Beyond Eyes shows how sight isn't just about seeing

Every kid has certain things that they like or dislike for no readily apparent reason, but after a few years of steady exposure and experimentation, they usually get over it. Rae, the ten-year-old protagonist of the upcoming Xbox One and PC game Beyond Eyes, has to deal with a little bit more trial and error for that "exposure" part: she lost her sight midway through her childhood, and now perceives the world solely through her other senses.

The game is still made for people who can see, but the way players perceive Rae's world is going to be a little bit different than usual. Rae is depicted wandering through a white expanse, and only things which are near her, or are detected in the distance by smell or hearing, appear in the environment. It basically means she's always at the center of a small watercolor circle, with little points of interest - like a meowing cat or fragrant bunch of wildflowers - in the distance. Every place she passes through remains colored in, representing that she now knows the area... but she may not know it as well as you think.

Some of what you see in Beyond Eyes' world isn't accurate at first. Rae may follow the sound of running water to a familiar-looking fountain, then draw close enough to smell that it's actually a drainage pipe. Objects transform before your eyes as Rae's understanding of the world shifts. But Beyond Eyes isn't just doing some Mario Ghost House trickery: it's playing with how memory and preconceptions shape our everyday existence, whether you can see or not.

Certain things will cause Rae to become happy and adventurous or scared and timid, based on her prior experiences. At one point Rae walks toward the sound of flapping cloth, reassured by memories of a laundry line rippling in the breeze just outside her family home. Then a crow caws and the image shifts - the flapping sound actually came from the fabric on a frightening (and apparently ineffective) old scarecrow. Hearing the sound of birds later on, Rae remembers the scarecrow and hesitates, until she pushes on to discover it's just a few chickens flapping their wings.

Whether or not players try to broaden Rae's experiences (potentially at the cost of scaring the crap out of her when it doesn't work out well) will affect the game later on, altering how Rae perceives certain stimuli down the line. It's not meant to unlock secret paths or hidden rewards, more like another layer of perception and memory to keep in mind as her travels take her further and further from home. You can see if Beyond Eyes reshapes your own perception of the world (or at least of pretty indie games) this summer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of GR+'s news crew, Connor also writes features from time to time and does a lil' streamin'-streamin' on the side. Chrom is his husband and nothing will ever come between them.

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