There are very few games that have left me thinking about them long after their done. In fact, only two come to mind: Journey and SOMA. I think Before Your Eyes might just join that list. I finished it two weeks ago and I’m still mulling it over. As such, I wanted to forgo my usual format and just write down some thoughts.
This is definitely one of those games that should be played blind so I won’t get into much of the story here. I will say, much like Journey and SOMA, the story will take you through a whole spectrum of emotions before the end. I do, however, want to talk about what makes Before Your Eyes unique. You play it by blinking.
To fully explain that we’ll need a little story context. You play as a soul who is fished out of a river by the Ferryman. The Ferryman will help you pass on but he needs the story about your life first. So he’s sending you down memory lane to relive moments in your life both big and small. There is a catch, at certain times when you blink, you jump forward in time. It could be 5 minutes or it could be 5 years.
Your blinks control everything other than moving the mouse to look around. After a short calibration of your webcam to determine when you blink you’ll use them to make decisions, interact with objects, and to advance the story. For the most part, this works without issue. Sometimes the camera detects a blink when you move your head to much which can be frustrating but I also have to wonder if it adds to the experience. Sure it’s annoying to have dialogue cut off or a scene end before you want it to but that’s also happens when you blink on accident. It’s kind of the point. One of the core themes is time is fleeting and we can’t always stay in the moment even if we want to. Some things are just out of our control. You can opt out of blink detection and use left click but I don’t think the experience would be quite as impactful that way.
I have never been a big fan of first person perspective. It makes me feel like a camera that sometimes has hands and not a character in the world. However, combined with the blinking mechanics and a full voice cast it made for a very immersive experience. Maybe the fact that your character doesn’t move helped it feel more natural. My play through lasted just under 90 minutes and I was completely engaged the whole time. I don’t know many games I can say that about.
The only part I found immersion breaking were certain parts when you’re asked to close your eyes to hear a conversation better. When it works it’s a very cool effect but it didn’t often work. My webcam didn’t do a great job of figuring out when I closed my eyes unless I squeezed them shut. Even then it was hit or miss and a little uncomfortable.
An hour and a half feels just right for this game. Any more and my eyes would have been very tired. Looking at some achievements there are story points that I didn’t see in my play through and more choices I could have made. I would like to revisit this and see how those choices play out but I don’t think I’ll ever have that first play through experience again. I’ve seen people ask “What game would you erased from your memory so you could play it for the first time again?” this would definitely be one of them.
And yes, you will be acutely aware of how often you blink by the end of it.