Before Your Eyes
A narrative-driven game that you interact with by blinking
Awards: Most Innovative Storytelling
You probably haven't heard of this game. Before Your Eyes really surprised me as a great game that came out of nowhere. It's very short (only 90 minutes), but does so many things fundamentally different to other games that makes it so refreshing.
While not a particularly well-known game, Before Your Eyes has managed to get almost 10,000 reviews on Steam which are 97% Overwhelmingly Positive. This is a very special game and definitely not one to miss.
While the blink interaction may seem like a gimmick, as I have hopefully explained in this review, it is the game's greatest strength, and ultimately why this game is so special. There are simply no other games quite like this one, and likely never will be. If you want to experience something different, you should definitely check out this game.
Interacting by... Blinking??
Well, you use the mouse too.
Initially, these seems like a gimmick, or potentially an accessibility feature, but it goes far beyond. The blink interaction is deeply ingrained in the design for the whole game and works to complement every part of the game, rather than to hinder it. This game would simply not be the same without it.
The premise of the game is that you are experiencing your own memories, different snapshots of your life that you remember. For most of the scenes, you will watch them for a period of time, choosing to click on certain objects by blinking, and then at some point a metronome will appear onscreen. After this point, if you blink then the scene is skipped, and you immediately jump forwards in time. But it's not as if this only happens once the interesting content is done - there is so much interesting content in this game that you will never be able to experience, simply due to your biological urge to blink.
You can't do it all
However hard you try, you literally cannot experience all of this game.
This is the main reason I love this game so much. In a world where AAA games are constantly striving for more content, and people want to play a game until they get all the achievements and have done all of the content, Before Your Eyes is different. Before Your Eyes teaches you to just enjoy the game, don't worry about experiencing every bit of the game, as if because you've paid full price you have to experience the whole lot. If you don't experience everything, then what you do experience becomes a whole lot more meaningful.
There will be various moments throughout the game where there is something really interesting going on that you really want to see happen, but you can't help but blink! And it's gone. And there's no going back. You don't even get time to pause and reflect, the game just immediately keeps going. Your life must continue. It's frustrating, but not in a bad way. As the story is all about discovering your own memories, it makes sense that you'd forget some. That some would just be skipped past. The amazing thing about this game is that it still holds up even if you miss some of these moments.
While you can replay this game, it's not designed as such. The reason my playthrough feels so special is that I missed out on things. There are parts of this game that I accidentally skipped over by blinking, and I will never know what happened. If I played it again, it would lose some of that uniqueness.
Additionally, it won't be nearly as impactful as you know where the story is going. I would say this is a 90-minute single-playthrough game. That said, if you typically replay games then you will likely enjoy doing so with this game as well.
The story is absolutely brilliant. It was very emotional, well structured and had a great plot twist with an excellent conclusion. I can't really say any more without spoiling it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Performance & Bugs
Inevitably, the blink interactions are not perfect. While they captured most of my blinks, there were a few that were missed. I also did recalibrate it during my playthrough. While this can be annoying, it didn't ruin the game and is very difficult to avoid. Overall, I was very impressed by the blink detection as it must be fairly difficult to implement.
Performance was great. This is not a graphically demanding game, and the performance is great as a consequence.
Overall, this game is just superb. The core idea of using blinks is genius, and is woven into every part of the game's design such that it does not feel like a gimmick. This is a short game which I would highly recommend picking up. You will never play anything like it again, and that's always a great reason to try something out.
What to know before jumping in
So, you've decided to pick up the game. What do you need to know before you start playing?
1. Setting up blink interaction
While you can play this game without blink interaction (you can just click the mouse), most of what I have mentioned earlier would no longer apply. You really should set up blink interaction if you are to experience this game properly.
If you have a webcam, great! It should all just work, and the game will lead you through the process to calibrate your blinks.
Otherwise, don't worry! I didn't play with a webcam, instead I opted to use DroidCam. DroidCam is a service that allows you to plug in an Android phone and use the camera on your phone as a webcam for your computer. This worked brilliantly. I'm sure there are other services that do similar things for both Android and iOS, so please do look into this.
2. A one-sitting game
This is a one-sitting game. It's also pretty much bang on 90 minutes long, so worth giving yourself 2 hours of contiguous time to play it.
3. Don't feel like you have to experience everything!
It's a hard feeling to try and overcome, where in most games you are trying to experience all of it. Don't worry about missing out on part of the game. As I have said in the review, this is precisely what makes the game so special.