Less a traditional game than an interactive experience, Beyond Eyes follows the journey of 10-year-old girl Rae as she travels alone, outside her usual milieu, in search of her lost cat, Nani. The catch is that Rae is blind – not from birth, but from a young age. As such, she has some knowledge of what things look like, but must rely largely on sound, conjecture, and deduction to figure out what she’s interacting with in the world around her.
The game is drawn in a beautiful, watercolor-esque style that is revealed as Rae moves from place to place. She encounters environmental objects and obstacles – often things that she has no visual frame of reference for, and which therefore appear as placeholders to her, and to the player. For example, a leaky, rusty runoff pipe might appear to be a beautiful fountain at first, since this is the closest thing Rae has in her visual memory banks to fit the sound she is hearing emanate from it.
Other sounds, smells, or feelings may frighten Rae, and she reflects this in her body language. Rae is afflicted, perhaps understandably, with a deep-seated sense of anxiety. Beyond Eyes is, at least in part, a journey for both the player and Rae through the challenges that anxiety presents – not just in a blind little girl, but for all of us going out into the world. There’s a beautiful catharsis to be had in this game, at least some modicum of it, in the discovery of what’s out there.
The aspect of Beyond Eyes that really sets it apart is its visual style. The majority of the screen at any given time will usually be a blank white, with Rae in the middle. As she moves through the world, things she hears or smells or feels will be literally painted into this white canvas in a watercolor style. Evoking a sense of place and wonderment at the same time, Beyond Eyes’ art could provide plenty of wallpapers from screenshots alone, and the game’s all-important sound design (there’s no dialogue to speak of) brings you into Rae’s experience of the world more successfully than any text box could.
In the end, it might be best to describe Beyond Eyes as a journey, rather than a traditional game; it’s not about any clear end goal, although getting her cat back is what Rae has in mind when she starts out. Beyond Eyes is about the experience of conquering your fears and going out into the world itself, and seeing things (as it were) through someone else’s eyes. We can’t wait for this masterpiece-in-the-making to hit Xbox One later this year via ID@Xbox.