Posted 2 Dec
UP CLOSE – ON US is all about how the external world shapes our inner states, from the tangible – like objects and faces, to the intangible – like music and memories. What else are the five senses for? Whether through taste, touch, sight, smell, or sound, there is never a moment where our perceptions and actions are not informed by the world around us. Think of it like a complicated love triangle. Between your body’s physiological processes, your brain’s cognition and emotion, and the external world moulded by your actions, what’s happening inside and outside of us is intertwined in a reciprocal exchange; each one wanting a piece of the other, all the time.
Before Your Eyes is a game that perfectly captures the essence of ON US. As a simple yet hard-hitting adventure, it’s sure to evoke wide-eyed revelation and nostalgia-tinged contemplation. Distinctively controlled by nothing but eyes and with only 1.5 hours of gameplay, it’s clear that indie game maker collective GoodbyeWorld Games prioritized quality over quantity.
Beginning your journey on a ferry in the middle of the sea, this game is played from a first-person perspective with no way to tell what you look like. One minute in though and a benevolent ferryman points out your bright and shiny appearance. No hands to shake with, no mouth to communicate with, no distinguishable characteristics to call your own. Being in a human-shaped flesh suit never felt more comforting. Looming ominously in the distance behind bobbing waves – waves that make up the ocean of souls you are floating across – is a tower. The gatekeeper, housed inside, holds the key to your fate as a purgatorial ocean-dweller or immortal citizen of the great city. Abruptly interrupting your approach to the gatekeepers judgement however is a portal through space and time where, no longer formless and at sea, you are transported to your earliest earthly memory as Benny, the protagonist.
From here on out, blinking leads to the inevitable passage of time. Beginning from the first breaths of life, each blink jumps seconds, days, or years to a new experience in Benny’s life, each one sculpted through your interactive choices. There is an enormous supercut of memories to relive. Some mark developmental milestones, like the first day of school or the roller-coaster of emotions that comes with a crush. Others are barely comprehensible blurs of mundane affairs, like trudging through the motions of a morning routine or walking from one room to another. Blink by blink, memories fly past until one day the only remaining event to relive is death itself. Unexpectedly however, this ending and the preceding twists and turns are where the game truly begins. Some things are better left unspoiled.
Sometimes the memories would progress before they were finished, which I found frustrating. Keeping my eyes open for unnatural lengths of time (to the point of eyestrain) seemed like an acceptable loophole to exploit. But just as blinking is an unavoidable human instinct, it’s clear that the game’s intent was to highlight the inevitability of time. How it builds and erodes in an endless, assured cycle of impermanence. Before Your Eyes is crushingly human in its depiction of universal memories: those concealed to protect egos; those forgotten but told through others; those shared at every opportunity; those held close to chests in secrecy; those that never happened; and those viewed through the clearest of lenses, never growing faint. For anyone seeking a jarring yet oddly comforting venture filled with reflection and poignancy, this game certainly fits the bill. The combination of compelling storytelling with peculiar controls makes for a truly unforgettable experience.
Genre: Indie, story rich, emotional, adventure
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Payers: Single player
Online PvP / co-op: No
Local PvP / co-op: No
Where: Before Your Eyes