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Well-designed creepiness., November 18, 2011
When I came to play this game, I thought, "I see political trouble ahead for Blind from reviewers, based on the title and tagline…" that tagline being: "Who says blindness is a handicap?" As it turns out, Blind isn't about overcoming blindness through medical advancement or political agitation. It is about overcoming blindness by having you play a young blind woman who must escape from the house of a cannibalistic serial killer.
Blind women in peril (or women whose eyeballs are demonically possessed - that one doesn't apply to this game) have a rich history in thriller and horror films. Audrey Hepburn played one in Wait Until Dark (1967), foiling a drug-dealing criminal in her own unlit apartment. In that film it was all about the drugs. In many later blind-woman-in-peril films, and in Blind, the criminal's goal is the blind woman herself, his motives sexual and sadistic. This takes the game into creepy and harrowing terrain, and puts the player in a desperate survival situation.
In technical terms, Blind's sensory schtick is less than perfect. As you cannot see, you are given other verbs to discover information about your environment, such as 'feel' and 'smell'. 'Look' remains implemented, giving general feedback from your other senses on your present location. Being able to use several senses multiplies the amount of feedback you can get from each object in the game, but sometimes it can feel like a simple obligation to have to 'examine' each item in three or more different ways, and more objects could use more describing. Nevertheless, the overall effect works in that you do progress through the game by applying sometimes unexpected senses to the obstacles you encounter in a way that a sighted person wouldn't.
I was surprised to learn that the author is not particularly a fan of the horror genre, as he demonstrates a pretty good understanding of it in Blind. Some of the heroine's realisations about her plight (and the plight of those who went before her) as she stumbles about the killer's house are written with great psychological and physiological realism. Unfortunately, the game is also capable of undercutting such moments with the odd joke at the expense of the fourth wall, or occasionally managing to frame the heroine in a pervy way, even though it's her POV. These weak spots do not detract from the game's overall sincerity of effect, nor from what turns out to be a very elegant and detailed game design.
While Blind's early scenes distressed the adventure gamer in me by presenting me with a huge number of implemented household items which I could pick up (I was having visions of having to construct some incredible escape device from my packrattings, and I feel I am only being kind to future players in saying -- that is not what you have to do… (Spoiler - click to show)At least upstairs. When you get downstairs, some assembly may be required.) Blind demonstrates a lot of interactive possibilities and outcomes in its second act down in the basement. Violence has been used against you; how much and what kind of violence are you prepared to resort to in order to escape? Some possibilities seem to be a stretch when derived from the context sensitive hint system, but other clever and resourceful actions for the heroine to take are well implemented. You might have to face your captor more than once, and the game becomes particularly dangerous and exciting as it approaches its climax.
I also like that when you first complete Blind it presents you with a list of achievement-like extras you might want to try to avail yourself of in a subsequent game. Some of the proffered feats are easy to pull off, others quite difficult. In any case, I found this to be a more strongly motivational approach to inviting replays than those typical 'amusing' lists, which I've never really liked. And the second act gamespace is both small and detailed enough that I think most players who enjoyed the game are likely to be interested in going for the extras.
Version 1.6 of Blind (the final IFComp 2011 version) could use more polish in proofreading and implementation, but its core design is good enough that some roughness is unlikely to be bothersome for any player who is interested in its subject matter. It certainly doesn't betray any sign of its having had no testers beyond the author; I find it to be as least as well implemented as many games which placed above it. Blind is an imperfect but strong horror-thriller puzzle game, with moments of authentic creepiness and gruesomeness.