Here’s a piece of information that many people do not recognize: there are a good deal of blind gamers out there. As someone who is sighted, I can’t pretend to understand what it is like learning to how play a game without visual cues, but I appreciate when games try to get folks like me to take a moment to think about how blindness might work; how it is navigated in daily life. More recently we’ve seen multiple games trying to create such experiences. The most beautiful thus far is Beyond Eyes by Tiger & Squid.
The game stars a 10 year old girl named Rae. Although not blind from birth, she has since lost her sight due to a tragic event with fireworks when she was still a toddler. This frightening memory has caused her to grow up with fear held close. Despite all this, she managed to befriend a stray cat and even named it Nani. Unfortunately, at the start of Beyond Eyes, the cat has gone missing. It is thanks to this disappearance that Rae finally exhibits her bravery and leaves the safety of her yard in search of this precocious cat.
Players control the young girl by simply walking her around with the analog stick of a controller. However, unlike most games, you don’t really see where you’re going to begin with. The world is stark white until she begins to move through it. As she wanders, her keen sense of hearing helps to paint a picture of what is out there. For example, she may hear the sound of birds and rightly discern that there are a few hanging out on a nearby branch. With her hands out she is also able to recognize and walk alongside wooden fences and pathways. Most interestingly is the fact that, once a path has been walked once, she remembers everything about it which allows for it to remain visible to players.
Because Beyond Eyes is the tale of a sheltered protagonist, she is not always sure as to what she’s experiencing. For example, at one point she believed herself to hear the gentle sound of water pouring from a lovely fountain. The reality, as the graphics turned to display, was that she actually heard a dripping sewage pipe. Her fears are also displayed in unique ways. For example, crows frighten the girl with their cacophonous crowing. This leads to a darker air around them which made me personally want to stay away. But should I really have given into Rae’s fears? According to the presenter, if fears remain unchallenged then they will eventually become actual roadblocks in the path of this adventure.
It might seem odd for a game about blindness to be visually gorgeous, but it is. The white backdrop is slowly painted by calm colors in a way that feels magical. This isn’t just a typical adventure game — Beyond Eyes is something which feels meaningful the way the world is slowly revealed to you. Not only that, but seeing your previous pathways colored and looping around amidst the white is a very unique sight. I can’t recall other games which made me recognize their meandering nature so clearly as this one. The slow pace of Rae’s walking might annoy some, but they probably aren’t the target audience to begin with.
I’m excited to play more Beyond Eyes and see it reach a larger audience. Although there’s no specific release date just yet, folks can expect to play the game on PC and Xbox One later this year.