Blind Review – Creepy Mansion, Creepy Dude, Not So Creepy Puzzles (PSVR)
I thought I might need to preface this review, back before I started it, by saying I’m still new to VR. Being a PSVR rookie, I’m still at the point at which I’m real easily impressed, the wonder of the technology still washing over me every time I turn the headset on. With Blind, I was expecting a game that would not only challenge my intelligence with its various puzzles, but my senses as well. This game promises to make the very act of playing it a mindbender, much less making your way through the story by way of various challenges as you try to escape your peculiar situation. I was worried, frankly, about having to fight the urge to gush about this one. But unfortunately, the magic of VR also works against Blind, as its attempts to be uniquely immersive are betrayed by technological limitations, and the puzzles themselves don’t often feel as clever as advertised.
Style Over Substance
The setup is intriguing on paper. A woman suffers a mysterious car accident with a young boy in tow, and she wakes up in a creepy mansion with her ability to see ostensibly robbed from her by a creepy, possibly antagonistic presence. This presence promises to make it better, but only if you can solve all of their puzzles and escape. In the meantime, your sense of sight is severely hampered, but listening and hearing noises can fill in otherwise nonexistent details. It’s not quite a game about blindness or being blind, but it’s a distinct challenge that inverses the usual draw to VR as a platform.
At first, things start off promisingly enough. The puzzles are extremely video gamey, by that I mean hidden switches and Resident Evil-style fitting statues into properly shaped indentations. Some of them can be more clever, such as an early standout section that requires you to memorize musical cues then recreate them in relative silence, but most of the time you’re fumbling around for hidden objects and applying them to a central mechanism, or moving things around to fit into the right place, so on and so forth. All the while you’re filling in blanks in the game’s story, which is dampened a bit by the game’s hasty introduction, and some pretty campy voice acting.
Story aside, Blind is at its best in its earliest moments, when you’re still not sure what’s going on, and before you get your primary tool, a walking stick you can tap on the ground to reveal your environment on command. Once you get that the game opens up a little more, and you spend more time finding your way around larger spaces and sifting through discarded books and other irrelevant objects, looking for the next thing to do. Before that, quarters are more restricted, and puzzles are enhanced by the need to have environmental clues helping you see. When you can just tap the stick, Blind’s central conceit is somewhat trivialized and becomes more of a headache than an experience or challenge.
Blinded by the Light
I’m not sure about other headsets, but PSVR has this inherent technical issue where if the game’s visuals turn “off,” your eyes go back to seeing the headset’s screens in your face, causing your eyes to adjust to that physical object, then once the game comes back on your eyes have to do it again, and it doesn’t feel great! Usually this only happens when you’re first booting up a game, but Blind often goes a bit too dark, losing the virtual “screen,” and putting the actual screens back into your viewpoint. It doesn’t happen consistently, and when it’s just the darkness of the actual game, it’s totally fine. Combined with flashes of bright lights, sometimes from in-game lightning and sometimes from overusing the stick, Blind has some big issues that aren’t your usual VR motion sickness. I often found myself tapping the stick more than I needed to in order to prevent the screen from blacking out all the way, not because I was lost or needed to see, but because my eyes hurt from the extra strain.
With environmental puzzle mysteries like Blind, one of the biggest hurdles is motivation. Sure, arbitrary puzzles rooms can be inherently fun, but if you’re fighting an uphill battle, such as wrestling with not being able to see, there’s a bit more needed to keep you going. Blind attempts this with a mystery narrative, along with giving you the stick to lean on, but the latter makes it all seem arbitrary, and the former isn’t strong enough to make uncovering answers the true motivator. Blind banks a lot on, well, the blindness being the big draw, but I don’t think using it as simply an extra hurdle on top of familiar puzzle-solving elements does much to elevate the experience as a whole.
Blind review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a Standard PS4/PSVR. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.