Beautiful, eerie and clever, yet frustrating at points.
There are some amazingly imaginative and novel puzzle titles for virtual reality (VR) headsets, with some effortlessly combining both gameplay mechanics and a rich storyline to drawn you in. Tiny Bull Studios’ Blind hopes to do the same, and in part succeeds, yet there are points where frustration and confusion step in to ruin the enjoyment.
To appreciate Blind’s gameplay you need to understand its story, which involves you playing a girl who wakes up in a strange mansion alone, her last memory being sat in a car driving her brother somewhere. But there’s something notably absent – and it’s not the bro – it is her sight, which for some bizarre reason has disappeared.
Enter the main mechanic of Blind, the complete inability to see anything. Of course this would make for a rubbish VR title if there wasn’t someway to perceive the environment around you, and Blind uses echolocation. This creates a very stark black and white world that can only be seen by making a noise. This can be achieved in a number of ways, certain objects like a crackling radio help to provide anchored points, while secondary objects littered around can be used (thrown) to create deliberate noise.
The whole procedure not only adds to the atmosphere of Blind, creating a taught and suspenseful feeling throughout, but also becomes an intrinsic part of some puzzles. It’s a system that has both plus and minus points due to the way some of the areas work. To begin with, having to make sure you know where items are so you’re not left empty handed is integral to the experience, yet as time goes on and you’re provided with the cane this becomes a none existent factor. It’s only with the loss of the cane that this mechanic starts to really grate, having to continuously slam things on the floor to then pick them up again and again – especially when the tracking does quite let you reach said object.
As for the puzzles themselves Tiny Bull Studios has actually done a nice job creating a varied mixture of challenges. There is a bit of difficulty discrepancy between some earlier and later puzzles, where there’s one or two early ones which are vague and convoluted to solve, while other later puzzles seem to be more rudimentary and straight forward. You’d have thought that a videogame which uses echolocation would require it for every puzzle yet that’s not the case with Blind for some unknown reason.
Blind takes a bit of patience, as you wander around many empty rooms looking for the next puzzle. At some point you’ll likely get annoyed and whack the cane into a wall or piece of furniture several times which can in fact blind you. Yes you can be blinded by sound. Blind makes excellent use of audio, so that hitting a hard surface will make a sharp noise ring out, while hitting a bed for example will result in a thud. Get that snap of the cane just right and it’ll illuminate an entire room for a brief second, just don’t do it too much.
With the likes of Torn on the market and Twilight Path still to come, Blind can certainly hold its own with its design and gameplay mechanics. The echolocation system isn’t unique but it does provide a way for the studio to make a non-horror experience especially chilling. Clocking in at just over four hours the main let down comes towards the end which feels like the puzzle ideas were running out. Luckily the story is interesting enough to keep the motivation going.