Beyond Eyes is a game by Tiger & Squid about Rae, a girl who has lost her sight and is also looking for a cat. The game was first shown off earlier this year at GDC 2015. After that, it then failed to reach its flexible Indiegogo goal. Beyond Eyes released on Xbox One and PC in August, and PlayStation 4 in September.
In Beyond Eyes, you play as Rae, a 10 year old girl blinded after a firework accident. Rae would sit in her garden after the accident alone until an orange cat visited her. After a couple of visits, Rae decided to name the cat Nani. Then one day Nami stopped showing up, so Rae decided to leave her garden and go look for her. This much is given to you at the beginning of the game, but after that there is just occasional floating text as you walk. All in all, the story wraps itself up nicely, but it seemed more appropriate for a picture book than a game.
The gameplay is very simple in Beyond Eyes. You start each new area only being able to tell what is directly around you and can see more of the world by walking. There is one point in the game where the world will disappear behind you as you walk too, and it’s your aim in the game to leave the garden on your hunt for Nami. There are a few times where you need to press a button to step over something or to pick something up, but these instances can be counted on your hands. This is the only gameplay element present in Beyond Eyes, other than walking. Beyond Eyes implements a small field of vision so that you can only ever see a couple of feet around you, and where you have already walked.
The small field of vision works to give players some sense of what being blind could be like. The way it works is that you start each stage only being able to see what is at your feet, walking around reveals more of the world. Imagine that you are painting the world as you walk. This is a nice touch but seems more like a gimmick than any representation of blindness. There are even times later that this path that you have painted for yourself gets washed away leaving you with no idea where to go. Where this feature fails is as a video game, it just leaves the player aimless. This will appeal to some, who enjoy this genre of walking simulator, but for a lot it will hold no appeal at all.
Graphically this game looks really incredible. The art style is that of a watercolor turning to life as you slowly walk around the world; the scenery is always fascinating to watch as you’re walking. Each bush or stream you happen upon dances happily, as long as you’re close enough to be able to see it. The real problem is that for such a pretty game, you can only ever see such a small portion of it.
Audio in Beyond Eyes is normally just the regular ambient noises of the wind or bushes, but every now and then it plays a big role. For Rae, her sense of hearing helps her learn what is around her. It also allows her to see what is further away from her than she can tell. There are sounds that Rae will want to head towards, like the bell around Nami’s neck, but she also knows to stay away from sounds like cars or barking dogs.
If you are a fan of playing a game that challenge the notion of being a game, or enjoy walking sims where the journey is more important than the goal, then you might enjoy Beyond Eyes. If that doesn’t sound appealing, then you should take a pass on this game for sure. If Beyond Eyes were shorter, with a slightly larger field of view, then this might have been an interesting couple of hours. Though due to getting frustrated when walls and gates appear out of nowhere, it wasn’t fun. The later part of the game consisted of hugging a wall, hoping I was heading in the right direction. I understand the irony of criticizing a game about being blind with the above sentences, but those same features made this game unenjoyable.
I love what the developers are trying to do. I see that they are trying to create a way for people to get a slight understanding of what it is like to be blind. Though it is admirable, it falls flat. This might just not be something that can’t be translated through a controller.
This game was given to TechRaptor by the developer and was reviewed on the Xbox One.
What do you think of Beyond Eyes? Do you agree or disagree?
Beyond Eyes has it's heart in the right place and on paper might have seemed like a good idea. As a game though it is slow and misses the mark leaving us with a walking sim where you can't even see where you're walking.