Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be blind? I’d always imagined a darkness inhabited by the sounds and smells of the world, but definitely not something vivid and beautiful. Beyond Eyes, a game by Sherida Halatoe’s one-person studio Tiger and Squid, aims to challenge that thought by placing us in the shoes of a young girl who has lost her sight, having us see the world around Rae as she perceives it.
Tiger and Squid is a studio based in the Netherlands, formed after Sherida graduated in 2011. In her bio, she discusses her desire to show that “it is possible to create meaningful, emotion-driven games without stripping away all gameplay elements,” with her work on Beyond Eyes and other projects. Stemming from an interest in humans and psychology, the tale of Rae looks at a girl who lost her sight in an accident and how she interacts with her world.When her cat companion Nani goes missing Rae braves the unknown in order to find her missing friend, previously confined to the safety of both her home and garden. These places of comfort are where the game begins in order to familiarise the player with Rae’s version of ‘seeing’, with sounds and movement painting the area around them in dapples of watercolour beauty.
Colour bleeds into the environment as you move through it in a small radius around Rae, something that’s really quite enchanting. While exploring Rae’s garden I found myself wanting to fill every empty white space with colour to get a full picture of the flowers, fountains, and paths winding through it. I definitely haven’t felt quite the sense of discovery seen here in games since The Unfinished Swan or Journey. It’s a really special way to interact with a space.
Often Nani the cat or birds will lead your way, with small patches of colour discernible in the distance from the flapping of wings and squawking or meowing of animals. Rae reacts to all of this in quite a realistic way, leaning to pat Nani, cowering a little at the harsh caw of blackbirds, and even running her hand along the garden walls. The little details in her actions really brought Rae and the world around her to life.
But all is not as it may seem, as visualising sound is really only half way to knowing what’s out there.After losing her sight at such a young age, Rae’s ability to put a picture to what she’s hearing isn’t always correct. This can scare her very easily and halt your progress through an area, such as having to avoid what sounds like a large, vicious dog in the park. She uses what’s familiar to her memory like to recognise sound, in one scenario mistaking the flapping of an old shirt on a scarecrow for freshly washed sheets on the line. Upon closer examination she’s quite visibly startled, giving the player an insight to having your senses mix up what something really is.
Beyond Eyes is a game all about learning as you play, finding new ways to tackle problems and help Rae find her way. My only issues when playing this early build were with the controls, with the camera and movement controls occasionally causing Rae to get stuck on small bumps like gutters or walls. With a little extra movement it was easy enough to continue on, but it’s definitely something I’d like to see smoothed out for the game’s release. It’s really a minor gripe considering the scope of the game with one developer behind it, and ultimately not causing any major issues.I’m very eager to continue my journey with Rae in Beyond Eyes. The two levels I played really intrigued me, confirming what I thought from the trailers; this game is a special one. Undoubtedly it’ll be picked up by a lot of people thanks to the ID@Xbox program, joining the ranks of games like Never Alone aiming to explore new territories for games, all the while potentially changing the way we see the world ourselves. From this early build Beyond Eyes is very pretty and well designed and is definitely one to watch for in the coming months.
Beyond Eyes is set to release later in 2015 on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.