Before Your Eyes Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Before Your Eyes RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network GameSkinny's Best Games of 2021 https://www.gameskinny.com/8rju7/gameskinnys-best-games-of-2021 https://www.gameskinny.com/8rju7/gameskinnys-best-games-of-2021 Thu, 30 Dec 2021 12:42:04 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Another year passed means another great list of video games worth playing on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Stadia, and more. To look back on the year that was in video games, we've collected our highest-reviewed games of 2021 into a "best of" list. 

Since we're a small staff at GameSkinny, going the traditional "staff voting route" doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Though it means there are more games here than on other lists, the best way we've found to highlight the best games of the year in 2021 is to include any game with a score of "8" or higher. So that's what we've done here. 

A few games on this list didn't technically release in 2021 or perhaps have other editions that released in years prior, but we reviewed certain versions and ports that released in 2021, so we've decided to also include them here. 

The Best Games of 2021

12 Minutes

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Luis Antonio (Nomada Studio)
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: 12 Minutes is a game about escaping a time loop, which is ironic given that it's so good that I wish I could see it all again for the first time myself.

Read our full 12 Minutes review.

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield

Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Aerial_Knight
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Aeiral_Knight's Never Yield is a short, yet stylish endless runner with one of the year's best soundtracks.

Read our full Aerial_Knight's Never Yield review.

Alan Wake Remastered

Publisher: Epic Games Publishing
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Alan Wake still shines in a modern landscape thanks to its unique story and intoxicating atmosphere, and the remastered visuals modernize it just in time for Remedy's inevitable sequel.

Read our full Alan Wake Remastered review.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Publisher: Plug In Digital
Developer: UsTwo Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch 
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Alba: A Wildlife Adventure wonderfully recontextualizes the video game sandbox as a wholesome call to action.

Read our full Alba: A Wildlife Adventure review.

Ashwalkers

Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Nameless XIII
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Ashwalkers tells an open-ended story the right way, mixing equal parts agency and powerlessness, hope and despair.

Read our full Ashwalkers review.

Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Vita
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX is a hard sell if you've already played it, but remains a stand-out Atelier game with strong heroines, excellent crafting, and good combat.

Read our full Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX review.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Atelier Ryza 2 improves on the original in almost every way and, despite a few stumbling points, proves Gust is still one of the best at making something magical out of ordinary things.

Read our full Atelier Ryza 2 review.

Axiom Verge 2

Publisher: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Developer: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Axiom Verge 2 marks a fine return to form for the indie darling, providing fans with a compelling adventure worthy of its Metroid-influences roots.

Read our full Axiom Verge 2 review.

Base One

Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Developer: PixFroze
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Overall, Base One is an enjoyable experience that you can play casually for a few in-game cycles or a few IRL hours. It doesn’t really bring anything new or innovative to the table but executes well the familiar game mechanics that make up its loop. 

Read our full Base One review.

Before I Forget

Publisher: 3-Fold Games
Developer: 3-Fold Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Switch
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Before I Forget is a highly emotive tale about one woman’s struggle with dementia, and a story that everyone should experience.

Read our full Before I Forget review.

Before Your Eyes

Publisher: Skybound Games
Developer: GoobyeWorld Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Telling a gut-punch of a story with novel gameplay mechanics is no small feat, and Before Your Eyes marvelously delivers on both fronts.

Read our full Before Your Eyes review.

Black Book

Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: Morteshka
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Black Book is an RPG/CCG/detective simulator/visual novel where you're either the villain or weakly trying not to be.

Read our full Black Book review.

Blue Reflection: Second Light

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Blue Reflection: Second Light is an improvement upon the first game, following a group of schoolgirls looking for a way back home while fighting evil monsters.

Read our full Blue Reflection: Second Light review.

Bravely Default 2

Publisher: Nintendo/Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Bravely Default 2 is the best JRPG that never came out of 1998 Japan. It has a deep combat system, a sunny disposition, and a weirdly positive outlook.

Read our full Bravely Default 2 review.

Breathedge

Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Breathedge isn't a perfect space survival game and is sometimes aggravating, but there's plenty to enjoy, and few recent games can be so relaxing.

Read our full Breathedge review.

Capcom Arcade Stadium

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S 
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Capcom Arcade Stadium isn’t flawless. It could definitely be more complete, but the 32 games on display here still offer a pretty great slice of gaming history. As examples of their genres, it’s amazing how well most of these games still hold up while serving to vividly illustrate just how much gaming has changed since.

Read our full Capcom Arcade Stadium review.

Castlevania: Advance Collection

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Collecting three superb Castlevania entries from the Game Boy Advance era and one more obscure SNES offering, this is a must-have for any fan of the genre that Castlevania carved out.

Read our full Castlevania: Advance Collection review.

