IF Comp 2011: Blind

I’ve never subscribed to the idea that blindness in and of itself is some kind of amazing superpower. Blindness is part of the power suite of Daredevil, the Man Without Fear, because he was hit by the toxic chemical that fell off the truck and gave him super hearing and touch and echolocation and whatnot. I also created a blind psychic in City of Villains, mostly inspired by the game’s amazing variety of different blindfolds in costumes. I am not blind myself, so I can’t really claim to identify with what it’s like to live with blindness.  But the idea that being blind, by itself, somehow makes you a superhero with your other senses has always stuck me as kind of a patronizing cliche.

So I was fully prepared to feel patronized by Blind, this year’s IF Comp entry where you play as a blind protagonist.  I was surprised that I wasn’t. Your character is in fact blind, but this is a pretty interesting use of IF as a medium, since in portraying the protagonist this way it’s doing something a standard video game couldn’t easily do. In my opinion, doing things graphical games can’t do (as opposed to, say, fighting zombies) is a big part of the point of IF and I have to give the author credit for this experiment.

I don’t think the rest of my review is terribly spoilery, but I’ll cut anyway as a courtesy if you don’t want to be spoiled by the rest of the premise.

Aside from the twist with the protagonist, the game is a somewhat-basic horror scenario, solidly executed.  There’s a few little weird Easter Eggs and apparently a couple different ways to win.  I wasn’t able to figure out the more complex endings the game hints at, but I still finished it two different ways.

There was one line, early on, that I did wince at, something like “you’ll show people blindness isn’t a handicap!” which made me think it was going down “blindness is a super power” territory.  Mostly however it seems to be a pretty honest portrayal, or at least, as far as I can imagine. I liked seeing lines like “the room sounds small,” since, well, yes, that makes sense, if you think about what it means to be able to hear the size of a room, and this is a nice descriptor.  Also, having to reverse-engineer how you’d do certain tasks without being able to see them is pretty interesting.

The game offers up a fairly disturbing kidnapping scenario (that’s not really a spoiler so much as the opening line), and so it may be a little distressing for some.  It’s possible to die in the game and you definitely feel a sense of helplessness in parts. I found this effective. It wasn’t graphic, but I’m pretty hardened to that kind of stuff and I suppose you’d want fair warning to skip it if the horror scenario, with the restraints and the tables, is going to distress you.

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