What I love most about video games as a medium is the constant evolution we see on a yearly basis. Innovations in storytelling and gameplay constantly make their way to the spotlight, but small time titles take a lot to get into the limelight. Stories that would be fine on pen and paper are suddenly these ultra-immersive experiences, with stylistic visuals and ways of creating senses of cohesiveness and theme throughout even the most contained world. Before Your Eyes does all this and more to spectacular aplomb, utilizing a new way of navigating a game to tell an emotionally tugging story I won’t be able to forget for a good while.
Before Your Eyes has a very strange playstyle that is, frankly, perfectly fitting for the game. The entire game is controlled by blinking. The game uses a webcam to track the player’s eye motion to tell when they blink, and that blink is what progresses the player through levels and allows them to interact with certain objects. Through blinking and mouse movement, you navigate through the entire game. This alarmed me at first, seeing how I don’t have a dedicated eye-tracker and only a basic webcam. Even with just my webcam, going through the calibration a few times was more than enough, and I was able to play through the entire game without issue, blinking only when I wanted to. Even though it sounds strange, the eye tracking mechanic makes this a game you should play without spoiling yourself first. It felt like the entire story was tailored for it, even down to the run-on dialogue that happens when you keep your eyes open for too long. The best way to play this game is almost like watching a movie, mostly observing as much as possible. When there is an opportunity to interact with something, by all means make the effort. A lot of the interactions not only build on the characters but have impacts that are felt later in the game. While there might not be fishing minigames or any side quests, the story and exposition are enough to warrant at least a second playthrough to see what else there is.
Before Your Eyes reminds me a lot of Tilt Brush art, with everything looking very stylized in 3D with proper, deep shading and lots of vibrant color. This makes it so that nothing is ever boring, but also allows less colorful parts of the game to feel much more impactful. This dichotomy is where Before Your Eyes truly shines, the interactivity and color versus the absence of color and movement. Portions that take that away or force you to witness something far from the norm of where the story seemed like it was taking you feel unsettling to the core. That true, raw emotion is what makes a piece of art. While the characters might not be hyper-realistic and the environments might not be entirely modeled, this is all done for a thematic reason. Everything in the game builds onto itself and brings life to this story in a way that surprises me even to this very moment. The use of the blinking mechanic really makes you want to keep your eyes open, as weird as that sounds. Realizing you have limited time to look at an environment, there stems an urgency to look around and make sure you’re not missing any interactable objects and really observe what’s going on in the background. Through my playthrough I found many repeating themes and fun ways to interact with my environment. While some interactable objects don’t really have a point, they feed into the immersion nicely, offering a small break between more intense story beats.
Before Your Eyes is a game I can say very pleasantly surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to take such a deep dive into this story, but I absolutely felt compelled to keep playing it after every major story beat. Before Your Eyes is short, maybe about two hours long give or take if you’re going for 100% completion. That aside, don’t allow that to deter you. While the mechanics might have been cool for a longer game of a similar nature, Before Your Eyes uses the eye tracking mechanic in a way where it’s not gimmicky, and the game tends to be over before you’re even tired of blinking to progress the story. It honestly is the perfect length for a story of this nature, and I can easily encourage anyone to pick it up to play instead of watching a walkthrough or anything similar. Being able to notice the patterns, themes and Easter eggs on your own feels a lot more rewarding in a short-form game like this that is entirely centered around its unique mechanic rather than a slow burn that might tire you out sooner than later.
Score: 10 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC (Steam)