April 17, 2013 12:59 AM | Paul Hack
The general style of indie horror games has taken two paths recently. One is the pixelated, atmospheric mind trickery of the now-classic Imscared and the recent, excellent I See You. The other branch is the more "realistic", hide-and-seek, collect-and-find style of Slender and its descendents. Eyes - The Horror Game is more rooted in the latter camp, and it's better than any Slender game yet devised.
Version 2.0 of Eyes was just released, and now I feel comfortable calling the game a small horror masterpiece. Eyes is really more mini-Amnesia than Slender-game. You are being stalked by an invincible supernatural being while searching for a collection of items, but there's a lot more to it than just picking things up and running. Set in the confines of an old mansion, rather than in an open outdoor area, Eyes strongly encourages not only running, but hiding from the monster. It's a good idea to get a handle on the layout of the mansion so you don't run blindly around in a panic. Fortunately, you are aided by a handy map that is conveniently drawn for you as you explore.
The controls are intuitive and smooth: move with WASD and look around with the mouse, as is customary; click to interact with objects when an icon appears indicating the possibility; press space to jump, though this is rarely useful; hold shift to run, which is frequently very useful; press P to pause the game and bring up the menu; and press M to access your hand-drawn map. Finally, the Q key accesses "ghost vision", one of the game's highlights. By collecting and using the eye sigils drawn on walls (and other things) around the mansion, you get to look through the creature's eyes for a few seconds. This view reminded me of the original Evil Dead's "Force"-POV. Not only is this cool, but it can come in handy. Once you are more familiar with the mansion, you will be able to place your stalker within it by activating an eye and seeing what they see.
Expertly crafted in Unity by developer Paulina Pabis, Eyes is lush, atmospheric, and immersive. The graphics are solid and the lighting effects are indispensable in creating the game's terrifically creepy atmosphere. The excellent sound design really shows how important audio is to the horror genre. When all of these elements combine with the gameplay, the tension can become nearly unbearable as you search around a dark room and begin to hear objects rattling, more and more insistently, alerting you to the beast's approach. And when the game tells you to RUN! you better run.
There are other little flourishes that add to the overall feel and quality of the game. For example, take note of the time signatures on the instant messages being exchanged during the game's intro sequence (don't click the mouse or you'll skip it).
Eyes has a rather thin premise (you are robbing the house, so you are looking to collect a certain number of moneybags) but it features a fantastic atmosphere, good scares, and absorbing gameplay. The game is available as a $0.99 iPhone app and as a $0.99 Android app, but us lucky Windows, Linux, and Mac gamers get to download it (or play it online) for free!