I enjoy “walking simulator” games. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was one of my favorite games the year it came out, and while I found Firewatch a disappointment, that was primarily due to the story, not the actual gameplay. So when I saw that a “walking simulator” about being a blind girl was on sale, I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I picked up Beyond Eyes last week when it was on sale, on Steam. It is normally $14.99, and I believe I paid around $3 or $4 for it.
After playing the game, it turns out that’s $3 or $4 too much, if you ask me.
Beyond Eyes is a great example of an interesting concept held back by gameplay that desperately needs a few extra layers of polish. The concept of controlling a blind child and only being able to “see” what they hear, is an excellent concept for a slow-paced adventure game. To some extent, Beyond Eyes executed this concept very well, particularly in the earliest parts of the game. Hearing a bird in a tree, and seeing the bird pulse out of the white blindness as it chirped was a pretty neat mechanic.
At first, these sound effects acted as guides, figurative lighthouses in the white blindness. Rae, the protagonist, eventually finds a stray cat that she names Nani (Nah-nee). As stray cats tend to do, Nani runs away. The opening of the game is Rae simply walking around a pretty garden, looking for where Nani ran off too. The garden served as a good training grounds to learn how the white blindness works: it fades away based on proximity, and gradually fills-in behind Rae, as if her memory of exactly what was where is fading. It’s neat at first, but as the game drags on, it becomes a major annoyance.
The problem is that the white blindness isn’t consistent. In some areas you can turn around and see the trail you took to get to where you currently are, in other areas the white blindness closes very closely behind you, making it very difficult to figure out where you are in relation to anything. One of the latter levels has Rae walking through the rain and it’s almost impossible to gain any sense of where she is. Her slow movement speed is understandable, since she is blind, but when you’re walking around very slowly and have no idea where you’re going, the charm of the game quickly wanes.
I was content with the fact that, for the sake of the experience, I was being forced to walk so slowly with such limited visibility. I dealt with the frustration of walking into countless fences or other barriers that I did not know were there until I literally bumped into them; I tolerated being strung along through the experience because I was supposed to care about a feral cat and a blind girl who should have known better than to stand mere feet away from exploding fireworks; I ignored the fact that the game features “memories” of the girl visualizing Nani doing something in an area we (the players) have never been to; or that no one (there are other humans around) even tried to help the little blind girl who was wandering around on her own. I put all of those issues aside for the sake of trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes for a few short hours.
But it’s rather….immersion breaking….when the game suddenly takes control of Rae and WALKS HER ACROSS ROCKS IN A RIVER. I was literally removed from the perspective of Rae, just so Beyond Eyes could give me a good view of this little blind girl walking across river rocks. There is no way she could have known those rocks was there. So she’s either faking being blind or the developers just stopped caring about consistency. I’m leaning towards the latter.
That river scene was the point I decided that Beyond Eyes was one of the most poorly thought-out games that I’ve played in recent memory. As I said, Beyond Eyes is based on a very interesting concept to explore in a video game, but the developers absolutely floundered in their delivery of translating that concept into an entertaining experience. I literally cannot figure out why the developer thought that the inclusion of that river scene was in any way appropriate after making me walk, literally blind, through a rainstorm for the past twenty-minutes. That one scene single-handedly ruined everything that came before it, and anything that came after it. It made no sense, it invalidated the entire game.
Clearly, I am not happy with Beyond Eyes. I’d ask for a refund, but since it takes two hours just to walk out of the tutorial (hyperbolic, but you get the point), I guess I’m out $4.
[[Not Recommended]] Beyond Eyes is about a child who stood too close to fireworks, was blinded, and doesn’t understand that a wild cat is probably not going to want to be her pet. The game’s core mechanic is only neat for a short period of time, then it stops being fun and is quite literally a handicap to the amount of enjoyment you could have experienced in this game, had it been made with some extra consideration and care.
This game was reviewed using a retail copy of the game that was purchased for the purpose of this review.