PAX East 2017: Perception Proves Haunted Houses are Scarier When You’re Blind [Preview]
In the last few years, the concept of “first-person exploration horror” has been widely explored in video games. Being in a threatening environment with no way to protect yourself and no way out except to use your own brain adds tension to the well-worn survival horror genre that’s way more exciting than cheesy jump scares. Perception takes that narrative horror even further by throwing in a blind protagonist, whose only means of “seeing” is making noise to use echolocation—which is everything you’ve been taught not to do in horror games.
As the blind Cassie, you’ve flown to Boston on a whim to visit an abandoned mansion from your dreams. Throughout the house are various key items and audiotapes that trigger memories of a family that once lived there. It turns out the house belonged to the pregnant Felicia and her husband-slash-psychiatrist (never a good idea), who’s apparently been prescribing her medication “for her own good.” As more of their story is uncovered, more areas of the house open up to Cassie.
With developers whose credits include BioShock, BioShock Infinite, and Dead Space, it’s no wonder Perception has such an effectively creepy environment. Even playing on a bright, crowded convention show floor, I found myself quite spooked (meanwhile, the guy next to me yelled in terror and accidentally flung his headphones while playing). The thing is, Cassie can only get a rough sense of her surroundings using her other sense. A gust of wind provided by a broken window, a warm fire, the droning voice on an old audio tape—these are the kinds of markers that help Cassie get from one room to the next. And when there’s no noise, you have to make your own, thumping a cane against the floor to echolocate doors, stairs, and useful knickknacks.
Oh, by the way, the mansion’s haunted, so making noise will almost definitely bring on the ghosts. And they’re not happy you’re there.
I didn’t encounter any actual danger in my demo, though I did find a few places to hide when I thought it might be near. I’ll admit that it can be frustrating to get a warning about making too much noise when it’s literally the only way to see anything. This balance appears to be not only Perception’s core mechanic, but also its greatest challenge.
I left wanting to know more about all of it. Why was Cassie drawn to the mansion? What’s the deal with her nightmares? What happened to the couple who lived there? What’s behind the locked doors? Perception is definitely a game I’ll be checking out again when it's released later this year.
Perception will be out on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch in 2017.