The biggest question you need to ask yourself before playing Beyond Eyes is how much frustration are you willing to endure when that is partially the point. Playing a blind protagonist is most certainly a novel concept with potential to garner sympathy for those in our world who live sans sense everyday. At the same time, Beyond Eyes, while not overflowing with mechanics and systems, still feels gamey. There are puzzles, simplistic as they are, and there’s a major goal in mind. The traditional idea that all games must be fun is a dated one, but when you’ve designed a puzzle game with touches of a walking sim, there’s a requirement the game be less annoying than it is enjoyable or rewarding. Sadly, that’s not the case for Beyond Eyes.

In Rae’s quest to find her missing cat friend, Nani, movement is at best tolerable and at worst cumbersome. Rae walks at a painfully slow pace. I understand why a young, blind girl shouldn’t be sprinting like Usain Bolt, but the player has to be considered in this matter too. Some environments are far too open, making navigation a series of backtracking and aimless wandering. The kicker is it’s entirely plausible to be backtracking or plodding in an open area with no value. It’s quite literally wasted space, which equals wasted time. The chapters which are more linear play far better. You don’t have to deal with the aggravation of having to slowly walk through an area where no sense of achievement is to be had. Here the movement speed is much more bearable. The world reveals itself through Rae’s imagination and watching it peel back in a colorful, painterly fashion makes up for the lack of quick maneuvering with a different type of tangible sense of progression.

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Chapter five in particular I find rather unpleasant. Unlike in the other chapters where previously revealed portions of the level stay visible, like a fog of war situation in an RTS, the rain washes this ability away. Combined with circular design and samey looking beaches and stone villages, I gave up several times. Another broken fundamental is the not so savvy level design, which again, chapter five highlights as much. At times it’s possible to come across hostile NPCs or objects which previously triggered puzzles during all their previous appearances. This isn’t always the case. NPCs such as seagulls will be placed in the aforementioned big, wastes of space, making you believe there is a puzzle to be solved. You’ll wander and wander only to stumble onto the actual puzzle in a completely different area. Those seagulls, that open area: entirely inconsequential.

Making matters worse is how often Rae gets caught on scenery. Random bottles on the ground, lightposts, rocks, and trees, they all make the already slow movement even more of a hassle. Getting stuck and having to fumble around for several seconds before getting loose is a common ordeal. In most other games where you’ve the ability to race across the environment, this is less of a major issue, and more of a nuisance. It’s quite the problem here.

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As cliche as praising colorful artsyle and whimsical tones as Disney or Ghibli- esque is, such does apply. Granted, not at the same degree, but the relationship between Rae and Nani, the cat, is a semi-endearing one. Storytelling is minimalistic, with sparse moments of silent narration and dialogue limited to partially intelligible mumblings. Such allows for a focus on the “action” in a very show don’t tell presentation. Unfortunately, there’s not much payoff, as the finale is quite abrupt and has a slapdash bit of catharsis. A few more moments of charm and character building could have really sold the relationship between the duo.

I’m not one of those people who claim gameplay is king. I enjoy visual novels and other such less “exciting” mechanics. Beyond Eyes is frustrating on a fundamental level. As enjoyable as the aesthetic and reductionist storytelling can be, it’s not enough to warrant the often lethargic gameplay. Novel, if flawed concepts, with a breath of originality can be a wonderful thing. In the quest for a sympathetic experience, too much traditional game mechanics were mixed in. The execution of the restrictive, mechanical nature clashes with the  the more poignant themes. Beyond Eyes is an interesting experiment, but one I can’t suggest struggling through for the sporadic moments of joy.