Before Your Eyes Review
Before Your Eyes is an innovative game that you control with your eyelids. Yes, you read that right. This narrative-driven title about life, memories, and death will utilize your webcam to track your eyes in order to deliver its unique story. Fret not, if you do not own a webcam but still want to experience the story, there are options to play without one (although you will be missing out on much of its uniqueness). Developed by a small indie studio, GoodbyeWorld Games, the idea sprang from their student video game project, which rightfully took home a few awards. They brought the concept to Kickstarter and after a successful drive, Before Your Eyes is the result of their hard work. The question is, does this game achieve more than a neat gimmick?
The story follows a soul drifting in a river of some sort of purgatory. There, you are fished up by a boatsman, your personal Charon of sorts, that will take you to the proper afterlife. But first, you must show him your life story so he can present your case before the judge, who will decide your fate.
Your memory starts from the first thing you can remember, and you float through the moments of your accomplishments, traumas, and finally, death. This is where your eyes will come in, as in certain points, blinking will carry you to the next memory. It’s like your life flashing before your eyes. All of this is beautifully supported by a simple, but cute art style, and a cast of fantastic voice actors.
There are certain moments of brilliance in this story where you try to desperately keep your eyes open, causing legitimate physical pain, in order to hold on to a beautiful moment just a little bit longer. On the flip side, sometimes you close your eyes and keep them closed to listen to others speak and focus on their fading voice. These little moments of brilliance are truly wonderful and give this game life, in giving us an interactive experience otherwise impossible to find.
Do you know when someone asks you to focus on your breathing, and certainly that unconscious action becomes weird? Am I breathing too fast, too slow? Through my nose or mouth? And suddenly, it’s like you’ve forgotten how to breathe normally. You might be feeling this right now.
That’s what Before Your Eyes can feel like. You get so self conscious about how you are blinking, it starts feeling weird. Your eyes may start stinging and you might feel the urge to blink more. Also since you need to stay right in the small detection square in your camera, you can’t really change your posture. Shifting or leaning in your chair throws off the sensors, even tilting and turning your head slightly can mess with it. This means you kind of have to force yourself to be a statue while playing the game.
This has such an unfortunate, unintended side effect on the game. This idea around blinking—which is, in its heart, meant to be an incredible immersion tool—makes it almost impossible to fully immerse yourself into the story. You are always thinking about yourself, your eyes, posture, to the point that it gets in the way of thinking about the characters like you are living through. Therefore, I also highly recommend you take your time to calibrate your settings, camera, and posture before you get started. There is a pretty decent calibration tool that will walk you through it, and you should make sure everything is set perfectly. There is nothing worse than the game not registering blinks or registering blinks that are not even there.
Too Short or Long Enough
Before Your Eyes is like a movie, a little less than two hours to play through. In that sense, it is meant to be enjoyed in a single sitting, which I think was a good decision. The mechanics of blinking, although novel, can get physically exhausting after a little while.
Unfortunately, the story itself feels like it could have used a little more room to breathe. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is strong, and it manages to make some very emotional beats. However, there is not much you can do with a silent protagonist who feels pretty inactive throughout their life.
The story ends up being driven more by the secondary characters, which although are good, don’t get room to develop far enough to be multi-faceted figures that can hold up a narrative on their own. It almost feels like the game ended as these characters were finally being tested. The end of this story didn’t feel satisfactory because I didn’t have any sort of excitement for the protagonist as I did for the other characters. I wanted him to be more active, to fight against his death, to be made into a more compelling protagonist.
The ending is sad, but it isn’t something that stuck with me. It’s like reading a tragic story in a newspaper about a stranger. I can empathize with the sadness, but not truly carry it into the rest of my day.
I still commend the studio for its bravery and innovation. Before Your Eyes is unique enough to try out if you are interested. It’s just that although the game is backed by many wonderful talents, it lacked that little “umph” to turn it into something truly memorable.
***PC review code provided by the publisher.***
- Unique blink-based controls
- Utilizes the mechanics to tell a stronger story
- Fantastic voice acting and dialogue
- Uncompelling protagonist
- Unintended physical discomfort