Chivalry 2

Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Chivalry 2's ability to convert chaos into exuberance gifts players with an experience that brilliantly hones in on one of the greatest aspects of gaming: fun.

Read our full Chivalry 2 review.

Chorus

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Fishlabs
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Rating: 8/10

What we said: With a solid gameplay loop, a variety of side missions, and an engaging, original story that doesn't overstay its welcome, Chorus delivers one of the best sci-fi experiences of the year.

Read our full Chorus review.

Control: Ultimate Edition

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, Series S, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Control was one of 2019's best games, with the only pervasive issue being that consoles couldn't always run the ambitious game so well. That's all changed.

Read our full Control: Ultimate Edition review.

Cozy Grove

Publisher: Spry Fox
Developer: Spry Fox
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Cozy Grove presents island life sans crass Capitalistic Raccoon Overlords, and it is a lovely experience through and through.

Read our full Cozy Grove review.

Curse of the Dead Gods

Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Passtech Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch 
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Curse of the Dead Gods is an action-roguelike with slick combat and a risk-reward loop that will keep you coming back.

Read our full Curse of the Dead Gods review.

Cyber Shadow

Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Mechanical Head Studios (Aarne "MekaSkull" Hunziker)
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Cyber Shadow is a beautiful, lovingly-crafted gut-punch of an experience. Get ready to throw some controllers.

Read our full Cyber Shadow review.

Days Gone (PC)

Publisher: PlayStation PC LLC
Developer: Bend Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Days Gone received a lukewarm reception when it released for PS4, but the brilliant PC port will give new life to a game about a dying world.

Read our full Days Gone PC review.

Death's Door

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Acid Nerve
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Taking somewhere around 8-10 hours to finish, Death’s Door is a macabre journey well worth taking. The combat is generally simple but excellent, the world is fascinating, and the characters are memorable. 

Read our full Death's Door review.

Deathloop

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Deathloop takes elements from games like Bioshock and Dishonored, combining them with a Groundhogs Day like timeloop to create the coolest, most stylish, and best game of the year.

Read our full Deathloop review.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

Publisher: ZA/UM
Developer: ZA/UM
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Disco Elysium’s expanded edition successfully builds upon an already excellent RPG, making it just as relevant today as it was in 2019.

Read our full Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review.

Disgaea 6

Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Disgaea 6 isn't a massive change for the long-running series, but the substantial improvements it brings means it doesn't have to be either.

Read our full Disgaea 6 review.

Dying Light

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Techland
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Dying Light on Switch is the same old Dying Light, which means it's one of the best survival horror games — just portable.

Read our full Dying Light Switch review.

Eldest Souls

Publisher: United Label
Developer: Fallen Flag Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A demanding pixel art Souls-like beautifully rendered and artfully crafted, Eldest Souls is not without issues, but it's worth your time for its bosses, art, and world.

Read our full Eldest Souls review.

Farming Simulator 22

Publisher: GIANTS Software
Developer: GIANTS Software
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: With its many improvements and some important additions, Farming Simulator 22 is the best in the franchise thus far.

Read our full Farming Simulator 22 review.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater

Publisher: Koei Tecmo/Nintendo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: This port of the clever and under-appreciated Wii U J-Horror game might feel a little old but is a terrific example of a familiar genre given a unique spin.

Read our full Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater review.

Foregone

Publisher: Big Blue Bubble
Developer: Big Blue Bubble
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: An open platformer heavy on combat, upgrading, and exploration, Foregone is an involving and entertaining adventure well worth downloading ... This gorgeous retro platform adventure deftly mixes traditional linear and roguelike elements into one entertaining package.

Read our full Foregone review.

Forza Horizon 5

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Forza Horizon 5 is ultimately more of the same, but that's hardly a bad thing when it does the same thing so darn well.

Read our full Forza Horizon 5 review.

Green Hell (Console)

Publisher: Creepy Jar
Developer: Creepy Jar
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Green Hell is the latest PC survival sim to arrive on consoles, and it brings a solid and challenging survival experience that requires whits and perseverance.

Read our full Green Hell console review.

GRIME

Publisher: Akupara Games
Developer: Clover Bite
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: GRIME takes influence from more genres than most games and succeeds at combining them into a cohesive whole. It's well worth your time.

Read our full GRIME review.

Gnosia

Publisher: Playism
Developer: Petit Depotto
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Gnosia draws similarities to games like Among Us and Zero Escape, but ultimately crafts a unique story with a crew of memorable characters.

Read our full Gnosia review.

Guilty Gear Strive

Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Guilty Gear Strive continues the long-running series’ love of amazingly bizarre character designs, fantastic fighting action, and gorgeous visuals with superb results.

Read our full Guilty Gear Strive review.

