Though games are referred to as games, they can be so much more than fun distractions. Many incredible feats have been accomplished in both design and gameplay. Sometimes, the main goal of a game like with any form of entertainment is to make you feel something with the simplest actions being the most significant. Skybound Games understands this with their title Before Your Eyes, which is now available on Android and iOS through Netflix Games. It's a colourful narrative journey that can be quite unexpected while asking you to do something you do constantly without thinking.
Narrative games spend a lot of time immersing you in their world so you can get caught up in the surroundings and the characters. In Before Your Eyes, you find yourself in the body of a person named Benny who has recently passed into the afterlife. Their soul is brought onboard the boat of a mysterious figure known as the Ferryman. He then encourages you to remember your life so that you can be properly judged. From the perspective of Benny, you'll need to review your life while blinking to pass through time and see everything that happened to you and those around you.
Sight is one of the most important senses that humans have to convey information - and the more you look, the more things reveal themselves. In Before Your Eyes, many wondrous things can be seen, especially with its unusual mechanic. The way it's arranged gives it a semi-VR quality, with the main mechanic being blinking. After a pretty short and accurate calibration, you need to keep the visuals in front of you as the story unfolds. Blinking is used to do everything from progressing the story to interacting with objects and making decisions. It also challenges you to resist blinking so that you can get all the details.
Then there's the quality of the narrative. With a stylistic appearance and surreal nature, the story of Benny and the realm of the afterlife come across in a very real way. The characters move and speak naturally, with the Ferryman being particularly animated. It really makes you feel like you're experiencing the life of Benny as you determine the characters' personalities and interactions. The prompts you receive alternate between subtle and obvious, but still lead to some interesting choices.
No matter how good your vision is, negative and unexpected things can still hide out of sight. There are some of them hiding in the blindspot of Before Your Eyes. One of them is the level of sensitivity. Though the game is very sharp when it comes to reading your eye movements, it can also read other movements. While this would be helpful in a motion-centric game, here it causes confusion. Sometimes the slightest shift or bump on your phone will translate to a blink and cause you to miss something you really wanted to see through.
Then there are the navigation speed bumps getting in the way. Though blinking is used for interacting, you use your fingers to shift your eyesight around the room to find points of interest. While this works when you have all the time to explore, there are moments where decisions will be given a time limit. If you're not already looking in its general direction, you'll have to drag your eyesight clumsily along as it shifts between too sharp or too laggy.
Before Your Eyes is a colourful and emotional narrative game experienced through blinking. The mechanic is implemented creatively and effectively, while the writing and visuals weave an unusual story with heart. It still has trouble with technical issues involving sensitivity and navigation, but the issues can be overlooked to make way for a short and sweet journey that happens before your very eyes.