Before Your Eyes: Broken, Buggy, Beautiful – PC Review
I sincerely wanted to enjoy Before Your Eyes. I really really did. It’s a game that offers an inventive way of playing video games. You quite literally blink your way through the narrative. Upon hearing about this new mechanic, I was sceptical, to say the least. My greatest fear was that it would amount to little more than just a gimmick that would interfere with my overall experience.
Putting aside my scepticism, I jumped into Before Your Eyes with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. Unfortunately, after having completed Before Your Eyes, it quickly dawned on me that while its narrative was engrossingly beautiful, the blinking mechanic did little more than hinder my enjoyment.
“I spent more time calibrating my blinking than I did actually playing the game.”
I don’t blink very often. It’s strange and, at times, extremely uncomfortable, but I’m pretty much guaranteed to win every blinking contest I enter. Because of my “talent”, I had no fear of missing out on important story details by blinking my way through them. However, it turns out that it’s a curse.
Before Your Eyes’ central mechanic has it so that if you blink at specific points, you’ll skip ahead to another story beat. If you don’t, however, then you’ll often be treated to additional dialogue. While never particularly pertinent to the main story, these extra snippets of conversation help add a little character to those involved. Unfortunately, when the additional story beats end, you’re stuck waiting for your eyes to blink if they haven’t already. What this ultimately means is that if you don’t blink very often, the game forces you. And that is an uncomfortable sensation.
The converse of this is when the game decides to blink for you. On multiple occasions, Before Your Eyes skipped segments even though I hadn’t blinked. There is a way of calibrating the game to match your blinking more accurately, but this never worked. In fact, I spent more time calibrating my blinking than I did actually playing the game.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just skipping segments that you have to calibrate the game for. It got to the point where it flat-out refused to move on despite the fact that I was blinking. It felt like a never-ending struggle with the calibration system to let me play it how it was intended. Alas, despite my numerous attempts, I never won that battle and was ultimately forced to play without the blinking mechanic.
“However, despite all of this, I really like Before Your Eyes.”
There were several other bugs and glitches throughout. These ranged from objects clipping into other objects to the game constantly attempting to refocus. On several occasions, the game would focus in and out spasmodically. It got to the point that I had to close my eyes as it was painful to watch. I wasn’t sure if it was a part of the game’s narrative or just an unfortunate bug. Either way, it completely ruined my experience.
To add insult to injury, I experienced several crashes throughout. These would often occur during the most important moments and require me to restart from the beginning of a chapter. While it was never catastrophic, as the game is only two hours long, it was frustrating.
However, despite all of this, I really like Before Your Eyes. The blinking mechanic might be nothing more than an infuriating gimmick that most of the time didn’t work for me; the game might even be buggy and riddled with glitches, but, in all honesty, I loved it.
Before Your Eyes has an incredible narrative that takes you places you wouldn’t expect. Whenever it dipped or the pace is faltered, it simply skipped to a point where it could pick up the pace again. There are even choices for you to dictate that have actual consequences on the overall plot. And as much as the blinking mechanic feels gimmicky, there are points that add a lot to the narrative. At a later stage, you’re overcome with so much noise and sight that I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes and block it all out. Literally.
“While I doubt I’ll ever revisit Before Your Eyes, the time I spent with it, as frustrating as it may have been, was incredible.”
Fortunately, this remarkable narrative is written and performed exquisitely. All of the voice performances nail the emotions required of each scene and make each character feel genuinely believable. This makes for some mind-blowingly powerful moments that the persistent bugs couldn’t even spoil. The subtle but evocative music that plays softly throughout each scene is just as poignant and helps tie together a well written and acted narrative.
Complementing the outstanding narrative is a visually stunning art style. They reminded me of Paper Boats, a game I reviewed for our Indie Spotlight articles a while back. It’s simplistic but emotive nonetheless. Several moments evoked horror, while others a hauntingly tragic sadness. It can be simultaneously bright and colourful, reminiscent of a children’s book, and heart-wrenchingly sad. The various motifs that reappear throughout, such as a toy boat and a piano, help to create a believable world and story that feel truly lived in.
By the time the credits rolled, I was genuinely moved. While I doubt I’ll ever revisit Before Your Eyes, the time I spent with it, as frustrating as it may have been, was incredible. At its core, Before Your Eyes is a heart-warmingly beautiful experience with an amazing narrative.
The fact that this blinking mechanic is in its infancy may mean that it’ll be temperamental for some and perfectly fine for others. It also means that all the kinks I experienced will likely be patched out. Other than the fact that the game forces you to blink, which can be uncomfortable at times, these problems are entirely fixable. If you’re a fan of outstanding narratives and can overlook frustrating bugs, then you’d be a fool to miss out on Before Your Eyes.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC. The publisher provided the code.
Before Your Eyes Review
Before Your Eyes is a frustrating buggy mess. There were several times when the game crashed and many more when it refused to stay in focus. But despite all of its shortcomings, Before Your Eyes is an incredible narrative game with a mechanic that can add a tremendous amount to the gameplay. If you feel you can overlook some of its imperfections, then this might just be the game for you.