Ian’s Eyes is a game in which you play a guide dog called North, with your little buddy Ian. A blind 8-year-old who starts his first day at a new school, when things conveniently start to go awry. The concept of the game was intriguing enough to want to get my hands on it and with an aggravated sigh at the completion, I was thoroughly disappointed.
Ian’s Eyes had a high start, with it’s Tim Burton style art and quirky music, it felt like a game that was going to take a loved style seen in Don’t Starve and Limbo and mix it with an interesting new game concept. However, my opinion started to sway somewhat, when I looked at the ‘How-to-play’. It was an extensive look into how to play the game, with a dash of stabbing the corpse over and over again, Overkill. It explained the basic methods of moving and controlling your character, along with every single aspect of the game you could possibly want to know. I felt like I was being told how to breathe, it’s as if the developers expected people who had never played a game before to be their audience. Whilst there is the saying “No stone left
However, the majority of gamers will avoid looking at the rules, adopting the “I know what I’m doing” attitude as their confidence is high, they are then met with what can only be described as an amateur voice actor. The voice of the Narrator and Principal was hard to listen too as he often didn’t pronounce his words correctly, or said the wrong words alongside the subtitles. It was even harder to understand as they seemed to use a poor quality mic, plus his obviously heavy accent made distinguishing words almost impossible. This was even more befuddling when you heard the voice of little Ian, he was clear and quite professional, albeit annoying, but there was still a stark difference.
You are then forced to listen to the Principle, Mr Bates, talk during a short tour of the school, it is here that I discovered the controls for myself. Reading them in the broad rules section was quite different to actually using them, they were clunky and fiddly, each direction had to turn your character at an agonizingly slow pace before you were even able to move. Getting used to those controls would take some time, but as soon as you were, they would change up on you, you could no longer move backward, you now had to wait for the same slow turn. It was like finally getting used to writing “2009” in December, only for a month to pass and now having to write “2010”. Combining this with the Resident Evil style fixed cameras that would change at the most awkward intervals. You were in for one hell of a ride. This would eventually be the cause of a multitude of deaths and a number of profanities muttered under your breath in aggravation.
Without the incomprehensible Mr Bates, you were now alone with the young boy Ian and his lovely dog North. Here you will be taught the importance of never doing what Ian says, he will be the cause of his own downfall. This quickly got irritating as early on you are told to execute the “Ultimate Bark” by Ian himself. However, once you do so, you are instantly scolded by Ian for doing what you were told as it scared him. It is understandable that the game is teaching you the new system, but this is the wrong way to go about it. If you scold me for doing something you told me to do, I will avoid doing what you tell me to do.
After passing through these mild irritations I continued on with the story, it was then that the game put some spark back in my interest. When everything began falling apart during a black and white cut scene, a chill ran down my spine. The music and sound effects used were unnerving, to say the least, I was having the exact same thoughts as little Ian, I wanted to get out of there. The graphics for the game took a morbid turn too, hauntingly gaunt students and teachers wandering mindlessly around the school, I was intrigued.
It was then that I was reminded of the heavy controls and awkward camera angles, along with the now unpredictable AI zombies strolling the halls. I quickly became stressed and the attitude of the characters did not help my mood, as the objective was being burnt into my frontal lobe, by the constant repetitive reminders of Ian. Within 30 minutes I died 25 times, it was aggravating, a number of times I wanted to go in one direction, only for the camera to change and then have that same key be a different direction, would be about 25 times. The pathing for the zombies was sporadic at best, it was often a case of, were you lucky enough for the zombies to get caught on one another, giving you that opening you desperately wanted. Or, were you doomed to fail.
I was then taught again that I should never listen to Ian, even after the tutorial I am being punished for doing what the character has told me to do. Ian gives me a backhanded objective, to which I follow, big mistake. I find out that it was a trap and am thoroughly irritated. I realise that it was an attempt on the developer’s part in order to be some kind of jump scare/joke as if saying “Ho! Ho! They’ll never expect this coming” No! I wasn’t! 20 deaths and half an hour ago, I may have found it amusing, but right now, I did not need to add another death to my count. But the cheap tricks to catch you out don’t end there. There are multiple times in which you couldn’t know what was coming. For instance, you would walk out into a hallway and instantly die to a zombie, the only way you would have known about that is if you had died to it.
My patients were quickly wearing thin and after 2 hours and 67 deaths I had to shut the game down and leave my computer. I was convinced that I couldn’t play that game, it was too frustrating to continue, I’ll put it into perspective. Imagine you had to cut some onions and every 2 minutes you cut your hand, it wasn’t a big cut, didn’t bleed much and allowed you to continue. Now do that for 2 hours, your hands are going to sting like hell and eventually you are going to come to the conclusion “I’m just going to stop cutting onions”
But, I bandaged up my hands and returned, the death count was rising at a staggering rate and in the most obnoxious way. On the right, you were given a small skull with a number of how many deaths you had, on the left your screen would slowly fill up with tally marks, one for every death. In the beginning, it was cute, towards the end I felt like it was taunting me, I really didn’t need two ways to be told how many times I’d died. But, as if the game heard my obscene language, it provided me with game skipping glitches. Somehow I had managed to get down the hall from where I was, in an instant, I was happier and had hope, maybe the game had more glitches like that and I could exploit it to finish it quicker. But like most people who experience hope, it was dashed across the rocks and I only experienced the glitch twice.
Unfortunately, alongside the poor gameplay, the story was no better. The voice actors may not have been great, but the dialogue they were given didn’t help them. Alongside this the game felt like it struggled for ideas as to keep it going, whenever you got to a possible exit, it was always conveniently locked and you had to find a new one. But, the most important part of the game was the ending, it was the definition of disappointing. I wondered if I was being punished for actually playing the game, through all the grief, anger and frustration, was this really how it was going to end? I was beyond angry and as the credits rolled passed, I couldn’t come up with the words of how beaten I felt.
It was upsetting to have such high hopes for a game, only to have to write a review like this one. After 8 hours, over 650 deaths and having to physically leave my computer, I finally finished. With its linear story, that only included a total of 2 puzzles, there isn’t any replayability. Although there are a few albeit weak points that could redeem itself, I wouldn’t recommend this game. You can tell that time was spent on making this game which is a crying shame given its poor mechanics and story.