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Friday, 24 August 2012

Review of “Blindside” by Epicycle

Okay, now let me start of by saying that this is likely one of the most difficult single player games to not only get right, but simply get playable, especially one like this, that is of decent length.

I’m certain many of you have played a short experimental, free game called ‘Blind Monk’s Society’. If you haven’t, then go play it, it is quite fun.

Ok, now that you’ve gotten back from that you will see how difficult it is to play a game with fairly large environments with relatively few things to run into with no visual element, and only sound to guide you. Now imagine how much harder it would be to play in areas like inside buildings, or in cities, with lots of thing to run into. Add to that avoiding monsters and you have on tricky task of simply moving to a door across the street.

Now let’s talk for a moment about the concept. One feature of many horror games, including games like Penumbra and Amnesia, is that the more you see something the less scary it is, this is because given just a little information your mind will come up with something infinitely worse than whatever the developers could come up with and draw up, adding to that the uncertainty of what the thing is and the difficulty of moving around with the sound of hitting into things being your best guide and some situations can become quite scary.

Please skip this next paragraph if you want to avoid being spoiled on the first 5 minutes to an hour of gameplay, depending on how bad you are at visualizing a room with nothing but sounds to work with.

In this game you awake to find something horrible in your home and on top of that, you can’t see. You start by escaping the room and getting into the street. There are some frantic elements which give you a time limit of some sections of this part, just after the tutorial, and this, combined with the lack of knowledge of what the thing actually is, it is quite a scary scene.

One other thing that will become evident quite quickly is the extremely high quality of the sound effects. A good clear sound effect of something (or someone) being torn to pieces really makes for a chilling experience.

The developers have incorporated some features to ease the difficult of traversing an area by sound alone; being that in a game it is much more difficult to move around since you do not have the medium of touch, or at least not precise touch. The main one of these is that sliding along a surface such as a wall, or bench, will give a sliding sound. This makes moving about much easier as you can follow things to plot out the place you are in. The second aid is that the protagonist will remark to himself upon the object he has walked into, or at least what he thinks he has walked into.

The game is generally quite fun, definitely scary, and has a decent story. The issue is that it is a real trial to get through the majority of it, at least in my case, due to difficulty of navigation and very frequent deaths; it is only a mercy that auto saves are very frequent.

All in all, I can recommend this as an experience and a decent horror game, especially if you enjoy trying new and experimental games, however I cannot say it is a game I would replay on a regular basis as an evening’s gaming session.

Reviewed for Indie Game News by Josh "Arro" Merrick.

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