Step into the shoes of Cassie, the blind heroine in The Deep End Games’ debut title, Perception. This unique narrative horror game sees you stumbling around an abandoned mansion, trying to unravel the mysteries that surround you, while exorcising your inner demons.
Spanning over four chapters, with each set in a different historical period, Perception takes you on a macabre adventure into the lives and stories of the mansion’s former resident through the ‘eyes’ (so to speak) of blind Cassie. Much like the PS4 game ‘Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’, piecing together parts of each puzzle helps to uncover the full extents of the game’s somber nature.
The first thing to reiterate (and remember) about Perception is that the lead character is blind. So how, you may rightly ask, do you see? Well, Cassie sees the world through echolocation with each and every noise creating a visual representation of the world. To generate noise, Cassie can use either a cane to tap on the floor or simply walk or run, thus creating footsteps as she navigates the mansion. However, whereas one gentle footstep will produce a relatively quiet noise, tapping the cane creates a much louder sound. And the louder the sound, the more detailed the picture Cassie is able to form. Other sounds, too, help her to build up a picture of the world; wind whistling through windows, radios broadcasting creepy recordings and the hiss of steam from radiators are just a few examples. Whether or not these representations are perfectly accurate is not important, however, as this beautifully eerie concept is what makes Perception a truly unique experience, especially for a horror game.
The games begins with Cassie entering the mansion at which point you are introduced to her ‘sixth sense’ ability. Whilst you can simply take on and complete the game’s main objectives to discover key aspects of general storyline, thoroughly exploring the mansion reveals more about the mysteries that overshadow Cassie. Searching through the mansion’s various rooms, you find numerous notes and objects that that help in further developing the storyline and the lead character. To assist the blind Cassie in understanding what is written on a note, she can use a text-to-speech converter application on her smartphone
As you progress through the game, the mansion itself takes on a more active (and lifelike) quality in the guise of an entity (or is just a figment of Cassie’s imagination (?), known simply as, ‘The Presence’. This adversary stalks you, attracted by every noise you make. Whilst you never really see the true form of The Presence, it is left to interpretation what this foe actually is. Is it a person, a ghost or something much worse? I really enjoyed this concept in that the less you know about your enemy, the scarier it is. It is easy to know when your adversary is close or not, enabling you to decide whether to continue exploring the mansion or to run and hide. The Presence can be completely avoided throughout the game if you keep quiet; it shows up at critical points but it is ultimately an enemy that you can avoid, depending on how you approach the game. The Presence is not the only thing, however, to send a shiver down your spine, as the cries of women and children echo throughout the corridors, further enhancing the game’s inherent feeling of foreboding. It should be emphasised that avoiding, running or hiding from The Presence is not the only objective; you still have to discover why the mansion haunts your dreams.
There are also a number of collectibles scattered throughout the chapters. Poppets (a sort of magical voodoo doll) and touchstones can be found hidden away and although these items don’t progress the storyline, they are still fun to collect. Finding all these collectibles rewards you with a number of trophies; you can also attempt to complete the game by never tapping your cane to receive another trophy, adding some replay ability.
Overall, Perception is a great game full of unique concepts and ideas, but for a horror game, it is not particularly frightening. If The Presence had been unpredictable, similar to the alien in Alien Isolation, and there were more ‘jump scares’, this would have been a game filled with horror-lead tension throughout; unfortunately though, Perception falls somewhat short in this regard. If The Deep End Games had created the game in virtual reality though, they would definitely have been onto a winner! Putting this aspect to one side, the narrative is consistent throughout and the entire package is a pleasure to play; a solid debut game from a new studio.