I like visual novels and narrative-led games quite a lot. In fact, in the face of terribly booked schedules and extremely busy weeks, I can always justify playing a few episodes. It’s a fun format. However, games like this are infamous for getting boring really fast. Like, before you’re even done with them. I have, on more than one occasion, found myself skipping through the last few episodes of games just to get them done with. After all, they can feel just like a movie with added effort. So, how can developers get around this? By adding blinking, of course. This Before Your Eyes review takes a look at how this game uses blinking as a front for an incredibly well-thought-out experience.
Before Your Eyes Review: What Is It?
Before Your Eyes is an incredibly unique game. It’s a textbook narrative-driven game, or is it? Explicitly, what this game boasts is an all-new blinking mechanic where you go through the game by physically blinking. Implicitly, however, there is so much more to the game.
This is one of those rare games that tries something never done before. Rarer yet, it succeeds at it. Think like Fez when it came out, only it’s a walking simulator – or should I say blinking simulator.
All you need to do is have a webcam and calibrate it, then you’ll be already on your way to re-live your virtual life for a humanoid wolf (cat?).
Gameplay: Forking Paths and Real-Time Regrets
In this Before Your Eyes review, I will try to not spoil anything major. However, the gameplay and narrative in this game are pretty much one and the same. So, if you’re extremely sensitive to spoilers be wary.
You play as Benjamin Brynn who’s being taken by a curator to the gatekeeper of the afterlife. Throughout the game, you are re-discovering and retelling the story of your life. You tell your tale of pleasures and sorrows, describe the strained relationship you had with your mother, and the times you blink you’re taken to a whole new scene.
The game moves at your pace, but not really. During my playthrough, there were many times I wished I could relive certain memories. But, that’s the whole point of the game. After a while, the fleeting sense of time made me hold onto each scene as long as I could because none of the memories were coming back.
Later on during the game, you’ll be using your mouse and a couple other iterations on the blinking mechanic to spice up the story. One particular mechanic I liked flipped the whole blinking thing upside down and had you close your eyes and only listen to learn more about yourself.
Living The Full Experience
The blinking part seems like it would be the focus of the game. But the game developers were too mature to do that. They understood blinking was only a tool to tell the tale of a vanishing life. Everything about the game made a difference.
There was no single actor that hogged screentime. From an endearing aesthetic to impactful music (that was also used as a game mechanic) to surprisingly good voice acting, the experience did not ever rely on a gimmick in my play through.
And yet, all that only served to lay the foundation for an amazing storytelling experience. After playing the entire experience, I felt crushed. But I also felt delighted and relieved. I mourned for a bit. But I also had a good chuckle here and there. Simply put, it was all over the place. I was reliving someone’s life with all the ups and downs. And best of all, every memory that I lived never came back, but also never really left.
Yes, of course some scenes did not hit like others – even felt a little on the nose sometimes. But overall, I felt exactly what the developers planned for me to feel. The immersion makes it easy to forgive the sillier parts of the game.
A Few Eye Sores
This Before Your Eyes review is supposed to have a section talking about what I didn’t like. However, it’s hard to nitpick when the experience as a whole was so gratifying.
But if there was something that made me enjoy the game a tiny bit less, it would have to be technical issues. I have a pretty good webcam, yet I had some occasional issues with blink detection. It didn’t exactly happen in every scene; however, when it did it meant a memory never coming back.
Everything about Before Your Eyes is impressive. Fantastic art, beautiful music, and compelling storytelling accompany you through your journey. However, it’s not about art or music. It’s about love, loss, and memories. Its true innovation is not in using blinking as a game mechanic, but in creating an experience out of one person’s life.
If you’re willing to put up with a few hiccups here and there, you’ll be in for one of the best storytelling experiences. Before Your Eyes is available on Steam if you’re interested in checking the game out yourself.
Should you play this game? Absolutely. Should you recommend it to your friends? Only if you love them.
This review is based on the PC version of Before Your Eyes. The key was provided by Skybound Games