Beyond Eyes is an adventure game developed by Tiger and Squid. It tells the story of Rae, a 10-year-old girl who, after a fireworks accident, is left blind. Without her sight, Rae becomes anxious around loud and unfamiliar noises, preferring to stay in the quiet safety of her garden with a stray ginger cat named Nani. However, when Nani goes missing, Rae decides to leave the safety of her garden and takes a journey into the unknown to find her friend. Both the player and Rae venture into the white emptiness that lies beyond the garden wall.
Through her sense of touch, smell, and what she can hear, Rae creates a watercolor world for the player to experience. Her vivid imagination forms the landscape as she walks, and through her slow and purposeful steps, the white emptiness transforms into a colorful environment. The player must guide Rae through her vivid world. Landscape stays in sight when explored as part of Rae’s mental map, so taking time to explore will leave a bigger picture. With this small but effective mechanic, Beyond Eyes has changed the way that the player engages with landscape. It is through movement of the player that Rae’s world can be seen.
Beyond Eyes is masterful in the way that it makes the player aware of other senses; it places emphasis upon a carefully constructed soundscape. It’s playful in the way that Rae interprets noises. What at first sounds like a small fountain can actually be running water from an open drain to the surprise of both the Rae and the player. Sound becomes an important navigation tool; the sound of ducks quacking indicates a river is near by. Instead of a visual path, there are other sensual pathways. Following the sound of birds or the smell of fresh bread can lead the player and Rae through the landscape.
Sounds also supply an effect of depth within the game—a bird that chirps will flash onto the screen revealing how far away it is. Sounds and smells have an aura surrounding them. Peaceful sounds having a colorful aura, whereas loud and unfamiliar sounds are shrouded in a dark aura. Noisy cars, barking dogs, and squawking crows make Rae feel anxious, but all add to the rich soundscape. Coupled with the beautifully piano soundtrack, this creates an overall feeling of an emotional and meaningful journey.
Beyond Eyes puts emphasis on the meaning of player movement and exploration. The world experienced through player movement is like creating a painting—a unique way of engaging the player. Beyond Eyes is an effective insight into the anxieties and alienation of a blind person, but through Rae’s pacing, makes every step a purposeful creation of landscape and a slow happening of wonder. Certainly the player will move Rae in the wrong direction or reach a dead end, but overall the game places emphasis upon the act of wandering, and so there is no rush or incorrect path.
Beyond Eyes displays a different approach to both movement and landscape and how they intertwine. Through the fresh perspective of a young blind girl, Beyond Eyes shows us a different interpretation of our world and recognizes that there is more to landscape than just visuals and that there is meaning and emotion in movement.
Beyond Eyes isn’t alone in this approach to landscape formation. It can also be seen in titles such PANORAMICAL and the anticipated Shape the World. These games are changing the way that the player can engage with the game world, where new feelings of wonder in movement can be experienced.