I generally don’t seek horror, but I’m a sucker for traditional Survival Horror so here we are. Cover Your Eyes is a 2D, pixel, survival-horror built in RPG Maker, which felt like classic resident evil crossed with Corpse Party. The pacing and the focus on a badass mother fighting for her life and her children at any cost was a great backdrop for the abominations to run amok. I’m not very fond of forced, desperate jump-scares, and while a few border, I’d say most of the scares felt earned. I think for some people, the art style may be overly cutesy, but I think the doll-like, puppet, toy imagery was creepy and contrasts well. The soundtrack and minimalistic sound design really served and proves how ‘less is more’ can really feed the imagination. The quick fade to black transitioning between room to room really raises the tension, as the game slowly shows what can lie in the dark when the lights turn back on. That being said, I think some of the limitations of RPG Maker and inexperience could have attributed to a very bare minimum when it comes to player experience. There are some quality of life changes, design, and UI tweaks that I think could really push Cover Your Eyes over the top towards greatness.
Combat in the game is a little stiff, while firing weapons and quickly turning is snappy, movement feels rigid and grid-like in an engine where enemies can move freely across the 2D plane. While I appreciated being able to move in one direction and shoot in any other, it tended to be extremely difficult to maneuver around enemies. More often than not, I found myself opening and closing doors to manipulate AI behavior and dart past them without having to deal with the clunky combat. On the other hand, I think once you get used to combat, you start to appreciate the balance of how much ammo is allotted. A big complaint about Resident Evil games later in the series is how gameplay shifted more towards action and players felt less of that helplessness or dread. I’m not sure if the balance is quite right, at the very least extremely fast enemies die quickly. But for the most part, I found enemies to be a tad too bullet-spongy for my taste. There is a brief reticle tutorial that explains how it can indicate you dealing maximum damage from certain ranges, but I never really felt I mastered it. Perhaps if some varied sound or flashing enemy could show me what I’m doing, I would feel more satisfied overall. It never felt like I was conserving bullets either way. Another gripe that eases up as you get used to it is figuring out what sections of the map are walls versus entrances. It’s funny because there are times where the use of guiding arrows makes it abundantly clear, but other times where it may be used to cover secrets, I guess? I appreciated that there is a song that plays whenever you are in a room designed solely for looting items. The game plays a tad like a walking simulator with how sparse enemy placements are between major areas. Granted, going off the beaten path to find these bonus areas to pick up some heals or ammo always felt really rewarding. On the other hand, I still think a map, or more quickly alerting the player when an area is deemed “not yet” or “locked” would help players not get lost. The dialogue is never esoteric, but there is no log or refresher if you close out of the game and forget what happened. For the most part, the game is heavily linear, but it was still easy to feel like I accidentally stumbled onto plot relevant locations.
The story itself is a bit out there, especially as some of the more otherworldly concepts come into play. The heart of the story is always Chloe and her family, but the events that occur became more seemingly disconnected from the characters. There was always a theme of the mother constantly escalating in anger, desperation, etc, but later imagery and cutscenes are a bit too surreal to follow along. I really enjoyed some of the fourth wall breaks that the game employs, including some scenes that really gave me “BioShock” vibes. The few instances of dark humor in the game got to me with how absurd and off-cuff they were, and I kind of wish there was more present. Boss fights were more frustrating than not, with most fights devolving to abusing the AI pathing to strafe around the enemy the best you can. The story relevance of these encounters, and a boss fight that involved clever use of your surroundings without weapons help make them worthwhile. There are sections where you rely on AI partners to cover you, and your success may vary. Sometimes the AI is extremely competent and renders gameplay obsolete, while other times it is a liability that requires you to reposition or leave and enter a room just to reset things. I found the combat encounters involving AI to be interesting on paper, but generally mediocre in practice. Moving your character is a tad sluggish for my liking. While enemies are not restricted to tank-like controls, your character moves very deliberately as if tethered to a grid. This stripped movement combined with claustrophobic level design often leads to resets or heavily dissuading engaging enemies. Puzzles in the game were mostly welcome and varied, although some can be tedious especially without a map to track where you’ve gone. I probably spent a couple hours more than I needed to just painstakingly pouring through room after room looking for keys or pieces of a puzzle.
All in all, after the developer managed to patch up what I assumed was a lost save file, that goodwill has pushed me over to recommend the game. I think most of what I find troublesome with the game are quality of life changes that can be cleaned up. I hope that on release, people will be able to enjoy the game to its maximum potential.
A review copy was provided by the dev, Gregory AKA StarSkipp.
Hellfirebam has awarded Cover Your Eyes the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval… after a bit of kicking and screaming.