Title: Beyond Eyes
Developer: Tiger & Squid In Collaboration With Team 17
Platforms: Xbox One
Beyond Eyes is one of those games that stands out to me in a crowd. Its debut trailer at Microsoft's 2015 E3 briefing showed us an artistically beautiful game that was aiming to take us on a journey through the eyes of a blind little girl. I was immediately hooked, eagerly awaiting more news on when I'd get the chance to experience this game. That moment has come and, boy, were my expectations just completely shattered (and far from “in a good way”). While the game has a unique art style, sadly, this is the only pleasant thing Beyond Eyes brings to the table. From the poorly told story to the dreadfully dull gameplay, Beyond Eyes is an unfortunate failure.
The game begins by introducing us to Rae, a little girl blinded in an unfortunate accident. After being rendered unable to play with her friends any longer, a lonely Rae soon befriends a cat that wanders up to her one fateful day. She names this stray feline Nani, and we're shown slides of them bonding and growing fond of each other. One spring, Nani leaves and doesn't return, so Rae sets out on a journey to find her missing friend. (While I understand it has to be this way for the sake of the game, what kind of irresponsible parent just lets their blind daughter wander off like this?!)
Without as much as a goodbye, Rae slowly sets off, traversing an ever-filling-in world in search of Nani. We quickly learn that what we are seeing is the world as Rae imagines it to be. This is made evident during instances that show us that not everything is as it seems. That laundry we think Rae hears blowing in the wind? It’s actually a scarecrow once approached. As a gameplay mechanic, the way the environment fills in is not only a gentle acknowledgement of Rae’s disability, but an effective indication of her mood; her joy quickly turns to fear as she slowly backs away from unexpected hazards like dogs and crows. This all sounds great on paper, but the accompanying gameplay just drags the experience down.
I find quite a bit of enjoyment in exploration-based games like rain, Nero, and even Proteus, but making my way through Rae's world was an incredibly slow and unrewarding burn. The path forward is not always clear and, given how slow she walks (I get it, she's blind, so obviously she's not going to be running around), it's extremely off-putting to make it all the way through a certain alley or off-the-beaten-path walkway, only to come to a dead end requiring me to walk all the way back to where I started in order to find the right path. There are cute little moments sprinkled throughout — such as sitting on a swing or feeding some ducks — that aim to create a connection between the player and Rae, but ultimately these add nothing to the story, nor elicit any type of emotion.
Trudging through the game’s world is already a painfully dull process, but the lackluster story makes it that much more unfulfilling. Players are presented with a sentence or two describing how Rae is feeling at various points throughout the game. These act as trigger points which suggest the direction Nani is heading. It’s all very reminiscent of reading through something like The Very Hungry Caterpillar or any other children’s book. Story texts are very short and to the point, and do absolutely nothing to draw players into what’s going on or establish an emotional attachment to Rae. Worse yet, the game’s ending is extremely unsatisfying and abrupt. There was definitely potential to invoke “the feels” by game’s end, but the lack of character development left me feeling more annoyed than accomplished as the end credits began to roll.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Beyond Eyes, as it does feature a unique art style. As I mentioned above, the world fills in around Rae as she’s walking. What begins as a blank white canvas, quickly fills in with beautiful watercolor-esque trees, buildings, fences, benches, rivers and wild life. A bird cawing in the distance hints at the direction players will venture off in, while dangers such as dogs quickly turn the game’s colorful landscape into a gloomy grayscale environment as Rae becomes scared. Unfortunately, the same assets are recycled throughout the entirety of the game as buildings, benches, trees and fences all look the same. There are definitely areas that are different, but they’re essentially utilized as progression marks that ultimately lead us back to the same looking woods.
I can’t recall the last game that left me feeling this disappointed. From its very promising debut at E3, to its abysmal arrival on my Xbox One, I can’t even recommend considering this game. The exploration is horribly paced and the story is poorly crafted. There just isn’t anything that Beyond Eyes brings to the table that its contemporaries haven’t done a million times better. I know I’d be singing a different tune had the game taken the time to really flesh out Rae and bring her to life during Beyond Eyes’ abundant amount of down time, and that’s the killer for me. All of the right elements are here for a great story. There is potential for a unique and touching experience, but not once does the game even come close to reaching it.
- Very colorful
- Watercolor effects are nice
- Poor pacing
- Throwaway story with abrupt ending
- Poor character development