A unique title that provides a new experience full of suspense.
Perception is a difficult game to characterize so it can be complicated to clearly define a target audience for. Mechanically, it is ultimately an adventure game of sorts, with you exploring a house in search of clues and elements that you’ll need to progress through the 4 stories you’ll be learning about over the course of several hours of play. However, layered on top of that, you have some elements of mystery, what I’d call mild horror, and a bit of survival depending on how you play. In the end, while it doesn’t quite deliver on all of the promise, it feels like it has at its beginning. Perception is a unique game with some stories to tell, occasional jump scares to inspire, and a slow burning sense of dread. If that sounds like a great match for you keep your expectations humble and you can probably have a good time.
You’ll be playing through the game as Cassie, and what makes the game unique is the visual style it uses since she is blind. While exploring this strange and seemingly haunted house with normal sight may have been a much less challenging and frightening exercise, being forced to move through the environment using a sort of echolocation gives the game its signature look and is a big piece of what creates the tension. While you’ll periodically get startled by creepy voices and visions, the main threat you’ll face in the game is the deadly apparition called The Presence that you’ll need to try to avoid or hide from once it is on its way. While there are events that will trigger its coming, beyond that the main risk of making it come for you is by making too much noise too often. If the walls around you turn from blue to yellow you’d better try to be quiet for a little bit. But if they begin to go to red you’d better find yourself a place to hide as soon as possible. I found that as long as I kept my strikes of the floor with my cane to once every 20 seconds or so overall I didn’t have to worry much about.
In order to enjoy the game to its fullest, what you’ll need is an openness to embracing the somewhat spooky surroundings and accepting them rather than thinking about it too much. In order to keep things fresh the layout of the floors and even the nature of the house will change at times, never really letting you keep your bearing for long. In order to help you out the game does compensate by providing Cassie with a sixth sense you’re able to trigger that will let you visualize where your next task is, even if it is far away (and it often is). From that point it is a matter of somewhat clumsily bumping around at times to navigate the maze of rooms that you must work through on the way, listening to tape recordings or picking up objects that will trigger memories that fill out the active story in a variety of ways. While not all of the storylines are likely going to be of equal interest to you they are generally at least compelling enough to try to understand and get to know more about, and when you add that to the general desire to understand more about the visions that have brought Cassie to this house the game is trying earnestly to keep your attention.
That need to change things up and keep your attention is important in keeping the game from descending into being dull. Some sequences borne out of that thrust can get a little weird or ridiculous as you progress. The longer you play the more the mechanics of the game can begin to wear thin through repetition. Get objective, see that it is far away, navigate house, get periodically startled, look and listen for insights into what’s going on, be mindful of places you can hide along the way if things start to go south. Again, if you buy into the experience and let the creepy nature of things stay with you it is all far more engaging but if you become immune to it over time it’s more likely to feel tedious as you move further into the game but that generalized pattern persists.
I think the game’s title of Perception works out to have a double meaning, obviously concerning your main character’s lack of sight, but it also applies well to whether you’re likely to enjoy the game as a whole. If you’re in it for the action or actual horror you’ll very likely walk away disappointed. But if you like a slow burn of suspense, periodic things that will make you jump, and some stories that will reveal themselves to you slowly and through a variety of means as you wander an ever-changing house, it will offer several hours of enjoyment. I’ve never played a game quite like it, and there’s something to be said for a title working earnestly to challenge gamers with something new, even if it may not have hit all of the marks it was likely aiming for.