Three blind men, see how they run.
The carrot dangling of a narrative-driven game is like catnip to a… well, cat when it comes to choosing a title. However, Blind Men appeared to be a visual novel, and I’m not too fond of these titles unless the story blows me away, or my decisions have genuine consequences. Alas, Blind Men is neither of these. In the very swift playthroughs, it did not leave enough of an impression for this to replace my copy of Wuthering Heights. I’ve never read it, but it was the first novel I could think of.
Still, visual novel or not, I was eager to give Blind Men a go not knowing anything about either the plot or what to expect was a good thing as this review is based on unadulterated opinion without the influence of any sort of expectations. If you’re pushed for time, let me just summarise early and say that Blind Men was messy, lacked direction and riddled with spelling mistakes – not the best thing to mention in a critique with visual novel mechanics.
You play Keegan – an orphaned eye-patch-wearing teen whose supervillain uncle, Sphinx takes him under his wing in the absence of his parents that were killed in an incident. Sphinx wants the best for his nephew; putting him through college, ensuring he goes on the straight and narrow and brushes his teeth twice a day. Keegan, on the other hand, wants in on the family business, having been exposed to it for a considerable amount of time and now wants in. Sphinx is reluctant to proceed but gives Keegan the benefit of the doubt and assigns him half a dozen henchman and a mission to either steal a gem or kidnap a professor (the choice on the matter comes from the player).
In several playthroughs, I only made about four or five decisions per run.
The rest of the time, I was cycling through dialogue after dialogue with an ok-ish anti-hero, but the narrative was just confusing. From the first major event – where Keegan becomes a baddie – he encounters two male characters and comments on both of their… appeal. After a brief flirtation with one of them, I came to the quick conclusion that this was a romance story, but then it disappeared, and then it was a case of covering up one of many mistakes. The next playthrough felt more of a chore and taking a different path was not that much greater than the first – I was very much the spectator in the process, and to be honest, it wasn’t exactly engaging.
The biggest issues weren’t the recurring spelling mistakes or foot in the mouth idioms that had been subtly rehashed but standing out like a sore finger (see what I did there?). The issue was the abrupt conclusion that highlighted that Blind Men is an episodic game, and another title is on the way. Instead, Blind Men has multiple endings with a variety of paths you can take. Granted, you can skip through dialogue on subsequent playthroughs, but have you bonded with Keegan and the rest of the cast to want to get the rest of the endings? As this is on the Switch, there are no trophies to win, so the motivation is replaying the story again and again, and it simply isn’t enjoyable enough – even with alternative paths and dialogue.
As a visual novel, scenes are static, featuring two characters either side of the screen with the dialogue in the middle. When you have the rare opportunity to do anything, there will be the option above the dialogue box that can be selected with the Joy-Con or touchscreen. There are only ever two options to choose from, however. Occasionally there are a few ‘action sequences’, and there will be a close up of a character, press a button and it zooms out to a full screen. Bizarrely, there usually isn’t anything going on in the scene, so the close-ups seem superficial. The art style is ok though, but don’t expect any animation – or voice acting. All the dialogue is written, except for a couple of set pieces that are in Spanish with no other alternatives. Another bizarre inclusion or exclusion for that matter is the music. Sometimes it will play, other times it will cut off and seems a little erratic. The score is ok, but it’s just inconsistent throughout.
It’s probably fair to assume that Blind Men isn’t a title that’s going to be on the TBG Game of the Year list for 2020. There are worse games, and you could argue that Blind Men isn’t really a game, more an experience. However, there are so many films and TV shows that have zero percent interaction, but compelling or at least build on characters that you’re rooting for them. With Keegan, not really. I wasn’t interested in his love life or aspirations to succeed his uncle as a supervillain – especially with the name of his supervillain name. It could be argued that the game didn’t have a chance as a visual novel. I disagree – there have been quite a few titles that have won me over due to their excellent story – Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is one such title where the only thing that made me put it down was the weight of the Switch.
It could be said that Blind Men is a niche game for visual novel fans, but pending there’s a decent story or characters, anybody can be suckered in. Unfortunately here, Keegan is an unforgettable super villain and doesn’t have the presence that warrants playthrough after playthrough – regardless of how short that can be.
Review code provided
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 17/04/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Other
Developer: Man-Eater Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop