Looking up at a character who’s introduced himself only as The Ferryman, he explains that you’re dead. Carrying on, he says he wants to tell your life story to someone called The Gatekeeper, and if they deem you worthy, you’ll secure a spot in the afterlife. You’re on a boat in the middle of an ocean, the Ferryman is a strange, anthropomorphised dog-like character with a soothing voice, and the colours are bright, but there’s a melancholic, dreamlike feel to the place. There’s no need to click on anything to move the game on—instead you’re told to blink, and you have to, because you can’t not blink forever.
The entirety of GoodbyeWorld Games’ upcoming title, Before Your Eyes, hinges on this blinking mechanic, which utilises the player’s webcam. It’s used to skip forward in time throughout the life of a character called Benny, where you’ll explore his relationships with family and friends, his passions, hobbies and career, and experience his highs and lows. The game is playable without a webcam on, but is infinitely better for its incorporation. The use of a webcam hasn’t just been added as a gimmick-y trick to sell the game, but the story and themes have been built around the inevitably of two things; you’re going to blink, and you’re going to die.
Of course, skipping through scenes wouldn’t be a problem if you wanted to get through the game as quickly as possible, so the magic of this game is that you want to stay in each moment for as long as you can. Benny’s world is bright and full of detail, and whilst the art style is simplistic, you can’t help but want to be able to see everything it has on offer. From Benny’s adorable cat who you watch grow from a kitten, to his family, or places like the beach or his classroom, everything feels loveable—and closing your eyes, even for a second, is the last thing you want to do.
The performances are equally vital to the game’s success. Since scenes may last longer or shorter depending on how long the player manages to not blink for, this means they needed to be longer than necessary. Characters in the game, particularly Benny’s Mom and Dad needed to be characters we cared about and wanted to hear more from—and they are. The combination of excellent writing and loveable voices means that anything extra we can get out of these characters feel like a win; while the important information from a scene is offered quickly, scenes and moments linger on, music and voices can be heard from other rooms, and things go on that we don’t quite catch, don’t quite understand yet, or are simply the conversations of people going about their days. The characters make the world feel alive, and there’s not much more you could ask for.
But of course, no matter how lovely a scene is, as the game reminds you, you can’t stay there forever. You have to blink. This happens in two ways through the game: a symbol of an eye will pop up, and if you hover over it and blink you’ll move on or interact with the world in some way. On the other hand, if a metronome is ticking away at the bottom of the screen, blink and you’re skipping forward no matter what. This offers some nice flexibility in terms of having the time to explore all the necessary things in a scene, but also a return to that important theme of the inevitability of blinking and how life keeps moving forward no matter what.
At some points, you’ll get to make choices for Benny, and while they don’t have much effect on the overall outcome of the game, it is a nice way to further blur the lines between you and the character. It’s not a long game either, and best played in one sitting so you can let yourself get swept away on the journey and fully immerse yourself in the world. And while it may seem that the game is tackling a lot of big themes, it never feels like they’re being unnecessarily forced into the story. What you experience is one person’s life, but since there’s parts of life, emotions, and inevitabilities that none of us can escape, the themes and messages of the game arise naturally.
I wasn’t convinced that using a webcam was going to add anything to a video game, but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Before Your Eyes is an innovative title that uses webcam technology to enhance the story. With a world that you’ll fall in love with and characters you’ll care about, you’ll want to soak up as much of Benny’s life as possible, but only as long as you don’t blink—and unfortunately, that’s got to happen at some point.
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]