replay, “The Presence” not as present as I would have liked and not having more opportunities to hide.
4 out 5 stars