Little Rae has lost her sight. Her only friend is a ginger cat called Nani who visits her in her garden. But one day Nani stops visiting and Rae must leave the safety of her garden to search for her furry friend. Beyond Eyes is an experience game along similar lines to The Unfinished Swan. Rae’s world is unknown until she can get close enough to perceive and then imagine it. As she slowly walks around, her blank world fills with colour as she recognises trees, grass, plants, gates, fences, paths and rivers. Snatches of sound such as a distant church bell or the tiny bell on Nani’s collar help guide her. Other sounds, however, will frighten Rae and she will be unwilling or unable to pass. If you’re going to help Rae find Nani, you’ll need to put yourself in her pink wellies and try to understand her fears and needs.
Getting from point A to B isn’t always a straight forward task either for Rae or for you. Obstacles such as walls, buildings and shut gates aren’t distinguished until you’re right on top of them, and navigating around them can take time and some exploration. Finding a path or a wall and following it gives the player a great deal of empathy and sympathy for Rae’s situation. At least, if I was blind I would do exactly that rather than walk around randomly. The slow uncovering of Rae’s environment does a great job at finding a way of communicating the difficulties and, indeed, frustrations, of not being able to properly perceive the world around you. Often Rae will mistake an object or situation or smell for another, adding to her difficulties. Rain will dampen her ability to get to grips with everything, slowing undoing all she has already discovered.
Graphically, Beyond Eyes is a gorgeous watercolour painting in motion. The changing colours are stunning and I certainly felt a pang of pain that although these colours are in Rae’s imagination, she’ll never be able to truly see them. The choice to have a white background rather than black I think is a good one. It can be likened to more of a canvass and the imagination rather than the more obvious black of what most of us assume is all a blind person sees.
The framerate is steady and the ‘colouring in’ as you move around is smooth. The colour blots and soaks into the background like watercolour paint. Anyone who played The Unfinished Swan and suffered, like I did, horrendous motion sickness and disorientation, fear not. Your eye is always on Rae and the space colouring directly around her. The vast whiteness in the distance is never overwhelming and getting completely lost is actually quite hard. Although Rae is sure-footed in her wellies, she does move around very slowly indeed. That’s understandable, but from a gameplay standpoint, her pace can be aggravating. Finding the right path can be tricky and having to backtrack at the speed of an unconscious hedgehog can feel disheartening.
Beyond Eyes is a short game and can be completed in just a few hours. Trophy hunting will extend gameplay a little but with only ten trophies, don’t expect to be banging away at this for hours and a day. As for replayability, well, I guess that depends on your own preferences. For us, this game is a one-time deal, and don’t take that as a bad thing. This game is an experience. It has a message and it wants you to learn. You’re only going to get that full whack-in-the-face emotional impact the first time around. On the other hand, this is a very pretty game and if you’re so inclined, there ain’t nothing wrong with wandering back around to uncover and colour in anything you may have missed.
Truly beautiful graphics and a story that will fell the toughest of tough guys, Beyond Eyes is lovely little game with an emotional bread knife to the heart. Although short enough to be played in one sitting, this game will linger in your mind for a very long time. Well worth an afternoon.
S J Hollis Rating – 7/10