Habroxia 2

Publisher: Lillymo Games
Developer: Lillymo Games
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Vita
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Lillymo Games have made a great attempt with Habroxia 2. Capturing the spirit of old-school SHMUPS, it isn’t especially long, but these kinds of shooters rarely are. Focusing more on replayability with branching mission paths, a customizable ship, and New Game+, it fills a niche sorely missing on modern platforms.

Read our full Habroxia 2 review.

Halo Infinite

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: While there are some improvements that can be made, Halo: Infinite is a return to form for the storied FPS franchise.

Read our full Halo: Infinite review.

Hitman 3

Publisher: IO Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Series S, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Hitman 3 brings to a close one of gaming's great trilogies with one last display of immaculate level design and intoxicating mood from IO Interactive.

Read our full Hitman 3 review.

Humankind

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Move over Civilization, there's a new strategy sheriff in town, and it's called Humankind. Amplitude Studios knocked this out of the park.

Read our full Humankind review.

It Takes Two

Publisher: EA
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Series S, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: It Takes Two is the culmination of a decade of novel co op gaming ideas, and that makes it one of 2021's best games no matter what else comes out.

Read our full It Takes Two review.

Judgment Remastered

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryo Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Judgment remastered is a fine return for 2019’s Yakuza spin-off. Though all of its changes are purely technical, it's the best version of this detective thriller.

Read our full Judgment Remastered review.

Jurassic World Evolution 2

Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Jurassic World Evolution 2 builds on the foundation of its predecessor to create a memorable and addictive park management sim.

Read our full Jurassic World Evolution 2 review.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Publisher: Ember Lab
Developer: Ember Lab
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Kena Bridge of Spirits is a charming adventure that packs a ton of heart, as well as a wealth of engaging systems.

Read our full Kena: Bridge of Spirits review.

King of Fighters 14: Ultimate Edition

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SNK
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: King of Fighters 14 Ultimate Edition really is just the original game with all the DLC automatically added. There’s no other change to the base game. If you missed it the first time around, this is still a fine way to get into the series.

Read our full King of Fighters 14: Ultimate Edition review.

Last Stop

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Variable State
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Variable State rejects one-hit-wonder status with its long-awaited follow-up, Last Stop, a game that feels equal parts arthouse and blockbuster.

Read our full Last Stop review.

Little Nightmares 2

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Little Nightmares 2 is bigger and better than the original, offering up a larger world to explore and all new enemies waiting to devour you.

Read our full Little Nightmares 2 review.

Littlewood

Publisher: SmashGames
Developer: Sean Young
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Littlewood's warm setting, deep customization, and endearing characters make it one of the better farm-sims on Nintendo Switch.

Read our full Littlewood review.

Loop Hero

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Four Quarters
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Loop Hero blends a number of influences and ideas for a time-bending adventure that's familiar but refreshing.

Read our full Loop Hero review.

Mario Golf: Super Rush

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Between all of the positives on offer in Mario Golf: Super Rush, it's hard to find a complaint for anyone looking to play this in a way that you'd expect from other titles in Nintendo's Switch catalog. Even if things could be a little deeper or more difficult, this game is just too much good, old-fashioned fun to let those things get in the way. 

Read our full Mario Golf: Super Rush review.

Mario Party Superstars

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: NDcube
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Mario Party Superstars is the best of classic Mario Party in one package, and it's just as glorious as it's ever been.

Read our full Mario Party Superstars review.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a surprisingly compelling single-player adventure that packs in some real emotion, despite a few shortcomings.

Read our full Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy review.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Publisher: EA
Developer: Bioware
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Though it shows its age in spots, Mass Effect is still as mesmerizing today as it ever was. The Legendary Edition is a fully-featured revival of one of gaming's greatest stories.

Read our full Mass Effect Legendary Edition review.

Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Metro Exodus is back in a high-octane enhanced edition to push your new gaming hardware to the limit. For newcomers eager to put their new hardware through its paces, this is both a visual wonder and a generally great game.

Read our full Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition review.

Metroid Dread

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Mercury Steam
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Metroid finally returns with a new sequel, and it’s exactly what we expect from the series. It’s a fine return to form for Samus with a huge world to explore but definitely doesn’t reinvent the wheel.

Read our full Metroid Dread review.

MLB The Show 21

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment 
Developer: Sony San Diego Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: MLB The Show 21 isn't as flashy as its cover star. Lacking many overhauls to its modes, this year's game focuses on a decent laissez-faire story mode, a cool new Stadium Creator, and more of the superb baseball sim gameplay that has earned the series its reputation as one of the best Sony exclusives. 

Read our full MLB The Show 21 review.

Monster Hunter Rise

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Monster Hunter Rise as it stands might be one of the easiest games in the series, but it's also one of the most flexible and ultimately satisfying in each and every regard, and for that, it deserves full marks.

Read our full Monster Hunter Rise review.

My Friend Peppa Pig

Publisher: Outright Games
Developer: Petoons Studio
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: My Friend Peppa has the unenviable task of convincing parents their young kids deserve video games. For the families that don't shy from the medium, this is a delightful new way to play together.

