Disabilities can often be a difficult element to include in a video game. How do you accurately represent a physical and psychological ailment in a way that a) brings something compelling to the game itself, and b) avoids trivialising a condition or state countless people live with every day? It’s a sensitive balancing act to get right, but that’s not deterred Italian developer Great Lunar Wall Studios as it brings the 2.5D puzzle-platformer Another Sight to Nintendo Switch following a launch on other platforms back in 2018.
Another Sight follows the journey of Kit (a young girl who loses her sight following a freak accident in a dilapidated train tunnel) and Hodge (a plucky ginger cat seemingly possessing a little more intelligence than your usual, run-of-the-mill moggy). Now deprived of her ocular senses, Kit must rely on Hodge to help her navigate the steampunk-tinged take on Victorian London. Of course, tackling the concept of blindness as a mechanical feature was always going to pose a unique challenge, and here it’s addressed as a form of echolocation.
The developer consulted charities and other visual impairment specialists in order to research how those with partial and total blindness learn to navigate the world around them, and soon settled on the idea of using sound to paint a picture in the mind’s eye. Influenced by the Impressionist movement – an artistic philosophy that used bold colours and undefined shapes to express emotion rather than finer detail – Great Lunar Wall Studios has opted for a colourful approach where bursts of sound create an almost watercolour wash of bright tones. The more sound Kit can hear, the greater an image her mind can paint around her.
You can flip between Kit and Hodge at any time by tapping ‘R’, although it’s a little jarring to go from near darkness to a potentially brightly-lit underground cavern. There’s no option for co-op so you’ll be controlling both characters independently. This can be a little frustrating at times, since the character you’re not using won’t automatically follow you when you progress to a new room or area. Becoming stuck or blocked as Kit is incredibly easy due to the fact you’re effectively walking around in darkness, so you soon learn to keep flipping back and forth between Hodge and Kit every few seconds to keep them together.
Kit also walks significantly slower when she’s far from her feline companion, so keeping the duo within close proximity is clearly the way Another Sight is meant to be played. Once you’ve got over the fact you’re effectively traversing each area twice, there are some intriguing puzzles to solve. Most involve Kit and Hodge working together to share their senses and physical abilities. Things start off innocently enough with Kit pulling levers to grant her cat pal access or Hodge stepping on a pressure pad to do the same, but soon you’re splitting the two up in order to solve multi-level conundrums, or using Hodge’s better eyesight to guide Kit to a solution she’d never perceive on her own.
Presentation wise, Another Sight benefits from some of the technical changes made to the Steam version. While there’s clearly some blurring in place to keep things running at a steady framerate, Switch players do benefit from UI improvements and mechanical adjustments (such as clearer on-screen prompts that identify areas Hodge can climb). The soundtrack and voiceover work aren’t stellar, but they’re strong enough to sell the steampunk-esque setting and Kit’s journey from disgruntled child to confident adventurer. As a player, you really become dependent on Hodge’s more complete sense and platforming ability, which in turn really sells Kit’s sense of isolation.
As you’d expect with a modern 2.5D action platformer, ‘platforming’ plays a relatively big role in Another Sight and it’s one area that’s still very clunky, even with the quality of life changes that have been made. Hodge does most of the complicated platforming, but he’s often unruly to control. He occasionally switches from running speed to walking speed back and forth, seemingly without rhyme or reason, which can make doing a runup before a big jump a tad annoying. Then there’s your set of jumping skills. Hodge can either jump straight up (in a hilarious animation that never fails to raise a smile, as unintentional as that may be) or leap forwards to cross a gap. The issue is that these two jumps are totally separate animations, so you can’t leap up then adjust your movement left or right while in the air.
So when you need to jump up and grab a ledge, you have to precisely place Hodge beneath it. There are also some pipes Hodge can scale with his claws, but considering how dark Another Sight can be (even through Hodge’s clearer perspective), it’s never obvious exactly which ones are scalable. Level design can also be very repetitive, which isn’t helped by the fact that the gameplay is often so slow (due to Kit’s movement speed) and reliant on backtracking. There’s no combat involved (stealth is your only real option, although Hodge can be used as a distraction or as a means of scaring off rats), so it’s soon back to awkward platforming and slow progress.
Another Sight does possess some attractive qualities. There’s an interesting story and a strong enough central character to hold it all together. Meeting some famous faces from the Victorian era of technological advancement is a nice touch, but these moments are few and far between. Most of the time you’ll be wrestling with a needlessly clunky set of platforming mechanics and some repetitive level designs and not overly creative puzzles. The visual impairment gimmick does work to an extent, but you get the impression this would have worked much better as a local co-op experience rather than as a solo adventure.