Before you Eyes is a singular, immersive reminder that our memories are only half the truth. A meaningful message nestled in a thoughtful, engaging story, the tragic but beautiful world GoodbyeWorld Games has created feels fully realised and elevated on the PSVR2.
The award-winning indie Before Your Eyes has been carefully remade for the PSVR2, and its many gut punches and inventive storytelling techniques are along for the ride. Initially launched in 2021 for PC, players would use their webcam to track their eyes, with blinks counting for interactions that propel the story forward.
While you can optionally use a controller, this new version for PSVR2 uses the headset’s impressive eye-tracking tech to heighten the immersion of its intriguing gameplay, allowing it to carve out a niche of its own amongst the heavy hitters in the launch window library.
In Before Your Eyes, you embody Benjamin Brynn in the wake of their death. Ben has become the catch of the day for an enigmatic, word-obsessed wolven figure called the Ferryman, who picks lost souls and gives them an opportunity to plead their case to The Gatekeeper, an afterlife entity who is in charge of whether you move on. To do this, the Ferryman needs Ben to find the juicy, interesting details of his life that warrant him the chance to find peace.
Throughout the game’s 90-minute runtime (more if you have strong eye muscles), players journey through Ben’s life experiences, from his earliest memories right to the bitter end, hoping to discover what left him floating in a sea of lost souls in the first place.
There is a sizable caveat to this revisiting process, however. Every blink will take you to a new untouched memory, but it leaves the last one in the dust. This complicated mechanic adds incredible emotional tension. I didn’t play the PC original, so this was my first time with Before your Eyes, and dear reader, I cried a lot. Yet no matter how much my eyes filled with water, I continued straining to keep looking around. I wanted to see every interaction and hear every background conversation I was privy to. The game’s narrative was so compelling that I wanted to know more.
Thankfully, blinking is also how you interact with the world, so there is respite from the endless staring contests. Throughout the story, I found myself following piano keys to play tunes and spelling meaningful phrases in the sky, as well as holding my eyes tightly shut to eavesdrop. At one point, I was even painting with my eyes, dropping shapes onto a canvas, and, eventually, creating abstract works.
Elevating these choice moments of real-world interaction, such as blinking or holding your eyes shut, is a wonderful feat of game design that sets an intriguing challenge for players to perfect as they affect the world of the game with their own human error.
As I played through Ben’s memories, my eyes were peeled, trying to find any semblance of cruelty or sadness to explain his predicament. His complicated relationship with his mother (a stifled creative with high expectations) plays off against his father, a warm educator who just wants Ben to have fun.
These relationships form the basis of some of the major choices that you can make to fine-tune your individual story, and offer enough turmoil-filled events in Ben’s life to show to the Gatekeeper in an effort to convince him that he is worth letting through. In my playthrough, Ben fell in love, created great art, lost important people, and experienced a great many sad things that could have led to his troubling demise.
While the PSVR2’s eye-tracking is exceptionally accurate, it was, at times, a little too harsh. Many pivotal points of Before Your Eyes’ story feature you waiting to find out more, and I found myself punished when my eyes would flicker, often because they were filled up with tears. In almost every way, the immersive nature of blinking pays off until I would regretfully miss whole scenes.
In some ways, I think that may be the point. However, it did, in certain situations, make me miss some important details that would have driven the point home more clearly. Optionally, players can use a controller if they would prefer to navigate the world that way and experience every detail of the story, but you will have to trade off some of the immersion.
The first two acts do a great job of creating moving moments that touch on extremely difficult topics, often with enough gusto and grace to warrant floods of tears. Making choices and pushing the narrative further felt tactile enough to keep my attention, and the introduction of more unique figures in Ben’s life kept the story fresh, even across the short runtime. But then, Before Your Eyes’ final act impressively twists your expectations and makes up for any potential feelings of cliched storytelling that came before.
Its chunky art style adds a lot of warmth to the tale and a sense of toybox fun to a world that, more often than not, is dealing in dark palettes. The cartoonish appearance benefits most when blending Ben’s memories with his colourful imagination. Whether it’s a sky of stars spelling out words or diseases taking on intimidating forms, the creative consistency lets all of those moving parts feel like real important moments in Ben’s life.
Before Your Eyes felt like a deeply cathartic experience that, through the isolating nature of the PSVR2, allowed me to enjoy an unforgettable story and inspect how I felt about events in my own life, and the faulty nature of memory in ways that I wasn’t expecting. It is the ultimate showcase for the headset’s eye-tracking technology, but it’s also so much more than a technical achievement. Before Your Eyes is a formative fable that everyone should experience.