Read our full My Friend Peppa Pig review.

NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139 ... 

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139 is an upgraded version of the original NieR, and it improves on almost all aspects to offer something for both newcomers and veterans alike.

Read our full NieR Replicant review.

Nightslink

Publisher: Noiseminded
Developer: Noiseminded
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Sometimes we wake from a dream and wish we could recall its details. Sometimes we're trapped in a nightmare and wish we could wake at all. Nightslink feels like a bit of both.

Read our full Nightslink review.

New Pokemon Snap

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: New Pokemon Snap delights at every turn, offsetting a grindy mid-game with a parade of charming Pokemon in this cozy on-rails photo adventure.

Read our full New Pokemon Snap review.

NEO: The World Ends With You

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 10/10

What we said: NEO: The World Ends with You is everything a fan of the series could ever ask for in a sequel. This isn’t just only the best JRPG released in 2021 so far, but perhaps one of the best games this year, period. It’s simply incredible.

Read our full NEO: The World Ends With You review.

Nioh Collection

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Team Ninja
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Nioh Collection brings two of the most satisfying last-gen games to next-gen, offering improvements both new and returning players are sure to love.

Read our full Nioh Collection review.

Pac-Man 99

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Arika
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Pac-Man 99 follows deftly in the footsteps of Nintendo’s Tetris 99 to provide a near-perfect multiplayer Pac experience.

Read our Pac-Man 99 review.

Persona 5 Strikers

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Persona 5 Strikers is a fantastic sequel to the original game. It's fun, stylish, and sleek, a road trip to remember.

Read our full Persona 5 Strikers review.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: ILCA
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Despite some rough edges, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the best of modern and classic Pokemon.

Read our full review of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

Psychonauts 2

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Double Fine
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Psychonauts 2 is a brilliant, thoughtful sequel and one of the most creative experiences of the last generation.

Read our full Psychonauts 2 review.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an exemplary PS5 game, showing full well what the system is capable of — all while masterfully reviving a beloved series for the new generation.

Read our full Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.

Resident Evil Village

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Resident Evil Village has some of the biggest scares in the series to date, but it also has a peculiar feel to it, like a lot of story and gameplay was chopped out before launch.

Read our full Resident Evil Village review.

Resident Evil 4 VR

Publisher: Oculus Studios
Developer: Armature Studio
Platforms: Oculus Quest (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Resident Evil 4 VR is a brilliant port of an already fantastic game and the ideal way to experience Capcom's classic.

Read our full Resident Evil 4 VR review.

Returnal

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Housemarque
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Returnal is a tightly designed roguelike with some of the best gameplay the genre can provide, and it's the first game since Demon's Souls to provide a reason to own a PS5.

Read our full Returnal review.

Riders Republic

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Riders Republic boasts an open world full of exciting challenges, scenic views, and the freedom to tackle anything as you wish, making it a surprise hit for 2021.

Read our full Riders Republic review.

SaGa Frontier Remastered

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: You'll be hard-pressed to find many RPGs that are so enthralling from a combat and mechanical perspective, that suck you in with a myriad of questions about more than just story and ultimately compel you to do it again and again. 

Read our full SaGa Frontier Remastered review.

Scarlet Nexus

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Scarlet Nexus is slick, stylish, smartly executed, and just all-around cool.

Read our full Scarlet Nexus review.

Scourgebringer

Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Flying Oak Games
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Like so many indies before it, roguelike Scourgebringer has found its true home on the PlayStation Vita. 

Read our full Scourgebringer review.

Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne Remastered

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Shin Megami Tensei 3 remastered might show its age in some places, but its narrative excellence remains unaltered.

Read our full Shin Megami 3: Nocturne Remastered review.

Shin Megami Tensei V

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Shin Megami Tensei V is a triumph, boasting a stellar narrative and combat system with unique style all its own.

Read our full Shin Megami Tensei V review.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon

Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Vine
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon brings one of the best puzzle games of the year while staying true to its roots.

Read our full Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon review.

Skul: The Hero Slayer

Publisher: Neowiz Games
Developer: SouthPAW Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: As endearing as it is challenging, Skul: The Hero Slayer takes the rogue-lite mechanics you know and adds some flair of its own and a unique take on the fantasy narrative.

Read our full Skul: The Hero Slayer review.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2

Publisher: CI Games
Developer: CI Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 delivers one of the best shooters of the year, with intense sniping, skillfully crafted progression, and engaging levels.

Read our full Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 review.

Solar Ash

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Heart Machine
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Solar Ash is a complete package, with stellar gameplay, a well-told story, and a realized world ripe for exploring.

Read our full Solar Ash review.

