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See No Evil PC Review

One area of gaming I truly enjoy is being introduced to independent developed video games. These smaller titles come in all shapes and sizes, and usually offer something different than your standard blockbuster games. Also, I find that you can never know all of these indie games, so occasionally one game will release and surprise you by how good it is. This is exactly what happened with See No Evil, a refreshing puzzle game developed by Gabriel Priske, a young guy who has earned experience working at Trendy Entertainment before he left to turn his side project into a full-time commitment with some colleagues. See No Evil also featured on the popular Kickstarter website, asking for a minimal $2,500 to get the game done for the end of summer. I also didn’t know it was on there – this game truly did go under my radar. Summer is virtually over and this wonderful little gem is now on Steam for everyone to check out, and I fully recommend you do.

See No Evil creates an interesting premise. The world of See No Evil is full of people who have hidden themselves from the truth by shutting their eyes and living only by sound, locking away the reality of the world and living in their own made up fantasy – a denial that they believe is for the best. Anyone who doesn’t follow this new way of life is looked upon as a hostile.

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Players take on the role of an unnamed character, who is awakened by the sudden noise of a body falling through the roof and landing in front of the protagonist. This poor person is dead, most likely killed because he was a Seer, an individual who resists the ideology that the rest of this world had forced upon the living. Not only has this dead body alerted the player, but the protagonist has opened their eyes, leading to the discovery of a journal next to the dead Seer, which its contents are unfolded on screen in short sentences after you beat a stage.

This is how the game tells its story (along with a mysterious female voice who occasionally crops up for a say), and it’s built in a way that it merges into an intelligent tutorial. Some games are really brain-dead with their introductions, seemingly going for the “never played a video game” person and telling them straight to the face in the most boring steps. In See No Evil, the first few levels are built that you learn while you play. It doesn’t treat you like a baby, but lets you go at your own pace, so that you can figure out how to do something and adapt to all the mechanics the game introduces as progression is made further into the harder parts of the game.

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From the start, the player is met with a game focused on puzzle solving done from an isometric perspective that limits what the character can do. The avatar can’t run, nor can they jump or punch and each of the stages are cleverly crafted around the player’s limited skillset. First up, you learn how to walk around the environment, from this you see that footsteps from the player create sound waves that travel away from the central point of contact in a ring. Next it’s learning how to move wooden creates (the game industry’s favourite prop) and then you are introduced to the enemy, the fanatics who patrol with their eyes shut, only able to detect by the sounds you give off with your footsteps. During this time, you have to watch the patrol’s pattern and touch a switch to drop down a barrier and move to the next area. Lastly, you see old men sitting on switches that won’t move unless you press the space bar to shout out a sound wave, which when comes into contact with these old men will move them off the switch. Creating sound from the hero’s mouth is used to manipulate guards, tricking them to come to the source of the noise. Since these guards can’t see, you can walk away in a reasonable manner as long as your footsteps don’t alert them. The rest of the levels in world one are based upon mixing these mechanics together to create puzzles that challenge what you should have learnt, allowing you to find the solution.

Later levels don’t stop adding in new mechanics, meaning you eventually have a mixture of puzzles that can get complicated.  Turrets will guard areas and shoot on a timer, muddy dirt will leave dirty patches on the ground, which alerts guards to the awful smell that lingers wherever you walk, and the only way to stop them following the character is by walking through a puddle of water to clean the shoes. One last example is the use of darkness that shrouds the level like a fog of war.To clear this requires a blast of sound or the use of bugs that wake up when you shout at them. These little bugs are nice enough to remove the fog for a clearer view.

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This self-learning feels great when you figure out a solution, but it’s certainly not without its frustrations, as some of the stages are devilishly difficult that I found myself trying to figure them out with experimental attempts, sometimes spending 10 minutes on one stage, which is a long time when you take into account that these levels are usually compact puzzles that can be beat in a few seconds to a minute if you know the answer. There is no hint system, so it’s just your brain (or the internet). Sometimes there are vague hints in the journal text at the top of the screen to help, but when I was actually stuck, these never seemed to offer a good hint. Beating a tough puzzle in See No Evil feels so immensely satisfying. It’s a shame the game doesn’t have a way to pat you on the back when situations like that happen.

Interestingly, I managed to beat a couple of levels in ways that didn’t seem as intended. It felt like I wasn’t following the ideal way to solve the puzzle, but somehow, through either stupid thinking or clever eyesight, I saw ways to manipulate enemies through cheaper means, such as catching an old guy with the corner of my sound shout that made him unlock a gate that looked like it was supposed to be done through the horns that are inspired by phonographs. I’m not sure if this design is intentional, but if it is, then I’d love to see how many areas can be beaten in more ways than the original solution.

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My only gripe with the game is that I wish there was a way to move the camera, because if you want to scope out the level, you have to play at a higher resolution, so anyone who plays in window mode, or at a resolution like 720p, is handicapping their viewpoint. There should be a way to view the area, as some puzzles activate actions that happen somewhere else, often out of the view if you’re playing in one of those situations I mentioned above.

As a game based on the use of sound, this title’s soundtrack isn’t pumped with just any old noise. Instead, its use of ambient sounds crossed with an instrumental backing track that mixes with the game’s sound effects creates a chemistry that seems to fit the world presented. It’s eerie enough to give off a sense of dread, especially in this the lonely adventure that the player goes through. For example, when the world changes to an industrialized theme, the backing track changes to fit this, such as loud bangs and the quiet pressing of ringing keys, and it feels a natural fit with the environment. While the soundtrack isn’t one I would say people would listen to away from the game, it is still a great soundtrack that is important to the overall experience and does a fantastic job getting you into the mysterious world. I highly recommend using good quality headphones with the game to truly feel the impact of the sound.

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See No Evil is a puzzle game with a difference – I have not played a concept like this before – and it’s one that offers a very rewarding and satisfying mechanic. Priske and his team have designed a collection of intelligent and challenging puzzles with a soft, distinctive visual style and amazing sound work to back it up, which makes for a great experience. It’s sure to cause some brain hurt, but if people don’t mind challenge, then I am sure those puzzle lovers will absolutely enjoy what is in this little bundle of devilish fun.

8 out of 10