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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: Beyond Eyes (Microsoft Xbox One)

Imagine a world that contains nothing, a vast blank canvas that stretches further than any imagination could reach. It is a cold world without colour, emotion, or friendships. Beyond Eyes uses this empty world to represent Rae’s life experience, for Rae isn’t a typical heroine: she is a chid who was blinded in a terrible accident.

Related reading: Matt’s interview with Sherida Halatoe, the creator of Beyond Eyes.

Rae’s world is one of infinite nothingness until a cat befriends her. She looks forward to the cat’s visits. She names it Nani. Nani continuously comes back to Rae for visits. But one winter, Nani doesn’t return to Rae’s garden. Despite now knowing what lays beyond her fenced world, Rae ventures out to find sweet Nani.

Due to her blindness, Rae cannot see where she is going. She can only gather information from her surroundings via touch, sound, and smell. As she goes forth to find Nani, the empty canvas that was once her world is saturated with watercolours portraying what she is sensing. The aesthetic of the canvas being soaked with colour is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s as though a true masterpiece is being painted before your very eyes, the canvas soaking up what the artist is painting.

Beyond Eyes could easily be described as a walking simulator. Rae does not run. Rae does not jump. Rae simply cautiously moves ahead one steady step at a time while trying to avoid unseen obstacles in her path (and sometimes climbing low fences). However, Beyond Eyes does not deserve to be classified solely as “walking simulator"; the game is actually too important to just run through it. Rae needs to explore (yes, slowly) to understand the world around her. She needs to be sure she won’t be harmed while in the unfamiliar and scary world outside of her garden.

The painted landscape isn’t always as Rae believes is to be. When this happens, the image shift to what it actually is. For example, Rae could think a gate is closed and the scenery would represent that, but when approached it is revealed the gate is actually open and Rae can pass though. Rae’s delight or horror at these sudden changes sent shockwaves of excitement or fear each time something changed before my very eyes and Rae either squealed with delight or cowered in fear.

If I could give Beyond Eyes more stars, I would. Rarely does a character emotion become so pronounced in my own being. When Rae was delighted, I’d laugh with excitement. When Rae was scared, I cowered alongside her. When Rae was upset I was quite literally found sobbing in the fetal position until the wave of emotion passed. Walking slowly through the entire game is not a flaw, it is what allows the emotions to be felt so wholly. The beautiful artwork was continually enhanced by the enchantment of the backgrounds appearing and changing before my very eyes. The ever-evolving scenery mimic the changes that occur in Rae, for as she sought out Nani what she really found was herself.

- Lindsay M.
News Editor
Review: Beyond Eyes (Microsoft Xbox One)
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