Adventure Gamers Awards
More and more games of late have begun exploring the notion of blindness. A seemingly paradoxical concept for a visual medium, it presents obvious challenges that usually rely heavily on echolocation to overcome. Like a bat sending out sound waves or a submarine’s sonar, echolocation uses acoustics to create awareness of the environment without sight. In video games, however, that ability still needs to translate into something to actually see (with the exception of the audio-only BlindSide), so titles like Blind and Perception have enabled players with a kind of temporary outline vision whenever a sound is heard (or in the case of Beyond Eyes, when other senses are engaged as well). This works well enough for games that don’t require much physical prowess, but for obvious reasons such a disability is limiting in what it allows the protagonist to do. Right? Well, hold on.
Instead of being another first-person creeper in the dark, Another Sight is much more ambitious. This side-scrolling puzzle-platformer stars not one but two playable protagonists, one of whom is a little girl that is effectively blind, while the other is a cat. This game also uses sound vibrations to create images for the former to navigate, but here the visual acuity of its sightless heroine is extremely limited for the most part, and yet far more is asked of her than her more leisurely contemporaries. Her feline companion is theoretically available to increase her range, but rarely effective at doing so, instead serving more as a puzzle complement who does the bulk of the running and jumping required. It’s a noble endeavour, but ultimately not a particularly successful one, alternating between stumbling around in the dark and performing janky acrobatics on four legs. It sure does look pretty, though – at least when the lights are on.
Set sometime in the 19th century, the story is needlessly vague and frustratingly cryptic even when a few narrative tidbits are thrown the player’s way. With no preamble at all, a little blonde girl named Kit, cute as a button in her lovely purple dress and bow in her hair, finds herself alone in a strange rocky tunnel beneath London’s metro construction, lost and separated from her father. Matters go from bad to worse soon enough when the floor crumbles between her feet, sending her tumbling and knocking her unconscious. She awakens in the presence of an orange striped cat but without her sight other than a small bubble immediately around her. With nothing to do but press on, the two begin their shared adventure to find a way out.
The further Kit and cat go, however, the deeper they end up descending, and gradually stumble upon a number of shockingly famous figures, who for varying personal reasons all seem intent on finding a mysterious “node,” the world’s greatest source of mystical energy. It’s strongly implied that Kit is intrinsically connected to the node and is best equipped to find it, and that the cat exists to help her do so, though why either is the case is never properly explained. I suppose this is meant to create a sense of wonder and mystery, but all it ever did was confuse me while providing a paper-thin justification for such absurdly inexplicable encounters. Many times along the way Kit comments on how otherworldly everything seems, questioning whether she’s really just dreaming, so I know it’s not just me.
The girl-falls-though-a-hole-to-another-world premise has a kind of Alice in Wonderland vibe at first, but the more I explored, the more it starting feeling like Journey to the Center of the Earth. Miraculously, deep underground are entire ecosystems filled with lush oversized gardens being painted by Monet, ancient stone ruins, purple mist and flowing waterfalls, rivers and sluices and locks, rocky canyons pulsing with electricity under the watchful eyes of rivals Tesla and Edison, a small but highly-mechanized deserted town, and even an underwater sea filled with whales, jellyfish, coral and rays. By the time I reached a not-so-imaginary version of the Nautilus, I wasn’t at all surprised to find that indeed Jules Verne himself had been drawn to the mystery node for inspiration. As if that weren’t weird enough, there are also psychedelic detours to a gravity-defying, giant clock-themed world, as well as a trip through an impressionistic version of the outskirts of Paris. It makes no sense at all, but outside the dull factory levels and sewers, I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the sights.
Of course, doing so poses a very fundamental problem for a blind protagonist. And indeed, you can only appreciate all this visual splendour when playing as the cat. While controlling this feline, whose name we eventually discover is Hodge, the environments are presented like any other game. As Kit, however, the screen turns almost completely dark apart from her own small glowing radius and any other parts of the scenery highlighted by ambient noises, which can be few and far between. In a nice touch, what is visible has a painterly effect, but it’s so understated and overwhelmed by blackness most of the time that the impact is largely wasted.
Naturally, each of the two characters has their own unique abilities, which is a great setup for some cooperative tasks. Kit can throw switches, open (some) doors, climb ladders and shimmy across ledges, while Hodge can run and jump and climb. Often this requires the pair to work together. Venture ahead as the cat, for example, and have Hodge stand on a pressure plate to enable access elsewhere for Kit, who then may need to find a lever to activate a lift to get Hodge back to her. Given their limited capabilities, there isn’t a lot of diversity in the obstacles facing them, but occasionally a new wrinkle is thrown in for added complexity, such as using Kit to reflect light beams off rotating mirrors or operating giant moving magnets to build makeshift bridges.
One particular music puzzle instigated by a rather insane Claude Debussy requires repeating a tune on a room-sized pipe organ, which isn’t hard so much as a tedious exercise in patience to figure out which key triggers which note, with the organ resetting each time you hit the wrong one. I was exasperated by end of it, so imagine my joy to find it repeated later on. Ironically for a game about blindness, this puzzle is hearing-sensitive, as it can be completed through visual cues rather than a good ear.
Solving puzzles with Kit is rarely the real challenge, merely finding the few slightly-glowing objects in the inky blackness that she can actually interact with – a problem exacerbated by her understandable but tiresomely slow walking speed and occasional need for backtracking. Any time I got stuck, it was inevitably because I’d missed a hard-to-see mechanism while squinting at the tiny lit area available at any given time. While even that surely doesn’t come close to the frustration that real blind people experience every day, that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable in a game for sighted players.
Hodge gets most of the platforming duties, as you’d expect, but unfortunately the clumsy controls and poor implementation make these sequences more annoying than fun. Another Sight can be controlled with either keyboard or gamepad, but this puss basically only has two directions: vertical and horizontal. Attempting any kind of diagonal leap upwards means jumping straight up and quickly sideways to improbably reach out and grab a ledge in mid-air. This looks silly and feels counter-intuitive, although at least it actually works. The same can’t be said for downward movement, which is hyper-finicky and SUPER-easy to overshoot a landing and plummeting to your death.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Another Sight
Posted by My Dune on Oct 12, 2018
The first thing you immediately think of, is Alice in Wonderland
The first thing you immediately think of, is Alice in Wonderland. A girl named Kit that looks exactly like Alice who ends up in a fairytale like world. The world is really beautiful and the story is okay. To get to the end, you have to solve arcade-like...