Song of Horror (Console Edition)

Publisher: Raiser Games
Developer: Protocol Games
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Whereas so many modern indie horror games can feel like on-rails haunted hayrides, Song of Horror keeps players on their toes.

Read our full Song of Horror review.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Aspyr
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Overall, KOTOR on Nintendo Switch is well worth picking up. Not only is it relatively cheap at $15, it's still one of the very best RPGs you can play. And it's high on the list of the best Star Wars games available. There's a reason people want more KOTOR.

Read our full KOTOR Switch review.

Subnautica: Below Zero

Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The follow-up to Subnautica offers more of the same intriguing mix of gorgeous underwater exploration, survival and crafting, and fascinating alien intrigue. 

Read our full Subnautica: Below Zero review.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: With some of the cleverest level designs and a boundless sense of joy, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is essential playing for any Mario fan.

Read our full Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury review.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is the best of classic Monkey Ball with some fantastic new touches to keep things interesting, though accessibility takes a back seat in these remakes.

Read our full Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania review.

Tails of Iron

Publisher: United Label
Developer: Odd Bug Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Out of humble materials, Odd Bug Studios have created a rich, beautiful, and thrilling fantasy world in Tails of Iron.

Read our full Tails of Iron review.

Tales of Arise

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Tales of Arise heralds a brilliant new dawn for the series and is one of the best RPGs of the last generation.

Read our full Tales of Arise review.

The Artful Escape

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Beethoven & Dinosaur
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Artful Escape is a kaleidoscopic coming-of-age story that is a joy to move through, even if the actual gameplay is sometimes hardly there.

Read our full review for The Artful Escape.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Despite a few pacing issues, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes the series to new heights with its splendid characters, storytelling, and setting.

Read our full Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Tantalus Media
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Skyward Sword HD on Switch still suffers from backtracking and gimmicks, but its clever dungeons and engaging narrative make it one of the best games in the series.

Read our full Skyward Sword HD review.

UnderMine

Publisher: Thorium
Developer: Thorium
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: UnderMine on Switch is a strong, quirky roguelike full of personality that strikes a healthy balance between challenge and accessibility.

Read our full UnderMine review.

Unpacking

Publisher: Humble Bundle
Developer: Witch Beam
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Unpacking is simple in concept but complex, interesting, and ultimately meditative in execution. Simply put, it's delightful.

Read our full Unpacking review.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a quaint game that doesn't bring anything exceptionally new to the genre, but it is undeniably charming.

Read our full Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars review.

WarioWare: Get It Together

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: WarioWare: Get It Together is probably one of the best and most frantic multiplayer games on the Nintendo Switch.

Read our full WarioWare: Get It Together review.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Heart of the Forest

Publisher: Walkabout
Developer: Different Tales
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A well-done and intelligent choose your own text adventure set in the venerable World of Darkness Werewolf RPG universe makes for a satisfying bit of interactive fiction.

Read our full Heart of the Forest review

Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife

Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Developer: Fast Travel Games
Platforms: Oculus Quest (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife is a thrilling VR horror game that engrosses on a level not seen since last year's Half-Life: Alyx Jeff sequence.

Read our full Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife review.

Wreckfest

Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Wreckfest is back with a fine next-gen port, going that extra mile with some wonderfully chaotic gameplay.

Read our full Wreckfest review.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is an outstanding RPG and a big step forward for Ys, with superb story, combat, and characters — plus one of the best settings in the series.

Read our full Ys IX: Monstrum Nox review.

That's it for our list of the best, highest-scored games of 2021. What were your favorite games? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Stay Here: An Interview With the Creators of Before Your Eyes https://www.gameskinny.com/61yxr/stay-here-an-interview-with-the-creators-of-before-your-eyes https://www.gameskinny.com/61yxr/stay-here-an-interview-with-the-creators-of-before-your-eyes Mon, 08 Nov 2021 09:54:58 -0500 Mark Delaney

Though several weeks and a few major video game launches remain on the 2021 release calendar, I can't imagine any of them affecting me as much as GoodbyeWorld Games' Before Your Eyes. It arose out of nowhere for me after I learned of it via word-of-mouth in the springtime from another outlet's glowing review.

As it turns out, that word-of-mouth would continue to spread like wildfire following its release in April. Today, Before Your Eyes is widely considered a surprise Game of the Year candidate among those who have played it. That's owed to its novel gameplay concept of webcam-enabled blinking to advance time, as well as its gut-punch of a story that seems to devastate anyone who finds it.

Recently, I was able to chat with two of the game's developers, Lead Writer and Creative Director, Graham Parkes, as well as Game Director and Composer, Oliver Lewin. During our hour-long talk, we touched on the seven-year journey of Before Your Eyes, whether its intended emotional turmoil is ever numbed by working so closely on it, and more. 

