When tackling a disability like blindness, how would you try to convey the subject in videogame format to gamers that have full vision? One method that’s becoming popular with developers is echolocation – a la Daredevil – where noise briefly constructs the world around you before plunging you back into darkness. Tiny Bull Studios is the latest to utilise the mechanic in its upcoming virtual reality (VR) title Blind, a narrative-driven psychological thriller that isn’t designed so much to scare as it is puzzle.
You may have already come across this echo location mechanic if you’ve played Stifled for example. The horror experience has you using objects to make sounds – as well as the mic – to see but at the same time those sounds can be used by creatures to hunt you down. Blind on the other hand still conveys a similar sense of tension due to the lack of visibility, but swaps the scarier elements for brain testing puzzles.
The story goes that you play a girl driving her brother somewhere. She then crashes and awakes inside a strange mansion, suffering from partial amnesia and a complete loss of sight. A mysterious (and very sinister sounding) male voice appears, guiding her through the house whilst revealing little about why she is there and where her brother is.
To begin with Blind can be somewhat disorientating whilst adjusting to the visual mechanics of the title. The first couple of areas serve as a tutorial of sorts, allowing you to wander around and pick items up to use as sound sources. Most small items up to the size of a book can be used but be sparing, once flung trying to find them on the floor can be tricky in the dark. Thankfully, as the story progresses past these early stages you’re given a cane with which to make sound waves, making the entire process more fluid and exploration far easier.
With the cane you can also appreciate Blind’s visual design and layout. Purely black and white with little in the way of textures, the somewhat barren feeling to this look certainly aids the atmosphere, fliting between creepy and sombre stylings. But the cane doesn’t suddenly illuminate the entire room as it only has a relatively short distance, so repeated tapping on the walls or floor is needed to keep on track. Over doing it however will actually disorientate you and blind you with sound so careful use of the cane is needed.
As for the puzzles, from what VRFocus has seen so far they do tend to edge towards more audio cues, for example there’s a safe you have to unlock by turning the dials until you hear a click, or a music box with several buttons that need to be pressed in the correct order of the tune.
Blind also feels very comfortable to play. Even when you’re trying to solve a puzzle or walking around tapping away looking for a clue about what to do next the direct locomotion system is very smooth and steady, quite possibly because the visuals fade in and out.
For its first VR project Tiny Bull Studios has certainly taken on an interesting challenge with Blind. In its current form the title has all the makings of a high quality VR experience, with engaging visuals and spatial sound to truly immerse the player in the story. So long as the narrative and puzzle mechanics hold up throughout then Blind should offer a unique puzzle experience for players.