Now I See
When it comes to horror games, the Nintendo Switch could stand to have a little bit more options. It’s most recent indie horror title, Perception, comes from The Deep End Games to not only provide a scary experience for players but to tell an interesting and culturally relevant story. It draws from classic scary stories as well as real-life history to give you a poignant experience that will either last in your mind or make no impact.
I started the game feeling vulnerable and out of control, but as I learned more about the haunted mansion I was in, I started to gain more confidence as I progressed. I discovered that Cassie’s (the player character) blindness was meant to enhance rather than hinder her development as a character and my development as a player. After all, how you view it is only a matter of perception.
A New Angle
There are many horror games that come from a first-person style and have jumpscares and a creepy ambiance, so Perception‘s greatest hurdle out of the gate is trying to find a new way to do this. That hook is the fact that you play as a blind woman making her way through a haunted mansion. The only way you can see is through echolocation with a button assigned to tapping your cane against your surroundings.
Thankfully, The Deep End Games did something smart with this mechanic. Had they just left it there, then people would just spam the cane button to try and see normally. However, there is a creature called The Presence that will find you if you make too much noise. The key here is learning how to navigate this world without having clear sight.
Normally, I’d wait to talk about visuals and audio, but because it’s such a key part of Perception, it needs to be mentioned here. Simply put, they’re both excellent. The visuals only give you an outline of everything that transpires around you, with each noise-making object emanating a certain type of glow that allows you to see ahead. I’m glad that they didn’t just limit your vision to Cassie walking or tapping her cane. On the audio front, that’s another one of the game’s strengths. As you travel through the mansion, you’ll be interrupted by footsteps, creaking panels, and all kinds of other subtle noises. Because you can’t see everything that’s happening, each noise made me stop and check over my shoulder to make sure that something wasn’t stalking me.
On the subject of vulnerability, Perception does a lot, in the beginning, to make you feel unsettled and afraid. The Presence is a terrifying entity that got me to run frantically, and I always panicked when I heard it near. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t hold this horror element for the whole time. It’s not long before you start to see how the game works and know how to avoid The Presence. I was only killed one time in the entire narrative, and it didn’t exactly feel like it was my fault.
Putting the Pieces Together
Once you start to walk through the halls of the twisted mansion, Perception wastes no time with the story. While you follow the adventures of Cassie, you get to hear the stories of people who had been in the mansion before her. Here is where the game both uses it well and poorly.
Instead of telling one story, Perception tells four from people who have been long dead. Split up into four chapters, you slowly begin to piece together the tragic tales of those who had been tortured by The Presence and the insanity that comes with the house. The bad part about this is that it can get confusing to keep track of everything at all times, and while the ending does tie things together in a satisfying way (as well as have some hauntingly real inspirations from history), there are still plenty of questions I have about the story.
On top of the memories, Cassie is also heavily involved in this story. As we learn about peoples’ past, we begin to piece together information about the situation we’re in. All the while, Cassie interjects with her own thoughts and feelings about everything that’s going on. It makes Cassie feel like a real character, but there were times when her comments seemed very out of place.
Pick Your Poison
Another part of Perception that deserves some praise is how it’s delivered. The Deep End Games clearly put this together as a passion project and it shows. From the very start, the menus are all concise and the game feels fleshed out. There are even several options for how you want to play. You can play in Story, Spooky, and Scary mode. The second of the three is what I played, but if you really want to be challenged and frightened, I strongly recommend the tough-as-nails Scary Mode.
On a side note: the game takes up a whopping 7.0 GB of your storage. Because of this, consider archiving the game after you beat it to maximize your space.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Disclaimer: A review copy of Perception was provided by The Deep End Games for this Perception review.