Oh Perception, how I have longed to put my feelings on you on paper. Where do I begin?
Perception is one of the many entrants into the “chased by a scary person” horror subtype, but as always I was hooked by its unique selling point. That being that this is first person experience with a blind protagonist. Instead of traditional visual perception, Cassie uses echolocation to get around. Just before we dive in, you may be wondering what echolocation is. In simple terms, it involves the use of hearing to determine the surrounding environment.
So let’s talk its use in the game. In theory, you could say the idea is pretty sound, no pun intended. As you walk through the spooky mansion that serves as the setting, things that make sounds give off a “glow”. I’ll give some props to the developers for some cool uses of the idea early on. A cutscene shows a nun impatiently tapping her feet as a pulsing light illuminating her static model. The first we of the enigmatic house, the howling winds show the details and contours of the mansion.
Sadly, the illusion wears thin quickly. Inside the house, there is minimal sound generation, nothing like raging winds to show large swathes of the house. The odd radiator and radio make a bit of noise but mostly you’ll be relying on walking around and making noises with your cane to see around. So yes, the echolocation could have just been a faulty flashlight, mechanics-wise. A bit annoying, especially when you are told the “house is listening”, discouraging you doing an action that lets you see the way forward, under threat of jumpscare.
The main scary element is a malevolent force, known only as “The Presence”. It actually sets a good impression in the first chapter. It messes with you, it gets information out of you, it has no voice of its own and taunts you with your own voice. Truly this is a lovely, creepy introduction to a mysterious entity. It’s worth noting, however, that the horror element is a bit of a paper tiger. The moment that the gameplay, and really the game in its entirety, fell apart for me was about an hour in. After a chilling first encounter, the presence left and still had yet to return. A wave of realisation crashed over me. That is when I first saw Perception for what it truly was: A horror-themed walking simulator.
Now I am a firm fence sitter to the horror walking simulator genre. On one hand, walking simulators have a tendency to do interesting gameplay-story combinations. The developers can program in surreal environments, layer thematic metaphors into impossible hallways and such. Maybe it works counter to the horror, but knowing I don’t have to run from things, makes it easier to take all the wonderful nonsense in. On the other hand, abandoning a tangible villain to attack you, can make you a bit too comfortable. To really bridge that gap the horror stuff has to be constant pressure. Perception falls into the latter category, opting for cheap jumpscares, and creepy dolls, over worthwhile horror. In fact hilariously, when the cute creepy dolls have guns, it’s literally the tensest the game got in my opinion.
Perception, let’s be blunt, fails to create a worthwhile story to justify itself. Protagonist Cassie has dreams about a house in the middle of nowhere, so she goes to the house in the middle of nowhere. She finds it haunted by ghosts, which she tries and help save. Apparently, Cassie doesn’t know that ghosts are the spirits of already dead people. So she must go through the paces, trying to help the long dead corpses, and being constantly surprised when she fails to do so.
Now the obvious problem here is that Cassie may have been an interesting character. There could have been a fantastic little exploration of the difficulties of blindness. The dialogues between Cassie and her protective, concerned boyfriend Serge give a brief insight into this. But the flame of this interesting story is smothered between stupid ghost tales.
Finally, the presentation really fell short of my lofty hopes. In this game, the visuals are based on a representation of a character's perception of the world. I could write pages on how easy it would be to slam dunk horror with this as a premise, but short version, you could so easily screw with a player. Move things around, make some object intentionally confusing or impossible, really the world is your oyster. Perception utilises this by just having stuff appear in front of you suddenly. In no way does the game feel like it uses its own premise to make anything interesting with the horror. Truly this game seems intent on simply putting a nice black and cyan coat of paint on an utterly standard game. Sure, the praise of “there are certain scenes that look cool” still stands. I’ll go further, the idea of changing the entire colour scheme to communicate the Presence’s proximity, and Cassie’s health was striking. But these are mere diamonds in the rough that is this game.
Perception is probably a good argument for why you shouldn’t have too high expectations. I looked at the trailers and legitimately thought “They really don’t have to do a whole lot more to impress me”. It had some cool ideas, but seemingly never had any intent to properly capitalise on them. Sadly, the echolocation, that seemed fun in a trailer, isn’t necessarily fun in a game. Strip the game of its uniqueness and it still feels short of the mark. Even basic expectations, such as this being chased on a fairly regular basis, don’t really come up.
So on the level of the basics disappointing, and regarding the more ambitious ideas, I guess you could say Perception
Has a startling lack of vision
1.5 out of 5
- Uninspired gameplay
- Narrative focuses too heavily on ghost stories
- Presentation doesn’t execute on good ideas