Perception Review – The House is Listening
A haunted house is a common trope in horror. Whether it be in movies or in literature, the haunted house often acts as a taboo place isolated from civilization, a place where the unfortunate soul who wanders inside comes face to face with their worst fears.
Perception is a first-person adventure game developed by a lot of the same people who worked on BioShock that uses a dark and creepy house as its setting. The only thing is, it must be navigated with more sound than sight. You control Cassie Thornton, a 29-year-old woman from Phoenix who boards a flight to Gloucester, Massachusetts to visit a house that has been haunting her dreams for some time. Cassie is blind and relies on echolocation to perceive her environment.
While exploring the house, Cassie must tap her cane to reveal what is in her immediate surroundings. Every step she takes also generates noise which further aids her in the navigation process. Moreover, she can tap her cane on doors and fireplaces to turn them into landmarks. These special landmarks will be permanently highlighted in a green hue after being tapped, so you will never have to worry about being totally lost in the game.
Tread quietly though, the more noise Cassie makes, the more she attracts the attention of a ghostly entity called the Presence. As soon as your surroundings begin to shimmer yellow and red book it immediately or you will die. Since Cassie doesn’t have access to any weapons, the only way she can survive an attack from the Presence is to hide in trunks or slip under beds. Like the doors, hiding spots turn green after Cassie taps them, so stay in their proximity to avoid a deadly cat and mouse game with the Presence.
Perception excels at delivering psychological horror where the atmosphere induces fear rather than jump scares. I was always in a state of dread walking around this house because you cannot see what’s around you at all times. My feelings of dread were only amplified from the pervasive flurry of ominous, almost taunting whispers from the Presence.
All horror aside, Perception is a heavily narrative-driven game in which the plot is divulged indirectly through notes, objects, and audio recordings like in BioShock. Interacting with these things allows Cassie to listen to the memories of the house’s past occupants and uncover more about it’s disturbing history. Finding areas of interest in Perception is pretty straightforward, but there are some areas that require some light puzzle solving which keep the game engaging.
What I loved about the house is how it physically changes its layout in each chapter, almost as if it is alive. Not only does this keep the game exhilarating, it makes the house seem like a character who is always watching, listening, and reacting to Cassie’s actions. Cassie herself is portrayed as a genuine human being. I like how you can look at her phone and listen to messages from her friends. Little touches like this provide insight into her character, telling us that she is just a normal person like anyone else trying to find answers to the unknown.
Perception has a lot of ambitious and creative ideas packed into it. Playing as a blind protagonist is something I have never experienced in a game before and I enjoyed it a lot. I commend the developers for representing blindness in a way that doesn’t belittle blind people. If anything, it shows the strength and resilience of a blind person while at the same time presents its challenges and horrors. I only wish the developers took the idea even farther because the game is very short. On top of that, the gameplay is subpar and the puzzles are pretty weak. If you are looking to experience an atmospheric, narrative-driven game in a new way then Perception will fit the bill nicely. However, if you are someone who does not like an excess of plot over gameplay then do not enter this house.