*Note: There are spoilers ahead! If you haven't played Before Your Eyes, do that first, then come back.*

Before Your Eyes is just a 90-minute game, and yet it took seven years between concept and launch on PC and Mac earlier this year. The project, Parkes told me, was born out of a senior capstone at USC by Goodbyeworld Games founder, Will Hellwarth. Hellwarth plotted the initial concept of telling a story where time advances when the player blinks in an introduction to game dev class. Parkes and Lewin joined Hellwarth to mold the concept into something playable.

Then a funny thing happened: The game, back then titled Close Your, started to win awards. First, a Developer's Choice Award at IndieCade 2014, then Best Student Game at Independent Games Festival the following year.

Together, the group felt like they had their "entry into the scene," Lewin said, and the fact that they found themselves "brushing shoulders with a lot of people that we looked up to was very inspiring. Like, I remember seeing Austin Wintory walking around, like, 'Oh, cool. One of the coolest composers there is.'"

The early successes helped keep the game afloat, at least as an idea.

"It's not like we were seven years full-time working on this," Parkes told me. "Off of those two awards, we said, 'We don't want to stop working on this thing.'" But its small beginnings meant people had to move on to some extent, find other work. "We wanted to keep it alive. So we did a Kickstarter."

The 2016 Kickstarter looked like a success — it finished about $10,000 over its base goal of $25,000 in pledges — but Parkes said the team bit off much more than it could chew, "like a lot of Kickstarter projects."

"The plan was to kind of complete it on nights and weekends and kind of, you know, do the real indie bootstrap thing with it," he added. But things always got in the way. After receiving financial investment in 2018, presumably from eventual publisher Skybound Games, the team was able to hire people on a full-time basis and commit wholeheartedly to the already four-year-old project.

Three years later, the game would launch after two name changes — the second name, Coda, was already earning buzz as an unrelated indie film, causing the game devs to ditch the name. Poetically, the project that would come to be known as Before Your Eyes once more took home some hardware from IndieCade, the 2021 Jury Prix. 

With the award show serving as unintentional bookends to the game's evolution, I asked the pair how they think about its success this year after they spent the better part of a decade working on it, especially as Before Your Eyes continues to garner Game of the Year consideration from countless outlets.

"I never expected that we'd be in a position where like, every day, there'd be emails from people sometimes that are quite lengthy," Lewin told me. "And some of them are very personal. And so we're grateful for that, as creators, you know, the generosity on behalf of some of our fans telling us why it resonated with them so much."

The developers also spoke to going down the rabbit hole of fan reactions given that Before Your Eyes is so stream-friendly, which I myself know very well, as I've made a months-long habit out of watching streamers play through the final few heart-wrenching moments.

"It's kind of a treasure trove, you know," Lewin said."Whether it's YouTube comments or the [Twitch] chat room, or just listening to streamers kind of express their opinions as they're playing. Because you learn new things, or you're reminded of things that are years old, that you kind of forgot about."

"It was a pretty magical first week, like, Twitch became kind of where we all were living," Parkes added, contrasting the launch of the team's first game with that of a movie from his filmmaking background. "Even if you make a movie, you go to a screening. It's not like you have a camera on every audience member's face. There's something about putting a game out in the world where you get to literally see the effects that your work has, like on a micro-level on people's emotions."

"I don't think we expected it," said Lewin, sharing an anecdote that captured the game's earliest, and ultimately trendsetting, hours in the public.

"Right after it launched [at 5 a.m. local time], one of us checked Twitch and was like, 'Oh, there's someone streaming the game.' And we were like, 'This is amazing. We get to watch someone play it. Let's see if there are any bugs.' Then kind of towards the end, it was like, 'Wait there's another person playing. I'm gonna go check out that person's stream.' And it was kind of non-stop, and we all just kind of got addicted." 

While that launch period was one of elation, working on such a sad game for so many years might eventually numb one to the experience they're trying to craft, but the duo explained how they were able to rediscover that somberness at various moments during development.

"It definitely comes in waves. You lose your objectivity, and then you get hit by it fresh again," Lewin told me. "Like when you do the recording sessions, you're sitting in there with the headphones on and you hear the actors bringing life to it in a way that you hadn't foreseen or been prepared for. It's like it's hitting you: 'Damn, you know, I was just in this funeral scene, tweaking things for hours, and I'm feeling sad.'"

Parkes echoed the sentiment and commended the performances from the pair of real-life friends that portray the story's parents, Sarah Burns and Eric Edelstein. "I just sort of knew that whatever I wrote, we'd go into a very kind of, you know, safe space, and we'd be able to workshop it, and they'd bring themselves to it," he said, revealing that he wrote the parts specifically for the pair.

But how does one write characters who know they will outlive their child? As a parent of two, I likened the experience to watching a horror movie, where I am blanketed by the fact that it's all for show. I can grapple with it in that moment, then return to my kids, who are fortunately healthy. But for the writer, it's a long and arduous task to deliver those crucial scenes with the necessary devastation, even as Before Your Eyes tries to let a little light in too.

