Viewing the world through the eyes of a blind ten year-old
Developed by Sherida Halatoe under the studio name of Tiger & Squid, when I first saw Beyond Eyes last September indie publisher Team17 had only just picked up her creation.
Back then it was rough around the edges, but contained a beautiful artistic vision rife with potential. It contained wonderful ideas, an expression of how a young blind girl could found her way through a confusing world.
Fast-forward to this year’s Rezzed and Beyond Eyes has transformed itself into an absolute beauty. With Sherida now working with Team17, leading a group of devs, her vision has become something truly splendid.
As far as story goes, or what we currently know of it, nothing has changed from her original idea. Guiding a blind ten year-old called Rae, you have to help her through the world in search of her lost cat Nani. The beauty of Beyond Eyes’ exploratory tale comes from Rae’s naivety of the outside world.
Having lost her eyesight from a fireworks accident when just eight years old, Rae’s understanding of the world is extremely limited. This shapes the world before you. What is initially a huge great white beyond, similar in bleakness to The Unfinished Swan’s intimidating canvas, quickly becomes a colourful world to explore. Rae imagines the world as a watercolour painting, a place full of flowers, grassy meadows and sunlight.
However, as you explore more Rae’s memories of the world around her betray her. What at first sounds like drying sheets flapping in the wind quickly becomes a flapping rag on a ruined scarecrow. The sound of a babbling brook reveals itself to be little more than a sewage drainage pipe. It’s these moments that drive you to explore the sounds around you, but over time you don’t want to drive Rae towards events that might scare her.
It may sound simple enough to just drive her towards these threats out of pure curiosity, after all it’s only a videogame. But the truth is, Beyond Eyes places such emphasis on your senses – largely sight and hearing – that the dark shift in the excellently composed music, along with Rae’s body language changing, is unpleasant enough to make you stick to the paths you prefer.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, with some experiences initially appearing as something unpleasant, when in reality it’s something completely different. One example in my hands on saw Rae scared of a group of crows nearby a bridge. However, as I made her venture forward it was revealed the distant crowing was in fact clucking from a pen of chickens.
It’s a smart visual trick, made all the better with soundwaves visibly rippling through the environment. Anything that sounds sinister tears through the colourful palette with waves of black, it’s powerful stuff, and instantly grabs your attention.
As previously mentioned, as you play through the world it forms around you as a watercolour painting. It’s hard to do this art style justice with words, so I’ll point you to the images on this page (although the GIFs have been blown up somewhat). Panning the camera around to observe your surroundings allows you to see your colourful path carved through the great white beyond. It’s essentially a path formed of Rae’s memory, her experiences of the world she’s previously explored.
It’s always easy to place an artistic exploratory game into the “it’s not for everyone, but” category, and with Beyond Eyes that description could fit it like a glove. But here’s the thing, Team17 and Tiger & Squid have created something truly beautiful and original, and come its end of year release, everyone should delve in and explore Rae’s colourful view of the world.