Number of Reviews: 9
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Well-written, but problematic, February 13, 2011
There's a lot to like about The Blind House. The writing is elegant and atmospheric. The characterization is strong. The player has only three brief conversations with Marissa, but everything in her house tells us something about her -- her paintings, the books on her bookshelf, the videos she watches. The player character, Helena, is more of an enigma, but she's supposed to be. The horror aspect is also done well. It relies more on implication than on shock or gory descriptions; throughout the game's series of unsettlingly surreal episodes there's a build-up of dread leading to a climax that's less a shock than a confirmation of the player's worst suspicions.
The gameplay works well for what it's supposed to do, which is to supplement the story without distracting from it (puzzle fans will want to look elsewhere). It's generally clear what you're supposed to do and where you're supposed to go, but the game doesn't overdo the hand-holding. There were a few things I still felt a sense of accomplishment for working out, but I'm pretty terrible at this stuff, so that may just be me.
I have only one problem with the game overall -- and unfortunately it's hard to discuss without mentioning the endings, so please forgive me for the spoilers.
There are vague, but definitely present, homoerotic undertones to the relationship between Helena and Marissa, which makes the whole thing come off as "predatory psychotic lesbian (Spoiler - click to show)stalks, hurts, and possibly kills the object of her affections." The fact that the place where these undertones are most obvious is the ending where (Spoiler - click to show)Helena kills Marissa (while lying on top of her on a bed, no less) really does not help here. I feel a little bad complaining about this (after all, lesbians can be crazy just like anyone else can), but the "predatory psychotic lesbian" thing has a long and sordid history as the most common portrayal of lesbians in fiction. This game feels like a bit of a throwback to the days of Mrs. Danvers and the like, and the fact that it's all kept on a subtextual level only adds to that.
I don't mean to suggest that the author played into this stereotype on purpose; I know how easy it is to stumble into these things without meaning to. But it left a bad taste in my mouth in a game I otherwise quite enjoyed.