Perception is a narrative based horror game with a unique premise but it relies on far too many tired tropes to make the most of it. The FingerGuns review;
Darkness. We’re afraid of it because it represents the unknown. It’s where secrets are kept, where things hide from sight and where our vision fails us. Perception, developed by The Deep End Games, understands this and uses the dark and the fear it generates against the player to great effect.
In Perception, you play as a woman named Cassie who has been drawn to an abandoned house called Echo Bluff by visions and dreams that have been haunting her. Here, she must uncover the stories of the past inhabitants, piecing together the echoes of their lives while avoiding an evil “Presence” which is hunting her. The catch? Cassie is blind. Thankfully, her life-long condition has allowed her to develop a Daredevil-esque echo location with which she can “see” sound waves and the objects they bounce off.
The default visual in Perception, when you’re not touching the controller and you’re surrounded by silence, is complete blackness. To navigate Echo Bluff, Cassie can swing her cane and cause a small echo-like ping to temporarily highlight her surroundings – but there’s a catch. The house itself is listening and if you make too much noise, it’ll send “the Presence” to hunt you. This aspect causes tension throughout the game – the game gives no indication of when you’re making too much noise so you creep through darkness as much as possible, y’know… just incase. It’s an ingenious way to keep the player in the dark and to keep them on edge, not knowing what’s just out of sight.
The house itself evolves around you too. Unlock one door and step through it and when you return, things will have changed. Furniture will have moved. Boxes will be stacked. Entire rooms with disappear and be replaced with a graveyard or something equally as terrifying. Aspects of the past inhabitants lives bleed through into Cassie’s surroundings, altering what’s there then disappearing without warning. Coupled with the constant shroud of darkness, this makes Perception quite disorientating – but the developer have wisely added a button press which centers your view on your next prescribed destination so you can’t get too lost.
The flipside to the unique aspects of Perception is that visually, it’s unimpressive. Even when you have the environment lit up via the echo-ping, everything looks washed out and textureless or confusing and hard to make out. The designers have been careful to light up the surroundings for plot points but at times, it’s just too dark.
Thankfully, Perception makes up for what it lacks in visuals with some world class sound design. The house groans and moans around you as you walk through it, complementing the darkness. Thunder booms through the halls. The cane swipe makes different noises depending on the objects it hits. Playing Perception with headphones on really changes the feeling this game has because you can hear mysterious crackles in the distance, the creaking of the floorboards and the distinctness of the footsteps against a background of silence.
The stories that Perception tells to the player are creepy, but never really cross over into genuinely scary. The tales are pieced together via optional collectible audio logs and mandatory ghostly visages of the past, playing out their scenes. Perhaps it’s because it’s so after-the-fact, that they happened so long ago, that these plot arcs don’t really offer up more than a grimace and fall well short of a spine tingle. The real scares of this game are when you’re forced to face “The Presence”. There are a number of times in the game when you’re chased or cornered by the Echo Bluff’s physical presence and they certainly get your heart racing. The visuals change from their usual bluey-grey into orange and then red the closer the Presence gets to you and because you have no weapon or any way to fight back, you must run and hide and hope that you weren’t seen.
It’s a shame that these moments of terror, when you’re desperately fumbling around in the dark to try and find somewhere to hide, are few and far between. The rest of the game is littered with tired old horror devices that don’t land as they’re supposed too. Doors slamming. Glasses smashing. Creepy gun wielding dolls. TV’s or radios turning on on their own. Random creepy images flicking for just a second. It’s a litany of tropes that don’t add anything to the game and detract from the positive moments.
I also imagine that during everyone’s play through of Perception, as it did in mine, you’ll identify the mechanics behind the implied danger of the game. It’s too easy to see the figurative zipper on the monster suit and to see the figurative poles driving the animatronic creatures. I don’t want to spoil it because much of the game’s best moments are built upon it, but the game lies to the player to elevate the fear it can induce and when you spot the lie, the tension entirely dissipates.
Perception is a narrative horror that tries something a little different and for the majority of the game,, it works to great effect. The darkness and sound design as well as some interesting level designs fill the game with enough low level tension to give you a crick in the neck. The visuals aren’t always the prettiest, the game strays into the mundane a few too many times and the plot has forgettable moments but the unique premise and fright-inducing chases make Perception a better-than-average title.
Perception is available now on PC, PS4 (review version) and Xbox One.
In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For more information on how we review or score games, please see our review policy.