I’m crying. I’ve been crying.
I just finished Before Your Eyes — Netflix’s latest indie game port of a sweet and sad journey through life, death, and memory — and it only took me 90 minutes. I’ve been blinking as one naturally does, but this time with a video gaming purpose — to control a narrative with the help of my iPhone’s front-facing camera.
In Before Your Eyes, some blinks are interactions, and others are jump cuts that propel your character’s life forward by days, months, or years. And I guess the entire game is a take on every idiom you can think of involving eyeballs, life, speed, and time.
It’s a deeply engaging game, and like our previous iOS game of the week, it’s also free if you have a Netflix subscription.
Prepare to cry
Before Your Eyes is a narrative game in which you take on the role of the recently deceased Benjamin (Benny) Brynn and help a ferryman deliver you into the afterlife. The only way you can communicate is by blinking, and the only way your soul can rest easy is by helping the ferryman tell your life’s story as truthfully as possible, or else you’ll become forever stuck in limbo.
Your goal as Benny is to recount your entire existence, uh, before your eyes, literally blinking your way through major life events. Each event is a small vignette into the life Benny lived and the interactions he had between his mother, father, and others. You’re essentially playing through someone else’s memories and watching it all fade away in a blink of an eye.
Truthfully, any more synopsis than that and you’ll lose some of Before Your Eye’s power.
The game is played vertically, interestingly enough. To look around, you touch your iPhone screen as you would the right analog stick of a controller and blink to interact with items and time jumps. Sometimes you’ll move your cursor over a picture or a book and blink to trigger a character’s dialogue, other times you’ll blink to go a little further in time.
Enter the staring contest
The game’s blinking mechanic works in such a clever way that it’s more challenging than a typical point-and-click story. Fans of another iOS game, Florence (opens in new tab) (which is free, by the way), might expect a sort of blissful marriage between gameplay and narrative with Before Your Eyes, but a reflexive action like blinking presents an interesting kink to the game.
Plenty of vignettes in Before Your Eyes ask you to blink to move on from a memory, but sometimes you won’t want to. Plenty of times, I’ve wanted a moment in Benjamin’s life to linger just a little longer, only for me to stress about how dry my eyes were getting and blink to see it snap away. I’ve had some serious staring contests with this game and lost each of them.
And no, you can’t cheat and move the phone away from your face. That’ll push you forward, too.
An essential one-sitting experience
If you’ve got your iPhone handy, a nice seat, and 90 minutes to spare on a comfy couch — a timeframe we all know is easy to kill while doomscrolling on social media — please give this game a shot. Playing Before Your Eyes is akin to cozying up and reading a good book or watching a tremendous film — it’s something you’ll be thinking about for days on end after it’s over. The voice acting, art style, and blink mechanics are all superb, and the writing is top-notch.