Playing Critic: Flaws in 'Perception' easily perceived

Playing Critic: Flaws in 'Perception' easily perceived

If the blind protagonist of 'Perception' isn't generally scared by the goings-on in this survival-horror game, why should players be?

"Perception" takes what should be a solid, fantastically novel premise — blind woman trapped on a haunted estate — and mucks it up with unrealistic acting from the protagonist and the inclusion of far too many supernatural elements.

The result is a playable survival-horror game, but not an extraordinary one.

Our heroine, Cassie, has ventured alone to a mysterious old mansion in hopes of discovering why it and its supposed contents haunt her dreams. And what she finds is ...

C'mon, it's survival horror. What do you think she'll find? Fluffy bunnies, rainbows and unicorns?

No, of course not. It's creepy dolls, baby furniture that moves on its own, doors that slam shut with nobody around, and an ominous, insectile chittering that seems to grow closer every time she taps her cane. (Frankly speaking, I'm sighted, and if I witness all that in the first few minutes of being in an abandoned building, I'm nope-ing out of there fast and parking my butt at a friendly bar. But that probably wouldn't be good game material.)

Cassie, however, isn't really put off by these occurrences and soon finds confirmation that this place is a match with her visions.

She also witnesses ghostly apparitions — queue blasé reaction — and, using unexplained powers of psychometry, follows clues literally back in time through the estate's tragic happenings.

"Wait a minute, Joel," you say. "How's she doing all of this? I thought you said she was blind."

Cassie "sees" the world through echolocation, just like the Marvel superhero Daredevil.

So creaky wooden floors produce enough flashes of noise to get a vague sense of what's immediately around Cassie as long as she's moving. Sound waves generated by a hissing radiator, a continuous breeze or a blaring radio, on the other hand, paint more lingering pictures of the environment.

But when she really needs to "see" what's around and no other sources of sound are available, Cassie can rap her cane against something. It often provides the clearest picture, but it comes with a risk.

The evil presence that dogs her steps is drawn by sound.

Fortunately, if it gets too close — and it will — hiding under a bed or in a chest is enough to throw it off the scent.

Anyway, I think you've got the basic idea. It's time for some plaudits and pointed criticism.

The audio design of "Perception" is phenomenal, especially on surround-sound speakers or headphones. From the creaking of the floors to the rap of the cane, the crispness of the audio is perfection. And the background music does a masterful job of subtly ramping up tension.

But the heroine's reactions — and non-reactions — to events often breaks credulity. Her initial encounters with apparitions barely spark a reaction, but other times similar stimuli have her acting panicked.

Also, she far more often seems perturbed than disturbed. A ghostly presence wants her to give the password before letting her past a locked door? How annoying! But she'll do it without even beginning to question the situation.

I'd say it was a sign of her having a strong spirit, but her emotional reactions are too inconsistent for that to satisfy me as an explanation.

Also, even on the chatty Cassie mode (you have a choice about how much she talks to herself), she blatantly ignores the fact that the mansion is obviously changing around her. For example, if I enter a house and find the foyer is packed tight with boxes and detritus, then go back a few minutes later and it's empty, I'm going to react. Cassie doesn't.

Honestly, "Perception" tries to do too much, in my opinion, and ends up unfocused and confusing rather than frightening.

Jump scares, time travel, ghosts, psychometry, evil presences and a mansion that reconfigures itself, with a blind protagonist? Too many ingredients negatively affect the dish.

The result: "Perception" is an interesting game, but not a great one.

Joel Leizer is The News-Gazette's Playing Critic. Contact him at jleizer@news-gazette.com.

"Perception"

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC.

Price: $22.99.

ESRB rating: M for mature.

Topics (2):Internet, Technology
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