Before Your Eyes is a new narrative adventure with a difference, instead of using the mouse or a controller, you blink to control the game. The mechanic is more than just a novelty in a powerful narrative game that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s taking a strong claim for one of the best games of 2021 so far. Just don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.
In Before Your Eyes you take on the role of Benjamin Brynn, he’s already died but his soul or energy is lingering. In a very ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ style, you’re invited to relive memories from Ben’s past, starting from when he was born. The objective is to impress a character called The Gatekeeper in terms of assessing Ben’s life.
Much of the game is a lean-back style and watch the narrative play out, however, when you blink time will jump forward. Maybe it’ll be a day or a week or even years forward. The game requires a webcam to be set up to register the blinks, but this is easy to do and works surprisingly well. If playing with the webcam doesn’t sound like it’s for you, then there’s good news because it can be played with traditional input methods like a mouse and keyboard.
When playing you really have to be conscious of when you blink, as time will skip forward… sometimes when you really don’t want it to. It can be a feat of endurance, as we don’t really ever think about blinking, it’s just a natural thing. As soon as you’re forced to focus on the action, it becomes quite difficult to control. The game is definitely better with the webcam controls with the blinking mechanic as it focuses your mind and is more immersive.
As well as the blinking mechanic you also use your mouse to solve simple puzzles. The puzzles complement the narrative really well, not offering up barriers, but helping the story flow. There are some really nice examples like playing with the stars or playing the piano. Most interactions are simple but very effective.
At its core Before Your Eyes is a narrative game, a very effective one at that which will bring you close to tears. The graphics and the audio give it a light and upbeat feel but the narrative themes in the game hit hard with topics like depression, the meaning of life, and self-worth. The writing is excellent and combines with the other elements of the game that comes together brilliantly to provide a very memorable experience. The game itself isn’t too long, maybe 1-2 hours, so it’s easy enough to play through in a single sitting.
There’s plenty of good characters in Before Your Eyes, with Benjamin being the main focus and there’s also Ben’s close family including Mum and Dad. Chloe also features as your neighbor, someone Ben is drawn to and clearly has an emotional attachment to. The characters are well performed and this too adds up to a great user experience in the game.
There are choices to be made in the game, but the decisions you make don’t really impact the game too much. It’s not really one of those games where your decisions have a major impact on the telling of the story, it’s more window decoration than narrative control. Due to the game’s short length, it’s easy to go back and play through again to see the other choices, but you’ll probably notice the lesser impact on a second playthrough.
Before Your Eyes is a really well-put-together game that innovates in its controls and tells a very touching, personal story throughout the narrative. It mixes in little puzzles and decisions, while they don’t affect the direction of the narrative too much, they do compliment the gameplay well. It’s not too long, it’s a very memorable experience and a unique little gem that’s worth checking out.
Developer: GoodbyeWorld Games
Publisher: Skybound Games
Platform: PC via Steam
Release Date: 8th April 2021