Beyond Eyes Review – Sensing Beauty (PS4)
It is truly a wonderful time to be a gamer. From AAA blockbusters to small indie titles, there is a consistent serving of high quality releases. It can actually be a bit overwhelming at times, as there are so many games to play. This is a great problem to have, though.
With so many more games seeing release, developers have been able to experiment more with several aspects of games such as gameplay and storytelling. Sherida Halatoe, who goes under the moniker tiger & squid, is the latest developer to play with the expectations of players. Her title Beyond Eyes is a smartly developed title that delivers a truly captivating experience. In many ways it is absolutely groundbreaking.
Use Your Senses
Players explore the world of Beyond Eyes as Rae, a 10-year old who is blind due to an unfortunate accident. Rae has been understandably scarred by these events, and suffers from major anxiety issues. Due to this emotional trauma, Rae’s only pal is a stray cat named Nani. Sadly, Nani has gone missing, so Rae must muster up her courage to find her feline friend.
Beyond Eyes smartly conveys Rae’s disability by limiting the player’s view of objects. Since Rae can only perceive areas around her thanks to her other senses (sound, feel and smell), she walks every step with a sense of hesitation. Players never see the real world that they’re exploring, instead they are treated to seeing the beautiful world that Rae imagines.
The world that Rae is able to conjure up is full of bright colors. Rae’s vision has a beautiful watercolor palette that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bob Ross painting. This gorgeous journey takes place over six chapters, each of them featuring a new unique area to explore. Every step of the way is meaningful, and will take your breath away.
There isn’t a ton to the core gameplay, as Rae will have to walk around environments long enough to get a sense of the land (she is able to remember where she has been, so you are constantly filling in a white canvas). Players are looking for the path Nani went, so they’ll often be treated to small, but gorgeous scenes that show where the cat went. It’s a lot of slowly walking around areas, and searching for paths to continue.
Beauty in Darkness
While the slow walking pace might bother impatient players, it would completely ruin the immersion for the player otherwise. A young, blind girl with anxiety isn’t going to be dashing around. This isn’t an action game, no, Beyond Eyes is something that most games never reach. It’s an experience in every sense of the word.
It’s rare that a game is able to get gamers to truly care for a character. When I controlled Rae to take steps into the unknown, I was frightened for her. Part of me was excited to venture to new locations, but I always felt bad leading her further away from home. Further away from safety, from the comfort that she relied on since her accident. From the family that takes care of her. But, Rae needed to see Nani, and I had to respect that. I felt like it was my duty to help her find her only friend.
While Beyond Eyes is genuinely touching, it also offers up a lot of interesting gameplay mechanics as well. Objects that Rae perceives are often not what they appear to be, and change upon closer examination. The game makes it so that the player’s eyes are tricked just as easily as Rae, as if they were experiencing a mirage.
Her lack of vision isn’t Rae’s only struggle, as her bouts with anxiety also play a factor in the game. She’ll refuse to get near animals (or objects) that make loud, forceful noises. This forces the player to solve some light puzzles, and to search for alternate pathways. There are also optional interactions that can be had in the game, I don’t want to spoil any of them, but you can impact the game in a few neat ways.
From a technical point of view Beyond Eyes is a flawed game. The level design makes it way too easy to get lost, especially in a later section where a heavy rainstorm disrupts Rae’s senses. But, that’s a huge part of the experience. Nobody is going to be a master of direction if they are blind and in a new area, it only makes sense for the game to be designed that way.
Somehow Beyond Eyes is able to turn even its flaws into a positive. It’s all indicative of a product that is far greater than the sum of its parts. I never had a particularly fun time while playing the several-hour journey, but by the end, I had grown attached to Rae. Beyond Eyes, in all of its beauty and darkness, had managed to fill my eyes with tears by being one of the most emotionally gripping games I have ever played.
Review code for Beyond Eyes provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here