Blind is built from the ground up for VR.
Which is a phrase i don’t often get to say, but when i do, it always means you’re in for a little extra treat. Blind is no exception.
Why that little phrase means so much is because the developers took into consideration everything in the virtual environment whilst piecing together their vision. So everything from the visuals, the binaural audio, and very specifically the immersion level – go that extra mile.
In a case like Blind, they kind of have to.
In Blind you play Jean, a young girl who has had a horrific accident and no longer has use of her sight. Bad time to wake up in a mansion with a creepy spiky-headed goon giving you the Jigsaw treatment then?
Jean soon comes to terms with her predicament and her captor is relatively calm and actually a little soothing, considering the situation.
He explains that you will need to partake in a bit of puzzle solving to find out why you are trapped in this house, but does not leave you alone in the dark. So far you’ve been relying totally on environmental audio to use your Daredevil-esque echolocation abilities. Ole’ spiky lends you something better for the journey.
You can whip your cane out in either hand by simply pressing the Move button. The fact it comes up so quickly and is so easily interchangeable is a god send given the amount of times you’re going to be using it over the next few hours.
Blind does indeed control solely through use of the Move controllers. The button layout isn’t terribly confusing, but it is a shame about the lack of VR control options. The most similar scheme i can think of is The Solus Project. You use the left controller buttons for Forward, Backward, Menu & Centering yourself. The right controller turns you 30 degrees incrementally in either direction and allows you to crouch – which you’ll use more than you think.
Hopefully later on the developers will consider adding a smooth turning option – frankly it should be standard at this point.
Although, it is worth pointing out you can kind of steer a bit with the direction your head is facing. Another welcome option when in the thick of things.
The game can be played standing up or sitting down, however if you have a couch set up similar to mine and are as care free with flinging useful items around as I am, you’ll be doing a bit of both. Honestly it’s only a short game, so if you’re looking for a recommendation – try standing first.
After getting a handle on how to move, you have to get a handle on how to move in the dark. After all, you are blind.
To put it quite simply, you whack your cane against things to see the surrounding area. The bigger the whack, the more sound you make, the more you see. Sequential whacks will make it brighter, but don’t push it too far, you can actually hurt yourself if you go too cane crazy. As pointed out by Ole’ Spiky (correctly referred to as “The Warden“) you tend to get into a rhythm pretty quickly.
It does, however, take a lot longer to get into the rhythm of the puzzles.
Early in the game i picked up a gem stone of some kind from a toolbox, which prompted an audio line – “I’m on the right track” I thought.
The gem promptly disappeared from my grip, leaving me to believe i had dropped it, glitched something out, and was now stuck forever in a dark room. As it turns out, I was being melodramatic. There are many of these stones dotted around the place. I’ve no idea what they mean, but once i figured that out i felt a lot better about the situation and decided to proceed as normal.
The game does little in the way of holding your hand, which i suppose is appropriate given your situation. Occasionally you might get lucky with a voice line that hints at something, but largely you just have to be very observant of your environment. Plenty of things are DEEPLY hidden away, in draws, behind books on bookshelves, behind innocuous paintings. Dig deep friends.
“But Tom”, you may ask. “Why the hell am I in this mansion to begin with?” Great question. Unfortunately that’s on you to find out. As you make your way through the labyrinth of doors and staircases you’ll begin to discover things about your family.
When you were in your accident – the one that left you blind – you had your little brother in the car with you. He is seemingly nowhere to be found. So that is pressing issue number one. Everything beyond that is an intricately woven narrative of domestic abuse and disfunction. One that The Warden seems dead set on having you relive, to some extent.
Things definitely get a little intense towards the end. I won’t spoil it, but if you were wondering if you’d be ok playing this if you did not like horror games. I might steer clear. Just to be safe. Even I was a little on edge at times, Anything that hunts by sound is inherently terrifying right?
I’ve said too much…
Of course Blind isn’t the first of its kind. An earlier PSVR release by the name of ‘Stifled‘ claimed a similar mechanic and vibe, but the two are innately different in presentation and play style. It’s an unfair comparison outside of the echolocation mechanic. Blind is leaps and bounds ahead of Stifled in terms of presentation, and i really liked Stifled.
The voice acting is welcome, but stiff in places. With the exception of Jean’s mother, who nails her scenes well and brought about genuine emotion in me.
My only other major complaint is that the ending definitely could have been stronger. The entire game took me around 2 to 3 hours to complete, I did it in one sitting. Considering how strong the family drama narrative was at the beginning and throughout most of the middle sections of the game, despite the big reveal (which was well implemented stylistically) and the overall change of pace (which was stellar) the *actual* end was kind of….meh.
Maybe i built it up too much in my head? Maybe it should have ended on the reveal?
It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just felt a little like it was shoe horning existentialism into something that already had strong, dramatic roots in reality.
All in all, Blind was time well spent. The thing about virtual reality is that an experience as unusual as this one will stick with you. It almost becomes a false memory of “that time you were blind and fumbling ’round a mansion with Ole’ Spiky” Weird how that works. If nothing else i have new found respect for those of us in society who don’t get to take the headset off, and really do have to use a cane to *see* the world around them.
There is no other medium that can give you that experience.
Built from the ground up.
Tom’s full gameplay experience (with no commentary) was captured above. If you plan on picking this up, avoid watching too far in for fear of spoilers.
You have been warned.
Blind is now available for PSVR. Oculus Rift & HTC Vive.