Time can pass by you like a blink of an eye, and Before Your Eyes is a perfect representation of that. It’s stirring storyline, excellent voice acting, and clever use of a blinking mechanic all come together to create a memorable experience that should be treasured for years to come.
An impactful story
We’ll try to skip any spoilers, but by the end of it, I was left balling my eyes out, weeping at a life passed by. Before Your Eyes tells the story of a man (Ben) growing up to be a master painter, but along the way, he faces troubles that haunt him. His family doesn’t always disagree, and Ben’s mother desperately wants her son to live the life she wanted. It’s a gripping story that will have you invested in this young man’s life. There is a twist that you won’t see coming that will shake you to your core as you’re invested in Ben and the people he knows and loves. It’s heart-wrenching to experience what happens to him in a first-person view, but it’s told in a beautiful way with a script that feels very human.
The emotionally powerful voice acting helps the script immensely, as you believe each and everyone of these characters. You can feel their pain, their delight, and their anger at what’s going on around them, and there’s some stellar work. Ben, himself, a shy personality doesn’t speak throughout the entirety of the game but you experience the story through others’ dialogue and the game’s cues. The game’s sound design is impeccable too. Voices sound muffled while they call Ben on a phone, and you know where exactly to look, due to some clever spatial design. In addition, the music helps to stir the right emotions within you, especially during its montages of time progressing.
Another smart aspect of Before Your Eyes is that the game is timed to match your eye blinks; yes, your actual eyes. Your laptop or desktop camera captures your face and knows when you blink. It sounds creepy at first, but the game assures that you’re not being recorded. The setup is perfect as it walks you through the synchronization process like Rock Band or Guitar Hero. I have a somewhat low-quality webcam so I was a little worried, but throughout my playthrough I did not have one issue with the game.
Every time you blink, time moves forward a second or perhaps five years. There isn’t a random sequence of events, but the game rewards you for keeping your eyes open. You can hear more dialogue, and even the wolf character at the beginning gets annoyed if you maintain a staring contest for a prolongedamount of time. There were some points I felt sad I missed some context by blinking my eyes too quickly, but when you finish the game, you can go into the chapter select and pick up in a nearby point in the narrative. There may be an opportunity to revisit certain sections again within the story, as well.
What makes the blinking mechanic so special is how it’s intrinsically tied to the narrative. Without going into any spoilers, it’s thematically perfect, and at major segments, the developer GoodbyeWorld Games uses the mechanic in inventive ways, especially during exceptionally emotional moments, like keeping your eyes closed to hear some important dialogue.
I Wish this had head tracking
Part of me wishes there was some head tracking too in some shape or fashion. Moving with the mouse gave a slight disconnect with the mechanic itself. You’re moving the head in a mechanical fashion, while blinking feels natural. It pulled me out slightly. Something to consider as well is that the game can be played without eye-tracking; you can play it with the mouse and clicks alone (but I wouldn’t recommend this). There is no official controller support either, so if you prefer to play that way, that isn’t an option unless you use Steam Big Picture.
With the lack of head tracking in mind, the graphics still manage to pull you in. The character models are simple with dots for eyes and an almost clay-look to them, but the environments paint a perfect picture of the scene. It’s like peering into someone else’s life through their eyes as you see all sorts of little details around them. There are no frame drops, and it’s impressive how quickly a flicker of your eyes immediately changes the scene with no loading screens whatsoever.
Yes, this is a game
Sometimes, these story experiences get flak for a lack of “gameplay”, but Before Your Eyes wouldn’t have been possible within another medium. The interactivity from the blinking mechanic draws you further into the world, and in and of itself becomes intrinsic to the narrative. The challenge comes in when you have to keep your eyes open, and it’s tough unless you’re a staring contest champion. There are multiple choices that can be made, and while they don’t make too much of an impact on the overall story, it’s cool to see how they influence particular scenes.
Before Your Eyes is an outstanding game that will melt your heart. Its revolutionary use of blinking as a control mechanism, engrossing storytelling, and wonderful voice acting all come together to create an experience that is a must for those who love narrative titles. Don’t blink on this one.
A review code was provided by Skybound Games