Before Your Eyes tells an engrossing story through unconventional methods, the likes of which feel wholly original, but with the port to PS VR2, the magic of this delivery doesn’t quite hold up and at times, proves to be rather frustrating.
With Before Your Eyes, you’re not exactly getting a standard video game experience. Far from it, in fact. Stuck in a singular position through every scene, more often than not, you’re merely an observer as a story unfolds around you, rather than serving as an active participant and directly engaging with the world.
There’s no exploration of any kind and no real gameplay mechanics to speak of. Rather, you’re in store for a brief yet captivating tale, one that only advances as you blink. As an allegory for life quite literally being over in the blink of one’s eye, that message only becomes further pronounced through each passing sequence.
Though where the sole interaction works just as you’d expect on other platforms, the central method of delivery doesn’t quite pack the same punch in this PS VR2 port. Virtual reality can even hinder the experience at times, as rather than having a more manual control over the story’s pacing, you’re often left wishing you were playing with any other device.
Before Your Eyes- Key Details
- Developers: GoodbyeWorld Games
- Price (PS5): $24.99 (USD) | $37.95 (AUD) | £19.99
- Release date (PS VR2 version): March 10, 2023
- Platforms: PS5, PC
Before Your Eyes PSVR2 – Trailer
Blinking through a life story
As its name implies, a story is shown to you along the way through this unique experience. But much like our own journeys, important events, defining moments, and core memories can all pass by in a flash, or in other words, in the blink of an eye.
Thrust into the role of ‘Benny’, you’re unable to communicate through conventional means. No mouth, no ears, no nose, just eyes to blink with. It’s through this limitation that you then advance the narrative, blinking through each scene one at a time. When you shut your eyes at the right moments, even just for a brief flicker, your current surroundings will vanish. That point in time will be no more as you’re teleported further into the future.
With each blink and thus, each scene, you’re learning more of Benny’s life story, whether it be through direct experiences, or purely just overhearing conversations from parents and friends alike. It’s an unconventional means of conveying a narrative but one that excels through its originality, providing an experience unlike any other in the medium.
It’s worth noting that it is a fairly short trip down memory lane, clocking in at no more than two hours. Given it’s a straight run-through to the ending, without much in the way of general gameplay, there’s obviously no real desire to return once credits roll. So do bear the overall promise of the title in mind before jumping in with mismatched expectations.
Though even with its brevity, Before Your Eyes certainly packs a punch. It’s a deeply touching narrative, one that will more than likely have you blinking not just to progress, but to clear away the tears.
PSVR2 is far from the optimal way to play this game
Where Before Your Eyes largely excels on other platforms like PC and even mobile devices, it tends to unravel in virtual reality. In the original experience, you can imitate the act of blinking by clicking a mouse or tapping your screen. Naturally, this gives you a certain degree of influence over pacing, allowing you to manually advance the story when you feel you’ve digested everything in a particular scene.
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on Esports, Gaming and more.
Playing with PSVR2, however, you don’t get that same level of control. With eye tracking the big selling point of this new port, the title quite literally places you in the middle of its numerous scenes and tracks your own physical blinks. As your eyes close in real life, so too do your eyes in-game. While it’s a solid idea in theory, especially given its broad accessibility, allowing just about anyone to play through the full game without a hassle, it doesn’t always service the story in the best way.
When it comes to the timing of your blinks, things are fairly limited. Rather than blinking at any possible moment and accidentally skipping half the story, the game only recognizes your blinks in certain intervals, displayed by an icon in-game. However, the exact timing of when this icon appears is purely guesswork. It can show up at the very end of a section or midway through what feels like an important conversation.
As a result, you’re often trying to time your blinks as to not accidentally leap forward in time. To get the full picture, hearing every line of dialogue is crucial, but in not being able to predict this pop-up, your blinks can have you missing out on key moments more often than not. Similarly, once the icon appears, you’re often focusing more on trying not to blink, than actually paying attention to the scene in focus. It puts a strain on your eyes and your focus, in ways the regular version of the experience does not.
I lost track of just how many times I accidentally blinked at the wrong moment, only to be rushed to the next chapter when I wanted to stick around and learn more. While it can be argued that’s part of the narrative’s theme, imperfect memories, rushing through life unable to slow down, it only translates to a frustrating experience and one all but objectively superior with more manual control offered on other platforms.
For what it’s worth, the blinking feature also bugged out on multiple occasions throughout my playthrough. It boiled down to imperfect level design more than anything, however, as various blinking icons seemed to be trapped under terrain. In numerous instances, I was left looking all around the scene, blinking like a lunatic just trying to find the icon in order to progress. In two particular cases, icons simply didn’t appear at all, forcing a full restart of the chapter.
Novel idea but ultimately not one to recommend here
It’s important to distinguish the criticism here. Before Your Eyes in and of itself is a wonderfully original game with an emotional journey at its core. One that will likely stick with you long after credits roll. Its unique presentation and creative method of delivery are no doubt worth the price of admission on certain platforms.
The Verdict – 3/5
But playing through Before Your Eyes in virtual reality never truly feels like the optimal way to consume this creation. Given its innate hindrances and oftentimes frustrating gameplay gripes, PSVR2 can come across as quite the opposite, perhaps the least enjoyable platform in which to digest the story. With its brevity in mind, along with a general lack of engagement and replayability, you’re better off grabbing this one-and-done experience elsewhere if you’re intrigued by the premise.