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The RPS Advent Calendar 2021, December 4th

Blink and you'll miss it

Please pay attention to the fourth door of our Advent Calendar. But try not to blink. Or do blink, if you want, maybe.

You guessed it: our fourth game is blinky-adventure Before Your Eyes!

Ed: Writing about Before Your Eyes is hard. Personally, I find it easier just to have a little cry about it. That way you don’t spoil the story for anyone, and it warns those around you of the catastrophic emotional impact it can have on a person. But I’ll try my best, because this game is magic. Like seriously, you blink in real life and the game reacts. Woah.

Before Your Eyes is a first-person journey through the afterlife. You start aboard a haggard wolf-man's rowboat, who, it turns out, is the mythical Ferryman of this mysterious underworld. Connect the game up to your webcam (mouse clicks also work, if you don’t want to) and it’ll give you the power to push time forwards with your real-life blinks. In just a few snaps, the rowboat disappears and you’re whisked away to another realm entirely.

You can’t advance time at any point during the game, mind. It’s only at specific points where blinking will move things on. Still, the game picks and chooses them wisely. Occasionally you’ll even have to make a few decisions along the way...

And I can’t divulge too much more information. It would be cruel of me to spoil the story, as even just the littlest snippet could unravel the whole experience for you. This is a game you want to approach sight unseen, which is rather ironic, isn’t it?

Just know that this game won’t waste your time. In fact, there are plenty of moments where you desperately fight the next blink because you want to freeze time in its place and cling onto the present. The longer you... just... hold... on, the longer you get to glean more information or simply soak in the moment. Sometimes, you can’t help but blink and poof!, you move on, whether you like it or not. It's as much an exercise in self-control as it is a well-executed story, but I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating. If anything, I like how its use of an automatic bodily response captures memory recall so faithfully.

A screenshot of Before Your Eyes showing the Ferryman, a dishevelled humanoid dog dressed as a sailor.

Before Your Eyes isn’t only one of 2021’s best games because it combines a tear-jerking story with a cool webcam gimmick. It’s also special because it fills you with this urge to tell people about it. Even those who don’t care about video games or think of them as lazy vessels for violence. There’s a sort of pride you get as a fan, when you can recommend a game wholeheartedly to someone who’s a bit on the fence and watch their perspective shift as excited messages flood your lock screen.

This is what Before Your Eyes is all about to me. An emotional rollercoaster that’s built for practically anyone, whether they’re into games or not. And it’s only roughly one hour and a half long, so it’s doable in a single sitting. This makes it a great stocking filler and the perfect advert for video games after the figgy pudding’s been had. Crack out the laptop, then watch as your confused family’s mood goes from jovial to teary, and proclaim, “That’s the power of video games!” like a festive Goeff Keighley. What better way to have a very merry Christmas?

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.

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