I've rarely played a game with such a pretty aesthetic as Beyond Eyes. Games are often described as paintings come to life, but this really does look like a moving pastel drawing. It's gorgeous, the world of 10-year-old Rae fading in and out as her senses create a picture in her mind. She's blind, a fireworks accident robbing her of sight, and the game does an excellent job of presenting that. Sadly the rest of the experience can't match the beautiful artwork
Rae, as suggested by the children's picture book-style storytelling, has only one friend: Nani the cat. Nani visits Rae in her garden but when she suddenly stops turning up, Rae gets worried and decides to head out (farther than ever before) from the safety of her home to find her. Beyond Eyes is essentially a walking simulator, and an incredibly, excruciatingly slow one at that.
Split into six chapters, you guide Rae around the game world, filling in what was previously completely whited out as you do so. Her sense of touch, smell and hearing combine to create a beautiful picture of the world, even if it's not always as she thinks. The times when the game plays on this, the world suddenly changing into what's there in reality rather than her mind, are its best moments, such as a line of drying clothing dramatically transforming into a scarecrow. More of this, empathising the horror angle, would have livened up proceedings no end.
As it is, most of the adventure (and it's not overly long, coming in at around 3 hours at most) is just Rae slowly walking around until you get a sense that Nani was there, then moving on again. There's some extremely mild puzzle solving (to the extent that I was hesitant to even refer to them as puzzles), and the odd moment of story development, but it's pretty much just walking. Despite the oh-so-lovely presentation and the admirable idea, I can't honestly say I enjoyed playing Beyond Eyes: it's just too damn slow.
I have no doubt that it's more realistic to depict Rae, a blind 10-year-old, moving slowly through unknown surroundings. After all, she can't see and is far from certain of what's around her, and there's an awful lot of water around, so running would be quite dangerous. But a slow walk (and I need to once again stress how slow it is) to find a cat isn't really the basis for a great video game.
It's a shame as Beyond Eyes absolutely excels in other areas and is unlike anything else I've ever played. The tale of Rae and Nani is handled brilliantly, and even the most hardened cynics would struggle not to be won over by how touching it all becomes. But even so, the story and experience come nowhere near to making up for the boredom delivered by the gameplay.
Version Tested: Xbox One