"When you realize that the story is going there, you kind of, as a writer, you get a little scared. 'Am I gonna be able to pull this off?'" admitted Parkes, who added that his own time spent sick and bedridden as a kid was there for him to draw from, even as his experiences were never as dire as protagonist Benjamin Brynn's.

Though so much can be said about its inventive webcam gameplay, for me the greatness of Before Your Eyes is best represented in one late scene.

When you are about 10 minutes away from Benny closing his eyes for good, you rejoin him and his ferryman companion. The ferryman rows him through a non-denominational version of an afterlife, toward a Gatekeeper that resembles Benny's childhood pet. The ferryman, who will be judged as well based on the strength of the stories he brings to the gatekeeper, bellows out the true story of Benjamin Brynn for the first and only time.

"Gatekeeper, before you sits the soul of a child who died before he could grow old." He continues, but it's that exact moment that hit me in the gut when I first played it. It's torn me up all year, really, and it's that moment I've sought out regularly online like some sort of cathartic high. I'll find a streamer's VOD and cut to the 80 or so minute marker in the playthrough. Then I watch as they fall apart on camera, just as I did when I reviewed the game back in April.

For me, that moment is the most beautiful part, because it's when we can no longer evade the story's tragic reality. Some players can surely see disaster coming but don't yet have it all cleared up, while others are certainly less sure what they've seen to that point. But in that moment, there are no more mysteries.

"The way Graham wrote [the ferryman] is that he's also on his own kind of journey," Lewin said, "because he's nervous about his performance and his kind of big moment on stage, so to speak. And while you're kind of full-throttle, recognizing the realities and the kind of tragedies of the story at that moment, he's kind of coming into his own."

"[Voice actor Steven Friedrich] played it with no preciousness," added Graham, "no sense of underlying underlining the sentiment with that character. I do think that sometimes you kind of want to leave it up to interpretation. At that point, you just want to tell people what's going on. And that might be a moment of that, where it's just like, you know what's been happening, but you haven't maybe fully processed it, and then that line kind of helps you. It helps it sink in."

There's no alternate, happier ending in Before Your Eyes, which according to Google Trends, is not what many players hoped to hear. The story of Benjamin, through whose eyes we see from infancy until his death 11 years later, and with a host of imagined happier moments in between, ends when his unnamed terminal illness takes his life in his bedroom as he's surrounded by his family.

Why end the game on such a brutal blow, especially when the story to that point offered some branching paths and was once envisioned to feature even more of them? 

"This story was always going to end the way that it did," Parkes told me. "Most games are about empowering you. And this is about taking power away. And it is sort of about humbling yourself to the fact that you're gonna have to blink eventually, you're gonna have to die eventually."

"Tragedy is practice for what might befall us in life," he added, quoting Aristotle. Thus Before Your Eyes is, as the team sees it, "a test run for death." 

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Before Your Eyes Review: Don't Look Away https://www.gameskinny.com/qacu7/before-your-eyes-review-dont-look-away https://www.gameskinny.com/qacu7/before-your-eyes-review-dont-look-away Fri, 09 Apr 2021 11:18:31 -0400 Mark Delaney

Sitting down to write this review, I found myself totally wordless for the first time ever in my career. I've started and stopped these first few sentences half a dozen times, deleting every attempt before this one, not knowing what to say or how to say it.

Eventually, I landed on these specific words that you're reading now, the ones cataloging my discomfort and frank awe after having played Before Your Eyes. I didn't know how else to do it justice other than to just sit in it.

Some long-winded intro about its novel game design or the unique qualities of interactive media just seemed improper as a starting place. This is a game that earns accolades in those areas, and I'll get to them, but its lasting impact is felt, overwhelmingly and long after you've hit the credits. Before Your Eyes is a game like no other, so it's no wonder it's brought me to the brink of paralysis. 

Before Your Eyes Review: Don't Look Away

Before Your Eyes' concept, and really its thesis, is in its name. You know how people say your life may flash before your eyes? This experimental indie from GoodbyeWorld Games tries to gamify that in such a manner I don't believe anyone else has ever done.

In Before Your Eyes, players relive the life experiences of a person named Benjamin Brynn. Played in first-person, Ben's first moment in the game is aboard a ferry to some sort of afterlife.

The Ferryman of this vessel, an anthropomorphic wolf who dreams of being a stellar orator, acts sort of as your advocate. He brings you to the doors of the gatekeeper, who determines if your life was extraordinary enough to earn safe passage into whatever's next. It's as though the place beyond purgatory is an exclusive club, and The Ferryman helps you fill out your application.

From there, you recount your life's tale to The Ferryman so he can prepare to grandiosely submit it for further scrutiny, and in this moment, the game's unique central mechanic takes over.

