"What would it be like to lose my sight?"
At some point or another in our lives, many of us with the gift of vision have likely asked ourselves that very question. Maybe you've closed your eyes and tried to navigate your home. Maybe you've blindfolded yourself to try to do the same. Either way, it's an interesting question that serves as the premise for the upcoming narrative-driven virtual reality psychological thriller: Blind.
It was immediately interesting to me. In fact, although I had already scheduled a Sunday morning demo with the developer, I found myself repeatedly returning to the booth between appointments on Saturday. Virtual reality gaming brings with it the promise of allowing you to see anything, and everything, that you could possibly imagine. And yet here is a game that is utilizing VR, and it isn't doing that - it's doing the opposite. I was giddy over the idea of seeing more.
Moments after I put on my headset I was enveloped in darkness. "Dark" in a thriller is nothing new - in fact, it's one of the most commonly used tropes. I tried to navigate, unsuccessfully. And then I tapped my cane, and the world burst with something close to, but not quite, sight. My environment was illuminated in monochromatic lines, highlighting the items in, and outlines of, the room in which I had found myself, although not without limits.
I had assumed the role of a blind young girl, shortly after a car accident. I have awakened in a sprawling, unfamiliar mansion, with no memory of how I came to be here or what has become of my loved ones. Tapping that cane proved to be my lifeline - navigation is achieved through echolocation, and depending on the volume of the noise being made a certain distance around you will light up like a sad ray of hope in an otherwise grave situation.
During the brief demo I was tasked with solving a number of different puzzles in order to locate three small statues. In the first I had to navigate a small ball through a maze. The sound from the ball's movements omitted weak sound waves, letting me see just enough of the surrounding area that I could determine which directions I could move without the game spoon-feeding me the answer - in fact, you can check out a screenshot of this puzzle in the gallery below. The second was a sound-based puzzle - this one I struggled with. Even with my headphones on, the sounds of the show floor overpowered the musical notes, taking me more time to complete than I care to admit. The third, however, used vibrations. I had a dial and a lever, which had to be adjusted to different degrees in order to unlock a safe, and with each move the intensity of vibrations would increase or decrease. Each puzzle seemed custom made for someone without the gift of vision - which makes sense, considering that is what the game is about - but it also makes you wonder about the mysterious in-game kidnapper who designed these puzzles in the first place.
Moving throughout the environment proved challenging, but mostly because of the muscle memory that had stubbornly found its way into my habits after many years of playing video games. The right and left triggers turn your character 30 degrees in either direction, and although I found myself too frequently trying to turn using the right joystick, it's a feature I'm sure would become second nature after a bit more time with the game.
Throughout the entirety of my time with Blind, I was constantly wondering who I was, why I was here, and why on earth whoever took me wanted me to solve these puzzles in his house. It was extremely tense, and every bit as immersive as I would expect a virtual reality game to be. Although Blind is far from a "horror" title, I can see - no pun intended - how it will be successful as a chilling psychological thriller. The house is challenging you, and a mysterious figure is playing the role of a puppet master in the shadows. It exploits common basic fears as well as that which many take for granted, and I can't stop wondering where the story will go from here.