It’s anticipation that’s the killer.
Blindfold is driven by the fear of what comes next. At first, it rises from the faint screams heard between the walls of Iran’s infamous Evin Prison. It clings with every prying question from warden Assadollah Lajevardi. It boils as your life is recklessly toyed with. At times this is quite frightening, though the sense of theatrics is never far from thought.
Ink Stories’ VR debut is a cautious bit of activism. Serving as a companion piece to 2016’s 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, it gives voice to the dangerous precedents journalists face when reporting on corrupt regimes and dictatorships.
You embody a photojournalist, imprisoned and gagged inside Evin. Lajevardi is sent to interrogate you and, ultimately, coax a false confession of treason against his newly-formed regime. Ink Stories intuitively blends in communication with simple head shakes and nods, attempting to elicit genuine reactions from every player.
It’s sometimes successful; the ear-piercing clicking of the handgun cocking sparks a pang in the heart as flight or fight hysteria momentarily threatens to override your brain. Unnerving, too, is the way in which Lajevardi twists the scene’s events to his liking, manipulating and spinning with clinical perfectionism. But the experience has to give too much context through hamfisted exposition to ever feel truly natural.
There’s too much story to piece together when you’re instead meant to be focused on the immediacy at hand. When I’m asked if I admit the camera on the desk in front of me is mine, I pause because I genuinely don’t know. It is, ultimately, immaterial to the wider story — which playing through a second time reveals a harrowing futility to — but it’s a distraction nonetheless.
Elements of this are hard to watch, though. It’s tough not to wince when a handgun is waved in the direction of either you or your companion. And yet there’s a sense it could have gone deeper, sounding even bigger alarms in its mission to help free the press. This is fertile ground for VR, one that must be navigated with the most extreme cynicism so as to never exploit or overstep. But Blindfold could stand to sear its intentions into the mind a little harder and press the user a bit further to drive home its otherwise poignant ending.
Final Say – Worth Trying
Certainly worth a look, then, even for its profound message alone. Blindfold will be an interesting touchstone for harder experiences to come. There’s more to shake out of this tree, even if this merely forms the foundations for it.
Blindfold is available from today on PSVR and will soon be relaunching on Oculus Rift. A Steam version is also in the works. For more information on how we review experiences and games, check out our Review Guidelines.