It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a sucker for a ‘walking simulator’ – as my love for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Firewatch prove. Beyond Eyes is another one of those games – but unlike the multi-award winning Rapture and the critically acclaimed Firewatch, Beyond Eyes is a game that for the most part, slipped under the radar, and also fell victim to some particularly scathing (and, in my opinion, unfair) reviews.
For those of you who haven’t played it (and I strongly suggest you do), Beyond Eyes is the story of a young girl called Rae. Blinded by an accident involving fireworks in her younger years, Rae is left with little to inspire her through her childhood – until the appearance of her beloved cat, Nani.
Nani is Rae’s companion and only friend, so when his visits become less frequent, and eventually he doesn’t return one day, Rae decides to go out and find him. As someone who had sight but now does not, everything Rae comes into contact with is unfamiliar to her. She is essentially in an entirely new world; one which you discover with her, uncovering your surroundings in a beautifully realised watercolour landscape as Rae moves around.
To my delight, I became totally absorbed in Rae’s picturesque world the more I played Beyond Eyes. I felt immensely empathetic towards Rae, who is around the same age as one of my own children. Sometimes, she will hear things and imagine them to be entirely different to how they are in reality, and in these brief moments her childlike imagination is immediately obvious – she sees a running water drain as a beautiful, statuesque water fountain; and rats scratching in a shed as her own Nani scratching at a tree. She is often frightened and cowers from loud noises, invoking an immense feeling of protection towards Rae – you want to make sure she is safe.
It's in this provocation of feelings that Beyond Eyes excels where so many other games fail. It may not be as long as many titles - there’s a few hours of gameplay, max, possibly a little more if you replay for the sake of Trophies - but the lasting impression those few hours leave upon you when you’ve played it through to completion are enough to make every second worthwhile.
I know, a game about a blind girl and her cat was always going to tug at the heartstrings, but this game does it without even using words, you’re told a story purely through a child’s senses and imagination. And it’s this innocent and naïveté that gives the game its quintessential charm and beauty.
What games do you feel are underappreciated? Perhaps there’s a game from your past that you remember fondly, but nobody else recalls? Let us know in the comments below or on the forums.