Beyond Eyes Review, Analysis, and Critique
The actions your character can perform in a game are an expression of who that character is. This symbiotic relationship between the in-game protagonist and you —the player— is why so many silent protagonists are now iconic game characters. Yes, a silent protagonist's thoughts are yours to imagine, but by knowing how to operate a hovercraft (and how to hold a gun) we can assert a lot about what kind of character Gordon Freeman is. Samus works alone, ventures to uncharted planets, and maternally protects a Metroid. We know she is a brave person.
Playing Beyond Eyes is baffling because the only thing it seems to want to communicate about its protagonist is that she is a young blind girl who can't do anything but slowly move through the world. The message that comes across is: being blind is disabling, which it is, and when you are blind you can't do anything but walk into walls hoping to find your way around, which is so far from true it's infuriating.
The premise is simple; you've grown attached to a stray cat who frequented your house, and go to investigate what happened to it after the visits stop. Of course with a little parental supervision, this premise wouldn't fly, but Beyond Eyes never addresses this particular issue. So off our hero wanders, using primarily her sense of touch to maneuver her way through the small town.
If you put the premise —or any notion that Beyond Eyes has something to say— aside, it's actually quite lovely. The colour palette is beautiful and bright, and watching the world slowly paint itself into existence as you approach it has a meditative quality. If anything the biggest problem with Beyond Eyes is that it tries to be anything other than a visual art project. By including rudimentary puzzles like, bring object A to object B, it creates enough of an objective that the game becomes frustrating because of how slowly and clumsily you move through its spaces.
The result of all this is that Beyond Eyes’ beauty is obfuscated by its insistence on being a traditional game. With more one-off moments, or opportunities to engage with your surroundings Beyond Eyes could have channeled the ideas of games like Hohokum (2014) or The Path (2009). Instead, Beyond Eyes feels like it has a strict, frustratingly linear progression forced onto an entirely ambient experience.
But that's not what ruins Beyond Eyes.
Beyond Eyes is ruined by its shoehorned premise. Games are branching out in incredible ways. We suddenly have storytellers using this medium to tell unique stories in it, but coming up with a profound, marketable, serious premise is the easy part. A game about a blind girl is a fascinating idea, except that here it's just used as an elevator pitch — the game does absolutely nothing to convey that idea in interesting ways. It simply states that this is the subject it is attempting to tackle, and then drops it. Frankly, I find it hard not to be insulted by the end result. Here is a game about a prominent disability, except rather than discussing the implications of living with it, overcoming it, or learning despite it, we're offered a game whose most emphatic commentary on it seems to be a shrug, "bet it's hard being blind."
- I think there's a conversation to be had here about perceived value because there is an aesthetic beauty to Beyond Eyes — and the experience of playing it can be relaxing.
- BUT! The more concerning issues of protagonist/hero/player take precedent over any conversation about money (gee whiz politics are fun)!
- I promise that left to my own literary devices I would have found some fun in Beyond Eyes.
- It is, in fact, beautiful. Early on I kept flip-flopping trying to justify it's egregious issues against it's visuals.
- In fact, it reminds me a fair bit of rain (2013), except that rain is more abstract and, therefore, leaves room for interpretation.
- There is a poetic quality to Beyond Eyes that never materializes.
- The ending is really dumb and unsatisfying.
- Also at the end, there is a scene of you wandering in a circular area trying to find your route. It's the climax of the story and all of the tension is ruined by the game's adherence to it's principals of play.
- I hate giving out the 1-star, but I've said it once and I'll say it again: we're not going to beat around the bush. This is not a good game.
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