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Beyond Eyes

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Tiger & Squid
Release Date: 2015


XOne/PC Preview - 'Beyond Eyes'

by Thomas Wilde on June 25, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Beyond Eyes is an exploration game about Rae, a blind girl who uses her remaining senses to visualize the world around her.

You have to see Beyond Eyes in motion to really appreciate it. It looks like a time-delayed film of someone painting a children's book in watercolors, as paint bleeds slowly along the page. The art style reminds me a bit of the original A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh books, with a small child exploring a massive and colorful world. It's an amazing example of something that only a video game could do, as no other medium could provide this amount of interactivity.

Its creator, Sherida Halatoe, began Beyond Eyes as a one-person project in college, basing it in part on some of her experiences as a child. She spent three and a half years working on the game on her own, taking side jobs and trying to crowdfund it through IndieGoGo, before coming into contact with Team17. She subsequently moved to the UK from the Netherlands to work on the game as its creative director, finishing it with the aid of a small team.

Beyond Eyes is a story about Rae, a young girl who's struck by fireworks one night, which takes her sight and ruins her self-confidence. A year later, after all her old friends have moved on, she meets a stray cat, which quickly becomes her new best friend. When the cat disappears one night, Rae sets out by herself to find it.

By default, Rae's world is an empty white canvas. As you explore, she fills in the details from what she can hear and feel, which gradually colors in the world around her. Distant objects may be revealed from nearby sounds, such as running water or singing birds, but Rae's a sheltered child, so she sometimes makes incorrect guesses about a nearby object. At one point during the E3 demo, she approached a gurgling birdbath that, when she got closer, turned out to be a sewer grate; another obstacle seemed like a massive wall of reeking black smoke but was actually a busy highway. When Rae figures out her mistake, the new object suddenly overwrites the old, bleeding into view. This can add a surreal edge to the game, as when a distant woodpecker turns out to be the clicking sound from a stoplight; Rae's guesses about her environment always default to things you'd find in a forest, which can be bizarre when it turns out she's actually in the middle of a town.

The challenge of Beyond Eyes comes from exploration. The story is spread out over a prologue, six levels, and an epilogue, taking her from her house through town and to the harbor, where the sound of falling rain from a sudden storm makes it harder for her to navigate, limiting the amount of the map that's filled in behind you.

I didn't actually get to go hands-on with Beyond Eyes at E3, although I did get to watch Halatoe chase a chicken halfway across the map at one point. (The ability to torment chickens is, after all, one clear sign of a good game.) Most of what I got out of the demo had to do with its visual and sound design, which are simple but extremely effective. Rae doesn't have a word of dialogue in the entire game, so her story is told entirely through images and her posture. It's still easy to understand.

Beyond Eyes isn't going to be a game for everyone, but Halatoe mentioned that she'd shown off the game to an enthralled crowd of five- and six-year-old girls, and its focus on peaceful exploration makes it an easy bet for adventure gamers. If you're at all interested in art, I'd also suggest you check out Beyond Eyes, as moment-for-moment, it was one of the most visually distinct, striking games at E3 2015.

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