before your eyes review

Before Your Eyes Mini Review – Not A Dry Eye In The House

Blink and you'll miss it.

It doesn’t happen often, and I’m not ashamed to admit when it does, but Before Your Eyes had me doing a cheeky little cry by the time its credits rolled around. Which is a weird phenomenon when you’re strapped into a VR headset, but to the PlayStation VR2’s credit it does have decent drainage for human tears, so that’s something. After just under two hours experiencing the abridged version of a life in its entirety, controlled entirely with my eyes, I remain convinced that the medium of VR still has an incredible amount of untapped potential when it comes to storytelling.

Before Your Eyes, without saying too much and spoiling what is a heck of an emotional ride, sees players take on the role of Benjamin Brynn, who is dead. As you’re ferried toward an ominous-looking tower to be judged by the “Gatekeeper,” steered there by a mysterious wolf-like fella, you learn that your ultimate fate will be decided by the story of your life before death and how compelling of a retelling your new canid companion can give it. And so, you’ll spend the next little while revisiting key moments in Ben’s life from infancy to childhood and beyond to piece together his journey.

before your eyes review

While it’s a mostly passive experience with nothing in the way of obstacles or challenges to overcome, save for a handful of opportunities to choose your responses to situations, Before Your Eyes offers a novel take on interactivity with its titular gimmick – eye tracking. Thanks to the capabilities of the new PlayStation VR2 headset (the game was previously available for PC and mobile platforms with various control solutions), the entire game is controlled with nothing but glances and blinks. Each new scene generally has you fixed in place, observing the people around Ben like his aspiring-composer-turned-reluctant-accountant mother, his classically goofy dad or oddball friend Chloe, occasionally looking at people or objects when prompted and blinking to interact with them.

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Blinking also serves as the game’s other core mechanic, where blinking during certain scenes will skip the story forward in time. It sounds simple enough, like pressing a button to cycle through scenes in a regular game, but when I say that this one idea had me shaken on multiple occasions throughout Before Your Eyes I’m not exaggerating. The amount of times I strained to keep both eyes open because I was invested in what was happening, only to accidentally blink and lose the moment forever is too painful to recall and really drove home the idea that I was seeing my life flash before my eyes, desperately clinging on to the pivotal moments that I wanted so badly to remember only to have them coldly ripped away from me. I feel as though loss is a tough thing to convey in a video game, but Before Your Eyes nails it.

before your eyes review

There are other moments where the sensory experience of the PS VR2 further serves the emotional beats that the game is going for, especially in scenes where you’re asked to shut your eyes to keep the world around you moving. Tightly holding my eyes closed while my parents fight around me, glances of movement obscuring and revealing light that barely seeps through me eyelids and hearing their footsteps and voices shift around the room – well, let’s not explore that too deeply on a video game website but it got me good.

It’s all truly powerful stuff, in spite of the game’s relatively simplistic look, short runtime and sparse interactivity. What GoodbyeWorld Games has done with Before Your Eyes is execute on a novel concept with the perfect amount of restraint and a carefully-paced emotional journey to create something truly special, something that uses the medium of VR and the unique features of its target hardware to hit that much harder. If you’ve got a PS VR2 and a taste for artsy, contemplative indie experiences then you owe it to yourself to play this.