BLINDSIDE

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    epicycle, llc

Publisher:    Desura

Released:  August 2012

Requirements:   Headphones

 

 

by Becky

 

BlindSide begins as a young couple, Case and Dawn, awaken in their pitch black Boston apartment. The flashlight doesn't work and Case goes in search of matches, eventually encountering something loud and murderous in the hall outside the apartment. The mystery deepens as Case and Dawn realize that parts of the city street are now strewn with rubble and everything around them is completely dark.

Not Seeing is Believing

BlindSide is an innovative auditory adventure which can be played with your eyes firmly shut. It's the first episode in a series by a new developer -- epicycle, llc. (Disclaimer -- a member of the development team is a family friend.)

The gameworld in BlindSide is made up entirely of sounds, among them: voices, footsteps, creaks, drips, hisses, and scraping noises. The best sound effects come from the violent creatures that have descended upon Boston. Their throaty growls and snorts have a resonance that rattled my computer's subwoofer.

In other games, awareness of ambient audio is often only subliminal. The stimulation of the visuals in other games -- tableaux and puzzles -- tends to distract from the auditory intricacies. In BlindSide, the opportunity to focus entirely on the soundscape is very enjoyable.

A Tragic and Fateful Night

Story elements are expressed through dialogs without subtitles. The dialogs can be "clicked through" by pressing an arrow key. Late in the game, the story progresses in an unexpected direction, and the ending leaves the gamer guessing as to how the final discovery will influence later episodes. Dialogs are well written and well voiced, sometimes fitting into the dramatic tradition of horror stories, and other times morphing into amusing (if occasionally campy) banter. The equivalent of cutscenes takes place while gameplay is paused -- electronic music plays, and the characters discuss the destructive forces around them and try to figure out how to survive.

There are only two on-screen visuals -- a compass revealing cardinal directions and a design that lights up to confirm that you've pressed an arrow key. Pressing the "C" key toggles between the two. You move through the gameworld using the keyboard. The game should be played with a good pair of headphones, so that you can recognize sound direction (left, right, in front, or behind you).

What Lies Within

BlindSide contains no traditional inventory or puzzles. Case picks up and carries only one item that can be used. The game's main challenge is navigating toward a series of stated locations using sound cues, while avoiding or working your way around obstacles like benches, walls, railings, and subway cars. A "typical" challenge is moving through a pitch black ballroom, heading toward the sound of a steam radiator and a radio playing classical music, while monsters sleep, huddled on the floor, poised for a misstep that might awaken them.

This game is surprisingly difficult, especially if (like me) you don't have a good "real world" sense of direction. The environments are maze-like, though of course the boundaries of the maze can't be seen -- you bump up against them in the dark. Doors can be hard to open -- occasionally I needed to re-approach a door from a slightly different angle before I could get through it. Two timed challenges were particularly tricky.

Under my inept guidance, Case and Dawn died hundreds of times before completing the adventure. (The game brings you back to the beginning of the challenge to try again.) The "H" key provides hints -- usually the general direction in which you should be heading. Without the faithful "H" key, I would not have finished the game.

If you have a good sense of direction or a knack for land navigation -- plus good ears and quick reflexes -- this episode can be completed in two to three hours. It took me almost seven.

Quick List for BlindSide

This is the first episode of an unusual horror adventure series, featuring a rich auditory gameworld in which the player character is completely blind. Good voiceovers, a twisty horror story with a cliffhanger ending. The only visuals are menu-like navigation aids.

Challenges involve using the keyboard to navigate rooms and streets full of obstacles, using only sounds and auditory cues. Two timed challenges. No sliding tile puzzles, no sound matching, no need to distinguish colors. You die frequently; the game returns you to the point before death to try again. The hint system helps with navigation. Auto-save only.

Dialogs can be clicked through; no subtitles. Spicy language. The language and horror themes render this a game inappropriate for children.

No problems with installation; no glitches. Length of gameplay will vary widely depending on the sharpness of your ears and the strength of your sense of direction. Average length is about three hours.

This is a difficult game to grade because no other adventure game out there is similar. It's like judging a radio drama when all you've experienced in the past are film dramas. A successful integration of chosen constraints, its lively creativity provides a memorable gaming experience.

BlindSide is aimed at horror fans and gamers who enjoy an innovative story and gameplay premise. It's available via download from Desura.

 

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August 2012

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