Blank Canvas – “Beyond Eyes” Review

The most original game to hit during the ID@Xbox Summer Spotlight is also the worst.

Disclaimer: Beyond Eyes is a narrative focused game, and for that reason, the plot will be discussed in detail below. If you wish to play the game spoiler-free but still want to read a review, I suggest looking elsewhere.

I came into Beyond Eyes with an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards the indie title. Everything I’d seen looked intriguing and I thought it was wonderfully creative. Perhaps that’s why I was so angry and disappointed by the time the credits rolled. The review:

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The story that holds up Beyond Eyes is a dull and terrible one. Rae, the protagonist, is blinded when fireworks ricocheted off a tree and erupt in her face. Without the ability to see, Rae becomes depressed until she meets a cat, Nani. Rae falls for her new companion, but it apparently isn’t reciprocated as the cat runs away moments after being introduced. This is where the player commences a roughly 2-3 hour journey as Rae to track down Nani and bring her home. Though your journey won’t be a successful one. In the game’s final moments, Rae can hear the bell on Nani’s collar, so she snail-pace walks towards it. Upon reaching the collar, she discovers that it got caught on a tree, and the cat is nowhere to be found. At this point, Rae comes to the conclusion that the cat must be dead and she begins to sob while gathering flowers to place next to the collar. The game cuts to credits. It’s as idiotic as it is cynical.

The gameplay in Beyond Eyes is also disappointing. The concept of having limited visabilty on screen because of blindness is a great concept, but without evolving gameplay mechanics, the game feels stale in about 20 minutes.  “What scares Rae?” you might ask. Every single dog in the game growls menacingly as you move along your path, and at one point in the game, she actually gets frightened by three seagulls and refuses to walk through them. Rae already moves at a painfully slow pace, and when she’s scared, it only gets worse. The gif below is Rae moving at her default max speed.

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The decision to have Rae move at this pace feels like a way developer Tiger & Squid could elongate their already brief game. Of course, one could reason that Rae is blind and moves at this cautious pace to protect herself from getting hurt. While that’s a valid point, I’d argue there are lots of things in games that are unrealistic but they happen  to keep the game progressing. No video game should ever make the player physically tired playing it. I wasn’t soothed by the watercolor world, I was bored by it.

With a dreadfully bad story and dull gameplay, I find Beyond Eyes hard to recommend to anyone. With basic controls and fun visuals, I would consider recommending it to children, but the decision to have the cat die at the end makes it difficult to even do that. Behind the beautiful watercolor aesthetics, Beyond Eyes is nothing more than a thinly-vieled walking simulator. If there is one game you should avoid like the plague during the ID@Xbox Summer Spotlight series, it is Beyond Eyes.

Beyond Eyes was played on Xbox One courtesy of a Team 17 review code.

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