Perception is about a blind girl, Cassie, who has brought herself to the mansion of her recurring nightmare. This nightmare always revolved around a rope, a ticket, an apple, and an ax; something she believes is a part of some puzzle she needs to solve in order for her nightmare to go away. As the game progresses, Cassie’s journey to solve the puzzle of her nightmare becomes a time-traveling voyage of piecing together all of the events that have taken place in this house over generations.
I have to admit, when Perception was announced, I was ignorantly intrigued. I never followed it after that, but it’s unique visuals and use of an echolocation mechanic stuck with me. I thought it was going to be another walking simulator like Gone Home or Dear Esther, but it turns out my assumption was only partially correct. It is still a walking simulator, but it incorporates elements of horror. There are hiding spots to utilize, creepy noises throughout the whole house, ghosts appearing and disappearing, not to mention creepy dolls (which are always creepy) and other haunting inanimate objects and contraptions.
The visual style is awesome to behold. At the beginning of the game, it’s hard not be transfixed by snow blowing over the path ahead and the eerie beauty of it cascading over the mansion of Cassie’s nightmare. Her Daredevil-esque ability to see things through echolocation is a pretty cool way of highlighting the world around her. As she navigates the house various landmarks, memories, doors, objects, and totems are highlighted in green, or white; making objectives easier to find and the obvious open door or hiding spot, more obvious. As far as Perception's horror elements are concerned, the scares were few and far between, however, there were plenty of creepy moments; most notably the “Grim Reaper” like ghost that seems to have a serious problem with Cassie snooping around its sanctuary. This entity shows up for scripted moments as well as random ones throughout the game, specifically when Cassie is making too much noise with her cane. Fucking dick, she needs that thing to see!
There are audio tapes and notes littered throughout the mansion that help Cassie piece things together, to better understand what happened in this house and why she’s been having this nightmare. Some of the objects she interacts with trigger previous inhabitants’ memories and some of them can be scanned with her phone, translating written words into speech. It’s a cool idea, but there’s an issue: if a blind person picks up a pill bottle and scans it for translation purposes, I highly doubt it would be scanned flawlessly on the first attempt. Also, how does a blind person input any number combination to unlock a safe? They don’t make those things with braille. Do they?
It’s also a little strange that not every ethereal note Cassie picks up is accompanied by their writer's narration, and a few others require her to use her translator. It’s a weird design choice that could have been better served if they were all narrated, or all transcribed by her phone. There are a few other problems as well. Most notable among them are the curious audio responses of Cassie hitting the ground or other surfaces with her cane. They don’t seem to accurately reflect what they should sound like. Whether or not her hearing is heightened, that shouldn’t mean the ground she’s striking should sound like a sledge hammer making contact with something. There were also a few times that rickety old doors would send shockwaves of sound throughout a room and other’s (like an attic door) wouldn’t send out any kind of reverberation.
Despite Perception's imperfections, I did enjoy all of its self-contained story lines. It made Cassie’s adventure through this ghost house interesting and worth the time I invested. While it may not be as dark or well written as the first season of American Horror Story, it was painfully obvious where The Deep End Games got their inspiration. I would love to see them use this formula again and go somewhere darker and more sinister the next time around. Let Perception be the springboard that got you off your feet and make a splash with something bigger and more terrifying.