No70: Eye of Basir starts off on the right foot. Great visuals and a genuinely foreboding atmosphere drench this tale of a world-ending artefact and establish a Lovecraftian horror vibe. Unfortunately as the game progresses, the horror is lost somewhere along the way and in its place you find mind-numbingly dull puzzles and an astounding amount of backtracking.
The game revolves around an ancient artefact, the Eye of Basir. The protagonist finds that there are a number of secret rooms in his childhood home and sets out to investigate its spooky halls, eventually happening on the titular treasure. The story is one of No70: Eye of Basir’s strong points, weaving a tale of supernatural intrigue and men’s lust for power. Problem is, the game isn’t quite sure what to do with it. Most of the beats are delivered via very poorly translated notes and letters, accompanied by a voice-over which is solid by contrast. The Eye of Basir is the subject of most of the game’s text so it’s odd that it has so little to do with the gameplay. There are a few instances where you must use the eye to scan the environment looking for clues but it is used so sparingly to be memorable. Mostly it’s just used as a gimmick which allows the player to see scary things like ghosts and apparitions. Most of the game involves walking around the environments, which are to be fair, gorgeous, triggering events in order to proceed to the next area. This usually leads to situations where you know you have to trigger something but must scour the same surroundings over and over again looking for something you can interact with.
This is where the backtracking comes in. I have never experienced a game which relies so heavily on having to traipse back through the same rooms over and over again, maybe Resident Evil. But what games like Resident Evil do right is make certain parts of the map accessible over time, encouraging exploration as well as rewarding it. No70: Eye of Basir makes no such effort to make the relentless backtracking interesting or at all worthwhile. Often the thing you are looking for is merely perched on a coffee table somewhere or hidden in a dark corner. It’s frustrating to say the least and stretches out what should be an hour and a half of gameplay into a dull slog.
There are no puzzles to contend with here, just simplistic fetch quests and minor code cracking. The lack of challenge blunts what is already a tepid horror experience into nothing more than a walking simulator. Speaking of horror, it’s about as cliche as it gets. Scary children, check. Jump scares involving figures walking across doorways, check. The lack of dedication to any palpable theme or consistent enemy really spoils the scares. I’d classify the game as more of a mystery which dips its toe into the horror pool, relying on jump scares to break up the repetition.
No70: Eye of Basir is at least a very pretty game. The old creaky mansion is beautifully designed with most of the tension coming from the lighting and excellent sound design. I just wish there were more of a reason to enjoy the game’s environments rather than aching to leave them forever. The way you interact with the world is also highly inconsistent. Some doors can be opened, some cannot. Some objects can be examined, some can be taken and some you can do absolutely nothing with. There’s no way to know whether an object is worth your time which leads to situations spent clicking on every single item in a room, hoping to find something to get you to the next area. The game is broken up into three chapters, two of which take place in the house. One tasks the player with breaking into a lighthouse by searching an old underground church for clues. It’s a relatively small space but the game makes you cover it so many times that you become desensitised to it, even when the game tries to throw a new element into the mix. I also experienced some problems with the way events were triggering, suddenly enveloping the world in fog or darkness.
No70: Eye of Basir isn’t much of a horror game then. Or a mystery game for that matter. Nor is it anywhere near justified calling itself a puzzle game. What it is then is a deceptively gorgeous but incredibly hollow walking simulator. Stellar voice acting, a great atmosphere and an interesting subject matter can’t make up for just how darn frustrating the game is to play. After walking back and forth through its environments over and over again, you’ll wish you’d never happened upon the Eye of Basir in the first place.