Blinking is something we do without a second thought. It’s such a normal part of our existence that we barely think about the simple movement. How on Earth could the simple function, something that we do each minute be utilized as a gameplay mechanic? Well, GoodbyeWorld Games has figured out a new way to engage the player – by blinking their eyes. It is so simple but so brilliant, and while I thought it would be a bizarre gimmick, it turns out that I was woefully underprepared for what I was getting into with Before Your Eyes. With the beloved title arriving on PlayStation VR2, I knew I had the perfect opportunity to finally dive in and unpack this emotional tale on my own terms.
Playing as Benjamin Brynn, a recently departed soul on his way to the afterlife. Boarding a ship captained by the Ferryman, Benjamin begins to relive his life from his birth. The reason this is important is that what you do in life is how you’re assessed in the afterlife by the Gatekeeper. To do this, you’ll need to blink. Blinking is the vehicle to exploring Benjamin’s life — blinking while wearing the PSVR2 headset will move through Benjamin’s life, allowing you to explore the past through memories.
Before Your Eyes is a one-of-a-kind interactive experience
The premise itself is unique and after spending the last month exploring virtual landscapes, nothing prepared me for this experience. Before Your Eyes is an interactive title blurring the line between mediums by physically including you, the player, as you explore Benjamin’s memories. It’s something I’ve never experienced before but it is an impressive feat to shift control from a controller to your eye movement.
Blinking has several different roles to play in Before Your Eyes and it mostly works. As you explore, prompts shown on the screen dictate what you’re getting into be it moving through a day, a month, a year, or decades ahead. Using the eye-tracking technology powering the PSVR2, Before Your Eyes work exceptionally well. You can also play on PC and mobile, two avenues that serve as good alternatives but ultimately, I feel like using virtual reality as the vehicle makes this version the best as you often feel immersed and present through each memory sequence.
It is surreal to close your eyes and learn it’s happening in-game at the same time. This idea is well-executed as you’re placed throughout several scenes. However, as great as it is, you have instances where the metronome displayed on the screen pre-emptively lead you to fast-track through important sequences. Certain scenes have an icon that once activated quickly moves you to the next scene, often leaving you in a lurch as you’ve missed exposition on a previous conversation. However, like most dreams, how often do we recall our exact dreams? In a sense, moving away from a conversation right in the middle of it sounds like it comes from a dream.
Blink and you’ll miss it
I enjoyed the blinking mechanic as it actively pushes you to move forward, progressing through the storyline. In some moments, you’re actively working not to blink so much as it leaves you open to missing out on important conversations. In other moments, you’ll be playing the piano as Benjamin who must blink the correct keys to progress. Other scenes track your eye movements and require you to firmly shut your eyes, allowing Benjamin to listen in on muffled conversations happening. You can even draw by blinking through the sequence which works in almost every case you seemingly pass through.
Before Your Eyes is at odds with how it looks. While it is a heartful, mesmerizing story about love, loss, and the complex emotions that make us human, I’ve seen mixed reactions to the cartoonish graphics and I’m here to say that this isn’t a viable talking point. You can tell the poignant tale without photorealistic graphics and honestly Before Your Eyes is all the better for it. If anything, the look and feel help sell the dream-like nature of the situation well.
I can count how many relatable moments both Benjamin and I have shared over our lives. Regardless of how well things are going, and how much support is around us, there can be moments where it is still bizarrely difficult to feel like you’ve fulfilled your potential in life. The writing is sincere, consistently pushing you to feel something real.
Before Your Eyes actively engage the player to feel and work through their emotions in a heart-wrenching tale about life. Benjamin’s story is filled with an eclectic cast and familiar energies that resonate with the player in some incredible moments that ultimately pay off. Utilizing the PSVR2’s eye-tracking in such a unique way makes this port the optimal way to experience this distinctive tale.
[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PSVR2