Cassie has clearly never heard of the movie Scream, as she ignores the most basic of horror movie rules. If you are dreaming about a haunted house full of things going bump in the night, the last thing you do go in to the aforementioned house and investigate the aforementioned things going bump. What makes this leap of faith even more illogical is that Cassie is blind.
Nevertheless, Cassie winds up on the steps of Echo Bluff, an imposing house in New England, ready to face whatever is lurking behind the front door. Although she is blind, Cassie she has excellent hearing and uses echolocation, the reflections of sound waves to visualise her surroundings. If you have seen the Daredevil show, it’s exactly like that; anything making a sound, be it footsteps, wind, or a hissing pipe, will reveal the area surrounding it. To reveal larger areas Cassie can tap her cane to send out a pulse of sound showing the features of entire rooms, and whilst this is a novel idea to start with it soon becomes apparent the easiest thing to do is just hammer the button and reveal everything as you wander around.
That method will work for around half of each chapter before the Presence arrives. This is a large, cloaked figure who will appear and chase after Cassie if she is making too much noise. The only indication you get that the Presence may be near is the screen turning red and an increase in the background grunts, groans and squeaks made by the house. You can hide in boxes and under beds if you do trigger the Presence, but while it’s a scary idea, it’s not the cleverest of spectres and I stood behind an open door without it finding me.
Apart from avoiding the ghoulish Presence, your only other task is to walk through the house, going from location to location in a specific order which is highlighted by using your ‘Sixth Sense’ ability. There are objects to pick up which trigger audio extracts of memories, and tape decks left around the house with extra story clues. Each chapter deals with a different story and like one of my favourite games from last year, Layers of Fear, the house reconfigures itself when you are not looking. Going through a door that really should lead to a brick wall may bring you into a trench in World War II, or a rather bizarrely, lead to a medieval door with a French man demanding a password. This did make me giggle and I did wonder if I could make Cassie say, “If you do not show us the Grail, we shall take your castle by force!”
With not much to do other than listen to the stories unfold, the quality of the voice acting becomes paramount and for the most part the actors do a good job, although there are a couple of characters who sound like they’re in an episode of Hollyoaks rather than a haunted house. However, you can trigger a memory, a tape deck and have Cassie mumbling away with her own internal monologue all at the same time meaning you can miss vital story points if you are not careful.
There is an option to turn off most of Cassie’s mutterings which is probably for best. For the most part she doesn’t seem all that bothered to be in a shape shifting, time travelling house, pursued by something ghostly that makes the most horrendously nasty sounds if it ever catches you. Honestly, it is gross. The screen just blanks out and you get the sound of what I can only imagine is your entire face being sucked off before your head is crushed.
Being blind, Cassie has a number of tools at her disposal to help her figure out the mystery. She can use a text-to-speech app on her phone to read signs and labels, and she can also take a picture of something and use another app which connects her to someone who will describe what is in the picture. This is a neat idea as it brings a different view to the game, with the voice on the phone reminding the player that their situation is simply not normal.
The main problem with Perception is the initial concept that your character is blind. As you soon discover you can tap you way through most of the house without setting off the Presence, the game quickly becomes a succession of low textured objects floating past you as you wander about the house. Whilst the text-to-speech app does remind your of the protagonist’s blindness, Cassie herself will talk about things she would not be able to describe unless she was sighted. Her echo location skills seem to be even better than Marvel’s Daredevil as she can ‘see’ patterns in carpets and the wood grain on doors, which is just implausible, and there is lot of backtracking in the game which seems to have been included to extend the fairly short running time.
There are some great ideas in Perception, but the execution is somewhat lacking. Wandering around a haunted house with no vision should be a tense, methodical, creepy experience, but this game has a sprint button. You are given a lot of help to navigate and solve puzzles because if you did not have your sight and were trapped in a mansion with moving walls and keys to find you would be utterly helpless. This means the whole premise to the game quickly becomes pointless, which is a real shame.
Version tested: PlayStation 4