With an ever-expanding catalogue of horror games making their way to the market, the demand for constant re-invention of the genre remains paramount. Perception, from developer The Deep End Games, although not a particularly striking re-invention, manages to provides brief spells of jumps and thrills. It’s a first-person horror that tantalises our fear of the dark through starvation of light and bona fide sound design, but unfortunately feels hindered by its basic and repetitive interface.
You play as Cassie Thornton, a blind woman who haunted by her obscure dreams, feels compelled to visit the town of Echo Bluff to discover her dreams’ origins. Four generations of troubled ghostly tenants haunt the hallways of Echo Bluff’s residence and it is Cassie’s job to both unravel the mystery of these lives led, whilst also hoping to solve her own. Perhaps one of Perceptions’ most commendable assets is ascertaining the constant fear of darkness, that resorts back to the common monster-under-the-bed tale our parents would reiterate when we were children.
Navigating Echo Bluff in pure darkness is an intimidating experience. With your lack of sight, Cassie’s’ only source of traversing these hallways are through hitting her staff on the ground, nearby crates or walls. Utilizing echolocation, your staff sends ripples of white light to your surroundings at regular intervals allowing you to navigate for a brief period. Being restricted by this attribute provides an overwhelming sense of vulnerability, and must be used with strategy in the right circumstances to avoid its unwelcome inhabitants. It’s effective, but at times can feel tedious to execute, particularly during Perceptions‘ final hours.
With some jump scares (though not as viscous as veteran survival horrors) scattered throughout, this helps keeps the unpredictability forefront. Ghosts are not the only presence that lurks within the Echo Bluff estate, there is something far more menacing threat. This entity – known as the Presence – is also susceptible to sound, and if the occasion arises where you are too loud, triggers a cat-and-mouse style hunt forcing you to scramble to the nearest bed or bathtub until it passes. The Presence is quick on its feet once it spots you, rendering you practically helpless as a result. Though effective, the mechanic is coupled with an uninspired and basic interface. Primarily opening and closing doors or running to areas when you have the chance, take up a good percentage of your time, and it feels all too familiar.
From quivering voices, soft whispers and guttural cries, there is fantastic audio design. I was able to appreciate the crisp clicks of Cassie’s heels on floorboards and the spongey footsteps walking up the stairwells. It was these subtleties that helped create a feeling of authenticity appreciable for horror titles of its kind. Despite this, some dialogue situations happened to fall flat from the frequency of Cassie’s deadpan humour, especially when presented with intense situations. Although this helped fizzle the boiling tension, it began to grate on me after the second act, eventually becoming an annoying peeve.
With a handful of audio recordings, dolls and objects to discover, Echo Bluff feels like a mystery that begs to be solved despite its four plotlines feeling somewhat predictable and uncomfortably cliché at times. These audio recordings can be picked up, offering interesting accounts of the tenant’s lives and how they met their unfortunate demise.
By the end, spanning just over 3 hours, Perceptions’ relatively short campaign manages to include a healthy balance of content that feels equitable for its length. Within its final moments is where Perception truly shines, delivering a memorable but conclusive statement that feels like a fitting reflection of the games intended merits.