Before Your Eyes review — A unique and emotional glimpse into the meaning of life, controlled using only your eyes

Before Your Eyes is a hard game to review as it is more of an interactive experience than a video game, at least when judged by the standards normally attributed to video games. I do believe the lines between those two definitions are getting blurred more frequently lately, especially with the advent of VR and so-called “walking sims.” So, I don’t mean that statement as a complaint; in fact, one of my favorite aspects of gaming now compared to when I was a child is the creative uses of the medium to tell stories. Some of these stories are heartbreaking, some are hopeful, and some are tense – yet Before Your Eyes happens to be all those and so much more. It is a story about life, about love, about failure, and acceptance. But above all else it is about what is important during the short window of time that we have here on Earth.

In Before Your Eyes, you take on the role of Benjamin Brynn as he boards a boat to the afterlife, captained by The Ferryman. The Ferryman is leading Benjamin to the gatekeeper, who will then determine where he will spend his afterlife. To properly prepare for their arrival, The Ferryman asks Benjamin to recount his life so that he can conjure a riveting story to persuade the Gatekeeper to allow Benjamin in. Thus begins your adventure through a lifetime.

Controlled using only your eyes, Before Your Eyes instantly carves out a unique presence amongst other VR games, providing an interesting way to draw players into an emotional storytelling experience. As Benjamin, you do little but blink and watch the important moments of life fly by. Seconds, minutes, days, and sometimes years pass in an instant, though the story remains centered enough to never become confusing. At times, you can make a choice, changing the outcome of scenes, but you’re mostly watching an interactive movie, struggling to keep your eyes open so as not to blink and leave a scene too early.

Since the game is controlled by blinks, you must learn to control how often you close your eyes. When no icon is on screen you are welcome to glance around and blink without fear of jumping through time, but often there is an eye icon or a metronome on screen, both of which cause the story to progress when you blink. An eye icon only reacts to you blinking when you stare directly at it, normally causing a specific scene in a particular space to unfold, while the metronome counts down the seconds until a time jump and is triggered by blinking of any kind, no matter where you are looking. It is during moments when the metronome is up that you will struggle to keep your eyes open, desperately hoping to hear more of the conversation before you inevitably jump ahead.

Later in the game, there are scenes only triggered by holding your eyes shut, which allows conversations to play out and forces you to focus on the subject of the conversation, rather than get distracted by the world around you. Other times you can interact with objects using the movement of your eyes, including turning the pages of a book, drawing pictures, or playing the piano. It is all quite intuitive, and I found myself enjoying the lack of controllers while being surprised at how well the eye tracking worked.

The story is told through scenes of happiness, sadness, despair, hope, struggle, and all the other aspects that make up life and is well acted by the few characters you’ll encounter. You’ll find yourself invested in Benjamin’s life, worried if you made the right choice for his future, or if you’ve pushed his mother too far when blatantly ignoring her rules. Experiencing Benjamin’s life through VR helps to create a bond you might not otherwise have had. You feel like you are in these scenes, growing attached to this character’s life, watching their room as it changes, watching his parent’s relationship dynamic change, watching his pet grow up, etc. It is a story that could be told in any medium but works especially well in VR.

Before Your Eyes sports a cartoony, but distinct look, which works well with the story during both light-hearted and emotional moments, helping the world feel almost dreamlike. There were a few issues with clipping of characters into objects, or once where The Ferryman sat down but was precariously perched on the corner of his seat rather than sitting correctly, but these do little to distract from the main narrative. Besides, you will become so hyper focused on not blinking until you’re ready to progress, and find yourself so invested in wanting to watch as much of Benjamin’s life unfold as possible that you may not even notice small issues with the graphics.

As I said at the beginning, this is more of an experience than a game, and as such lasts about as long as a movie – around an hour and a half to two hours. There is some replayability, with small choices you can make which will slightly impact the story, but overall, most will only play the game once. Despite the lack of reasons to come back after completion, Before Your Eyes is well worth experiencing and for little more than the cost of a movie ticket there’s no reason not to take this trip with Benjamin and The Ferryman.



Before Your Eyes

Review Guidelines

Before Your Eyes is a unique and emotional narrative about a soul on its way to the afterlife and a deep dive into what is important in life. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, Before Your Eyes manages to make you care for Benjamin in the short time that you have with him. Controlled using only your eyes, Before Your Eyes is a testament to what the PSVR2 can do, helping craft a story which has no need for controllers to experience. Simply sit back, watch, and blink when you’re ready to progress.

Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. When not writing for Gaming Trend you can find him covering theatre for Broadway World, movies and TV for Fandomize, or working on original stories. An avid retro gamer, he is overly obsessed with Dragon's Lair. Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter and @richardallenwrites on Facebook and Instagram.

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