Originally Kickstarted back in 2017, Before Your Eyes is a gripping narrative-driven adventure that managed to take home several awards before receiving full funding. It features a unique "blinking mechanic" that requires players to use a webcam and blink their eyes during key moments. Its tale of loss, regret, and longing for the past is also one that stands on its own and its newfound gameplay mechanics only work to compliment it and doesn't feel like a paper-thin gimmick.
Before Your Eyes' emotional tale starts at the end of your natural life with you just being another soul drifting through the afterlife. You soon find yourself pulled aboard the ship of a strange cat-like creature known as the Ferryman, who is responsible for laying souls to rest. The roughly two hour narrative sees you delving into your past and retelling the moments that defined you as a human being and ultimately led to your untimely and tragic passing. Your life story can essentially be the ticket to eternal peace, providing that it is enough to impress an entity known as the Gatekeeper.
Without giving too much away here, the narrative really tugs at the heart strings, and I found myself almost tearing up when the end credits started to roll. This is a pretty sizable feat too, as the only other game to have this same impact on me was The Last of Us. The narrative is able to pack a punch due to how believable it feels and how well voiced characters such as your mum, dad, and friend Chloe are. The concluding twist, that I won't spoil for obvious reasons, also caught me extremely off guard and this helped it feel extremely gut-wrenching and impactful.
As I touched upon previously, Before Your Eyes features an innovative gameplay mechanic, where player's blink to progress the story. Using your webcam, the game registers your eye movements, and during different sections, you'll either need to blink, close your eyes, or keep them wide open. You do still need to use your mouse, however, as there are sections where you need to select objects or adjust the camera view. If you don't own a webcam then you won't necessarily have to miss out, as there is the option to use your mouse like in a traditional point-and-click game, but you'll, of course, miss out on some of its magic.
Using my eyes as a control method really helped immerse me in the story, and I found it to register my movements effectively once I had calibrated things properly. The moments where I had to close my eyes during dialogue also helped important story beats to feel that more impactful, as it require me to pay close attention and single out the lines of dialogue. What I disliked about it though, was that during cutscenes you have to blink to move things forward, and I found I would I occasionally skip things too early, as I couldn't restrain myself from not blinking any longer. I also found that scenes would skip ahead if I averted my gaze and looked away from my monitor, which proved to be quite frequently.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Before Your Eyes, I do have to admit that it won't resonate with everyone in the same way. The game is purely narrative-driven with interactions from the player only really being limited to advancing the story and enhancing dialogue. If you're looking for a game that is pretty "involved," then Before Your Eyes is likely to disappoint. At two hours long, it's also pretty short, and there isn't a replayability element other than reexperiencing the entire story and taking a look at things from a new perspective.
With its emotionally rich story and innovative gameplay mechanics, Before Your Eyes stands out as one of the most impactful indie games I've played so far in 2021. Its story feels believable with it being brought to life with many well-voiced characters, and its blinking mechanic is distinctive and helps to add a further layer of immersion. That said, whilst it excels in many ways, it won't be for everyone due to its short length and lack of interactive elements.
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