Every person on some level fears the dark. It’s built in to us; it’s a survival mechanic that’s in our DNA. Perception leans into this fear in a big way with their main character Cassie; a blind woman who uses sound to ‘see’ her surroundings. This is the main design of the game, with the player needing to figure out a way through a house in the middle of nowhere (as usual!) using only echolocation to make it through alive.
To be honest with you I don’t remember much of the story, it was quite unremarkable. From what I can piece together Cassie has been having recurring nightmares about this house and somehow tracked it down and decided to venture in alone even with her quite debilitating handicap. As you explore the house you get more and more of the houses history which seems to revolve around the house turning people against each other with paranoia and visions.
On to the actual mechanics now. The game is built around the echolocation that Cassie can use by seeing the world around her through the sound bouncing off it. This means anything that creates sound will also show a bit of the environment. When you walk into a room with a radio or a tv on it, you will be able to see a bit of the area surrounding it. Obviously this isn’t the main way of using echolocation, which is by tapping Cassie’s cane to create a wave of sound that shows you a larger part of your environment for a short amount of time before you’ll need to tap again. Deep End Games balances this out by having “The Presence”, a ghost like entity that seems to dislike sound since it appears when you make too much noise and decides to kill you.
Due to Cassie’s inability to see, the game is quite simple, probably to make it more believable or something to that effect. There isn’t much variety in the objectives, with most being find the right door and/or find the right object; the whole thing is just walking in the dark. Even with the Presence’s looming threat, it doesn’t really rouse up much fear, since as long as you keep the tapping to a minimum you may not even have to see him that much. While the game lacks variety in objectives, the house itself changes as it focuses on different people who’ve lived there in different times, basically restructuring the house making it new with each ghost. We’ve discussed the main meat of the game, but the game also has those cliché audio logs that you just gotta collect to get all those juicy tidbits. Sarcasm aside, they do add to the story, but it sure is annoying to have to sit and listen to them instead of just starting them and continuing of while it plays in the background.
When I first heard of Perception, I thought it was a good concept, but unfortunately it was badly executed. The game is built around one mechanic and, disappointingly, that mechanic holds the game back from reaching its full potential. The game isn’t that scary either, due to being able to more or less fully avoid the antagonist. The game feels a bit dull at times. Perception just turns into a collect-athon in the dark, with the player just walking around grabbing this, reading that, opening these, etc. It’s just boring and with better, cheaper, and more expertly executed horror games, I simply can’t recommend Perception.