Some may have found the pacing of similar games to be painfully slow, but in Beyond Eyes’ case there is a very good explanation for the speed in which the main character walks. By putting players in the eyes of Rae – a girl who lost her sight after a terrible accident – trying to find her cat, we see the world as she understands it to be. This game has a fantastic and unique premise. But as much as I wanted to like it, the potential is never fully realised.
In order to find Rae’s cat, you must see the world using her remaining senses. As you walk at a snail’s pace, the world forms around you with glorious watercolour visuals that have an ethereal tone. Colour also plays a lot into Rae’s state of mind, with fear throwing splashes of black and calmness oozing vibrancy. At times, it’s as if the cartoons in a children’s storybooks are coming to life.
Given the subject matter, it’s important for sound to work well and thankfully Beyond Eyes uses it to great effect. Audio cues have the power to hint at where to go next, but also to mislead. One of the big tricks is that Rae associates sound with things she remembers. So what may initially sound like washing on a line could turn out to be a scarecrow’s rags wafting in the wind.
Sadly this has barely any gameplay significance beyond a gimmick, which is disheartening as it could work so well mechanically. The main reason for this is that for the most part, Rae is wandering through a maze, leaving your only real interactivity being – you guessed it – walking. You can’t really fail in this game and the few small things you can do to deviate from the path ultimately don’t add up to much.
However, the purpose of this title is not to entertain, it’s to educate. Little details such as how smell influences what Rae interprets from her surroundings or how rain affects her ability to piece together what is nearby. Adapting to the challenges such a world brings makes Beyond Eyes mildly compelling at times, though there are occasions where you frustratingly walk into terrain a little too much.
This seems to be the entire point of this short adventure, changing how we perceive the world in order to solve the puzzle of getting around. Fear is used as a way of steering you in the correct path, often with a snarling dog that looks like it’ll pounce on Rae without a second thought if provoked.
The little details are most certainly present here, but it’s a lack of realised potential hurts Beyond Eyes’ overall appeal. Its story feels rather barebones and while the ending did affect me in multiple ways, the journey to get there wasn’t exactly the most fulfilling experience.
Beyond Eyes doesn’t outstay its welcome, clocking in at just two hours from start to finish. Some short games are truly worth the purchase: LIMBO and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to name a couple, but this game has so little going on that it becomes difficult to justify the asking price. Its reliance on the notion of showing you a life affected by blindness means it is blind to its own potential.
As an educational tool, Beyond Eyes did a great job of teaching me of the struggles people face when their vision is impaired. Rae’s way of seeing the world through memories and senses creates some fascinating insights, together with some genuinely appealing watercolour visuals and brilliant sound direction. As a game though, Beyond Eyes is about plodding through a maze with barely any meaningful plot until right at the end.
Version tested: Xbox One