With a wink through life
Before Your Eyes is the first PSVR2 adventure that can be played almost entirely without a gamepad. After launching from the main menu, I just put the VR controllers aside and rely entirely on my eyes. The term “eye-tracking” is actually a misnomer: While the memories painted in watercolor paint are slowly building up in front of me, I don’t control the cursor with my eyeballs, but with movements of the VR glasses. As soon as I turn my head in the right direction, however, I confirm with a wink that acts like a button press. For example, I open an element in the scenery with a blink of an eye – or I jump to the next memory in a new setting.
The result is an amazingly unique gameplay experience with a narrative focus unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The OLED screen with its vibrant HDR colors becomes the ideal canvas for the life story of the artistically gifted protagonist Benjamin. After being pulled out of the water by a mystical ferryman, he is transported back in time to relive the most important moments of his life. At first, the family idyll, which was emphasized as infantile, reminded me of children’s series like “Caillou”. But the seriousness of life hits Benjamin’s life faster than expected. Then the narrative shifts to topics such as illness, family quarrels, fear of loss, parental expectations or the trials and tribulations when it comes to confessing your feelings to the first crush.
Challenge for eyes and tear ducts
Benjamin’s console is very reminiscent of the Apple Pippin. As soon as a metronome appears, a song beat ends the scene.
In an experience with such a focus on the story, I’m careful not to go into too much detail. The common thread is always the art, which plays an important role for the protagonist and his mother. This main theme is always beautifully reflected in the art design and controls. When I aim at symbols with head movements and confirm them with a wink, not only new areas of the picture unfold like a canvas at the edge of the room. With these head movements, I also open an important letter from an academy, paint pictures or let the cursor scurry across the piano keys in order to strum a melody like a virtuoso.
In terms of play, all of this remains relatively irrelevant and sometimes requires somewhat awkward turning of the head at the edge of the picture. But it helps immensely to visually convey the plot and moods more intensely. I’m not usually a fan of overly narrative adventures that don’t involve puzzles – but here I’m just too involved to bother. It almost feels like blinking my way through a novel narrative medium. Sometimes it’s not easy for me not to close my eyes when I want to experience the ongoing remnant of a memory.
The story comes to life
Some emotional moments could also make you close your eyes earlier than you would like. As a hard-nosed adventure gamer, I didn’t shed a tear. Still, I was touched by the brilliance of the PSVR2’s OLED display. Its HDR display reflects the moods conveyed particularly beautifully, especially in surreal moments. The setting is also convincing after the weak initial phase, for example when the ferryman belts out his insights into the night like an antique choir. Good knowledge of English is an advantage if you don’t want to use the German subtitles. Apart from that, the game is very beginner-friendly and nausea-free. Only occasionally does the scenery slowly and comfortably pass me by, such as on the boat trip across the metaphorical Jordan. Most of the time, the perspective remains completely static, which, thanks to the staging, still seems alive.
The memories unfold with vivid brushstrokes. In this mini-game, the lit keys are targeted with the note.
My last criticism could bring a small spoiler into this report. Therefore, you should skip reading the rest of this paragraph if you want to experience the experience with a completely open mind. Small decisions (like sneaking out of the house) have much less influence on the story here than in Detroit: Become Human or other adventure games. Especially in view of the emotional topic and the sometimes surreal implementation, more would have been possible here.