A question I often ponder is what would be worse; to be blind or deaf? On one hand, the loss of the ability to see the faces of loved ones seems like it would be horrible. On the other, is it not their words and the sounds of their voices that makes them who they are?
Turns out, if this game is anything to go by, that being blind is in fact nothing less than a minor inconvenience; assuming you have a book to throw or a cane to thwack on hand to miraculously map out your surroundings. Who knew the power of echolocation was within us this whole time?
Blind is the first Virtual Reality game from Tiny Bull Studios, coming out just a few months after their previous title Omen Exitio, which while selling poorly was a critical success.
In Blind, you play as Jane, a young woman who has recently been involved in a car accident, which supposedly left her blind, something she takes remarkably well. She wakes up in her old family home, with a mysterious man guiding her through various puzzles with the promise of escape if she solves them.
Despite the plot being intriguing from the start, I often found myself frustrated at the puzzles, not only because they rarely have anything to do with the story, nor the fact that you are playing as a blind person, but also because many of them consisted of “look around the room until you find the right object.” This isn’t the first game guilty of doing this, however, I believe what makes it so frustrating is that your lack of vision is actively detrimental to this concept. There are some interesting puzzles in the game, such as one reminiscent of Pipe Dream which does actually use Jane’s blindness in a beautiful way, however sections such as this one are few and far between. Many of them I solved accidentally by hitting random buttons.
It’s not all fumbling around in the dark though, for you are somehow able to see your surroundings using sound. Even pictures, which are two-dimensional and therefore should not have any sound bouncing off them somehow are able to be seen by Jane. Of course, I am aware the developers are not suggesting this is how blind people see (something confirmed in the later stages of the game when it is explained further) but instead a way to ensure the game is playable. However, my biggest problem is it just simply isn’t interesting for two main reasons.
The first is the fact that Jane sees the world how any person would, a door is a door, a picture a picture and even complex items such as chandeliers form miraculously at the tap of the cane. Why not create a new world, a world which has no need for the complexities of our visual one, but instead the bare necessities that a blind person would need to know about to traverse their surrounding? Imagine the fun of attempting to figure out what you’re looking at purely by focusing on the points that create sounds. Instead we receive the world we already know with a sepia filter on top of it every time we tap the cane.
This cane is my second problem with the world; it removes all the danger that comes with blindness. One of my favourite parts of the game was the first forty minutes (it should have been twenty, if it weren’t for a puzzle I spent far too long trying to solve) in which the only way to see your surroundings is by throwing objects as to create sound. This works beautifully, as you try to quickly memorize the room you’re in before your vision goes away, and all you can see is darkness again. It gives the player a sense of reliance on the surrounding objects to guide them through the house. But then you are gifted the cane, a tool which can be used to the heart’s desire to map out your surroundings by hitting it against the floor. Admittedly it does have somewhat of a cooldown, as if used too much, Jane experiences sensory overload. However this doesn’t seem to be able to ever cause a game over, and as long as you don’t spam it you won’t even notice the feature. And so sight was restored to me, who knew the biggest drawback of blindness was arm ache from hitting the floor every few seconds?
The story itself is somewhat interesting, however the voice acting is rather spotty, with some characters such as Janes father coming off as unintentionally hilarious. Jane herself, played by Bern Ancieto, can be at times border on annoying, however I felt as if Ancieto continued to outperform herself as the game went on and I grew to rather like her by the end. Jane is accompanied by the mysterious man, played by Chris Jones, who also does a nice job as the sinister antagonist. At times he gave me Kevan Brighting (The Stanley Parable) vibe, which is a compliment.
Overall, if it were the story alone I would recommend Blind for it’s £20 pricetag, however due to the uninteresting gameplay, boring and frustrating puzzles, and short length (it took me four hours to complete, however I reckon about an hour of this time was spent stuck on two seperate sections) I cannot recommend this game for someone looking for a fun VR experience. That said, were it to go on sale at any point, it’s not offensively bad and offers a nice bit of escapism.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.