The Deep End Games/Feardemic
Horror games are about as emotion-inducing as a digital experience can get. Don’t get me wrong, I love the patience and planning of a good strategy title, the teamwork and comradery of modern shooters, and the all-too-frequent gut-checking of pure survival titles, but nothing to me is more immersive than a well-done horror game. It’s such a personal experience, where more often than not you play as some poor schmuck who is pitted against some sort of seemingly unstoppable baddie. You really have to rely on your own human intelligence in order to try to outwit your foes and avoid dying some sort of grisly death.
The good old haunted house trope has seen a resurgence within the horror genre, over the past few years. While the vast majority of these attempts have flopped, there have been some standouts. These luminary titles include such games as the latest Resident Evil title, Biohazard, as well as the indie sleeper hit Layers of Fear. Indeed, the current horror resurgence almost seems as though it’s almost being led by games set in haunted houses.
This isn’t lost on The Deep End Games, whom have just released their unique brand of haunted house gaming titled: Perception. Why unique? Well, Perception’s main character, Cassie, is totally blind. But she isn’t bereft of her senses altogether. Cassie can scan her surroundings using echolocation, much like Marvel Comic’s Daredevil can.
At the beginning of the game it is explained that Cassie has been having reoccurring nightmares which always feature a mysterious house, located in Boston, MA. A strong-willed young woman, Cassie decides to drop everything and book a flight for Boston in order to discover the origins of her bad dreams and what exactly is going on within the old dilapidated place. Cassie’s boyfriend Serge makes a desperate phone call in an effort to dissuade her, but she hangs up on him after voicing her intention of carrying out her investigations. After a perfunctory knock on the front door, Cassie opens it and walks right in, and that is where the game begins.
Another unique aspect about Perception is Cassie’s echolocation mechanic. By tapping her cane, you can “see” the area directly around her. Not only did I think that it was great for a change that the developers used a disabled person as their main character, but the way in which she navigates through her surroundings was both cleverly implemented and felt natural after a while.
Unfortunately, you can’t get too tap-happy, because the more you use Cassie’s cane for echolocation, the more the malevolent forces inhabiting the house become aware of your presence. Cassie getting discovered = good way to die. Therefore, you must utilize Cassie’s cane only when you must, such as when you’re walking down a long hallway and can’t see anything in front of you. Luckily, there are environmental elements that can assist Cassie’s perceptive abilities, such as old appliances emanating noises, or simply the wind blowing through open or broken windows.
Perception almost seemed like playing through a good horror novel. Indeed, it is organized into chapters—each one dealing with a previous occupant of the old house. As Cassie gathers various clues about these poor souls, she begins to piece together their tragic tales. Let’s just put it this way: None of these former inhabitants met a good end.
One of them in particular, a demented inventor who lovingly created numerous dolls he called “Poppets,” was especially memorable (and not in a good way). Whoever wrote Perception’s story and designed the various characters within it, should pat themselves on the back for their brilliant imagination and avoidance of familiar horror tropes (to a large extent at least).
The core tenants of Perception’s gameplay revolve around guiding Cassie throughout the house, gathering clues, triggering cutscenes, and uncovering pieces of a larger tapestry of despair and horror. Surrounding those primary elements are malevolent entities which you will encounter that will usually end up scaring the bejesus out of you (at least they did me!). These include various evil spirits, terrifying dolls (I just hate dolls), and an ominous, lurking presence known only as…wait for it…The Presence.
There are some genuinely frightening encounters that I experienced that literally made me shut down the game and come back later, after my heartrate had returned to a healthy level. Perception’s scares are not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t help that just like games such as Outlast, Cassie must run and hide from these various evil entities since she is unarmed. This can make for some supremely tense moments, where you find yourself hunkered down somewhere, hiding from some horrific threat that is pursuing you. This forces players to make tough decisions—should you use Cassie’s cane in order to sense the location of the thing that is chasing you, or should you resist that temptation to do so in order to better remain hidden?
As far as visuals go, Perception makes brilliant use of its stylized echolocational graphics. You really get a sense that Cassie is trying her best to discern her whereabouts, as well as fill in as many of the details in the world around her as she can. Without spoiling anything, the developers must also be commended on their designs of their various evil entities which populate the house. Their visuals are extraordinarily creepy and imaginative, and tend to stray from the usual horror tropes that you see in many horror games these days.
Perception is, without a doubt, a breath of fresh air in the increasingly crowded (and rather hackneyed) haunted house genre. It features intriguing mysteries, a unique character along with unusual gameplay elements, and scares aplenty. Horror fans will definitely want to check out this excellent indie title.
Perception features graphics that are more than good enough to wow your friends with. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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