For many, games are escapism, and Pulse promises the ultimate kind of escapism.
By offering players the chance to immerse themselves to achieve a state of being that the vast majority of us will never truly experience, being blind, the core concept behind Pulse immediately entices the part of the brain that wishes to slip into another reality. However, the trouble with big promises is that it’s all the more evident when they fail to deliver.
Pulse's lead character is a child who lost their sight at an early age but has discovered a way to “see” through sound. Now this is certainly an unoriginal concept in and of itself, but the hope of a new experience comes through the fact that this is a first person game. That player mode, however, is also Pulse's biggest downfall. It turns out that this blind child, with a sensory experience totally different to the average person, sees the world in exactly the same way that a fully sighted person would, with the exception that things fade to blackness at long distances.
In one of the early sections of the game you move into a dark cave. One would expect, given the abilities of your character, that the difference between light and dark would be entirely arbitrary and indeed that the enclosed and echoing nature of the cave would have more impact on your perception than the levels of light. Not so; this section's attempts to create an eerie atmosphere barely differ from the techniques employed to make dark areas scary in any other game you care to mention.
The core conceit of a blind character is not entirely wasted. The landscape is populated with small, cute and cuddly creatures which you can pick up and bounce off walls in order to reveal more of the path ahead. It’s a neat touch and is one of the very few mechanics in the game that makes you feel like you are exploring the landscape in a new or unusual way. But it’s not enough and a cynic could argue that these little critters are simply a splash of marketability in an otherwise unremarkable game.
Even the simple platform aspects of the game can bring frustrations as it is not a uncommon occurrence to find oneself lodged firmly between two rocks, unable to move no matter which direction you wriggle. The sins of unoriginality and occasional frustration are ones that many other perfectly average games are also guilty of, but Pulse’s greatest sin is its failure to deliver on its grandiose promise. This could be a serviceable adventure but there isn’t a section of the game that goes by without provoking the thought “this could have been something much more” and that pervasive feeling of disappointment is hugely damaging to the overall experience.