Using a webcam, Before Your Eyes tracks your face with particular attention paid to your blinking habits. With each scene, beginning from infancy and extending to much later in life, players will witness as much of a moment in time as they can before blinking.

Refrain from blinking and you'll linger in a scene long enough to hear more conversation, perhaps even all a scene has to offer. Blink earlier in the scene, and you'll lose part of the moment forever. Time jumps accompany every blink, so you never know if you're advancing to later that day or later that decade.

That's not to say each scene should be treated like an endurance test. On the contrary, there is something satisfying about blinking midscene and losing some of the memory. It's realistic in that way. When we recount our most cherished, or perhaps most painful, memories, we don't replay them shot-for-shot. They are hazy, perhaps even dreamlike, more evocative than documentary.

We confabulate to fill in the gaps we forget. We act first and rationalize after the fact. As years go by, this process only burrows itself further into our minds to the point where one day we have this narrative, like a storybook of our own lives, where every action had a clear consequence and every choice was apparent at the moment we made it, but it's hardly ever truly that way. 

Before Your Eyes captures this magnificently by giving players moments to affect the story in subtle ways, but one can never really see where it's going. Benjamin, like all of us, forms a story in his head that makes sense of his place on the ferry, but by the end of the 90-minute experience, you remember the universe is fueled by unpredictable chaos, not the sort of order Ben had devised for himself.

The webcam usage is opt-in and Before Your Eyes is totally playable as a more traditional narrative adventure, where mouse-clicks stand-in for your blinking. The game loses a bit of its magic when played this way, as a few crucial scenes that demand you don't blink or else reset a moment are given this cheat code of simply resisting the click rather than holding your eyes open. But some of the game's most powerful moments ask you to instead close your eyes, which I found were just as affecting without the camera so long as I still kept my eyes closed anyway. 

The voice acting is always at least very good and more often exceptional, while the stylized visuals offer a painterly setting that comes into focus as Benjamin the infant begins to understand the world around him. As he grows older, you'll see his life from behind the camera, at his piano, and beside his best friend, each time through his artful eyes, which allows the game to get rather exploratory with its visuals.

Every scene includes only what's important to the memory, fittingly. No one could recall every tile or tree, car or cabinet, from even their happiest moment, so Ben instead remembers the important things like how his mother dressed on the day of his piano audition, or how his best friend wore her hair the night they snuck out to sleep under the stars. 

Whether it's played with or without the camera, the sights and sounds of Before Your Eyes are beautiful, often hauntingly so. Each scene has a purpose, there's not a moment wasted, and the small cast collectively pulls you an intimate portrayal of one person's life and the loved ones who surrounded him. Despite the supernatural introduction, this is a very grounded, human story about a boy, a family, a neighbor, and what a life well-lived might look like to those leaving it behind permanently.

So much of what makes Before Your Eyes unforgettable is tied to spoilers no one should ever have ruined for them, but if you're like me, the best endorsement one could give to this game is to know that it will break you.

Without a doubt, Before Your Eyes is one of the most memorable, cathartic, gut punches ever made in video games. Its unique use of blinking to advance the story is no gimmick either. It genuinely improves the game in a way only video games can really benefit from, by putting players behind Ben's eyes, daring them not to look away should they want to hold onto a moment just a bit longer.

Just when I'd think I had Before Your Eyes figured out, the proverbial rug would be pulled out from under me, knocking me down. This happened so many times in just 90 minutes that by the end I could hardly stand up anymore. This is a game that knows exactly what it wants to achieve and does it. Impressive enough even if it had modest goals, Before Your Eyes dreams bigger by introducing novel mechanics and telling a twisting story that would need to hide the magician's prestige until exactly the right moment. 

That's precisely how it played out for me, and I'd be surprised to hear anyone figures this one out before the game wants them to. This consistent excellence, accented most of all in the game's final minutes, makes the 90-minute experience my favorite game of 2021, and in fact, one of my most cherished games I've ever played.  

Before Your Eyes Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • An unforgettable tale examining what makes a life well-lived
  • Gorgeous visuals give the world an authentic but painterly tone
  • An inventive mechanic that uses your real-life blinking to play the game
  • Heartstring-tugging music hits hard
  • Has something to say and does so eloquently 

Cons

  •  Opting out of the webcam gameplay dampens some of the game's magic

Before Your Eyes is the kind of game that only comes around once or twice a decade. Its novel approach to the narrative adventure genre is genius and yet unlikely to ever be duplicated. It fits perfectly, but only really here, in Ben's story.

Just as Edith Finch and Firewatch before it told stories only games can tell and used mechanics we would likely never see borrowed elsewhere, Before Your Eyes feels like it's immediately timeless and permanently unique.

[Note: Skybound Games provided the copy of Before Your Eyes used for this review.]

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