Short, yet powerful, Before I Forget tackles its difficult subject matter with subtlety and sensitivity. The Finger Guns review.
My grandmother, Florence, was a strong woman. Glasgwegian women who lived through the Second World War always were. Fiercely independent, strong of will and committed to her beliefs, sometimes to a fault – she lived her life by her own rules.
And then the fall happened.
Leaving her house for a weekly sojourn to the bingo, she slipped on a piece of ice and badly fractured her arm. Perhaps it was purely coincidence, but that’s when the change began to occur. Shaken by the injury, my grandmother – for so long able-bodied – no longer wanted to leave the house. My grandmother – for so long independent and capable – started to rely on those around her to do things for her. My grandmother – for so long able-minded – began to forget things.
The gradual decline in her mental health – watching her become increasingly trapped in her own mind and memories – was horribly painful to witness, so I can’t even begin to imagine how nightmarish it was to live through. The reason I mention this is because I’ve just got finished playing Before I Forget, a first-person walking simulator of sorts – developed by indie studio, 3-Fold Games – that attempts to give you a brief glimpse into what it’s like to live with dementia.
You are put into the shoes of Sunita, a woman suffering from early onset dementia, who finds herself alone in her home. If you had no idea what the subject matter of this experience (feels wrong to refer to this as a game) was, you might think you were playing something in the mould of a Gone Home. Before I Forget slowly guides you around this home, allowing you to interact with various trinkets and items that will often trigger memories of a complicated past. These memories slowly unravel the story that explains both why Sunita is alone and, potentially, even the events that led to the onset of her condition.
In terms of how this experience works, this will be very familiar to anyone who has played a walking simulator before. Everything has a very methodical pace, ensuring you take in the detail around you, and manipulation of the objects you can interact with is generally very simple – often amounting to nothing more than rotating them. However, that interaction serves as a vital part of the game.
Given the often heartbreaking nature of the story playing out in front of you (some moments are genuinely upsetting), the fact that most interactions fill the rooms of Sunita’s home – largely devoid of colour and detail, reflecting Sunita’s mental state at times – with a little more colour and warmth juxtaposes that heartbreak and sadness with brief moments of uplifting positivity. Before I Forget also seeks to break up the day-to-day of Sunita’s current life with allusions to her previous life – you learn fairly quickly that Sunita was a pre-eminent figure in her vocation’s field, and some flashbacks show why she chose to enter that field and allow you to experience things from a different perspective.
It’s a reminder that there are moments of clarity and light for those who suffer degenerative mental conditions – that there are reasons to be hopeful and persistent. The writing of the story is subtle and nuanced, and successfully avoids the pitfalls that emotional interactive experiences like this can often fall into, feeling neither overly cloying or unnecessarily exploitative. It’s easy to see that 3-Fold Games have taken the subject matter very seriously, working with medical professionals and positive mental health charity, Gaming The Mind to ensure the experience is as genuine as possible.
It also helps that Before I Forget is a brief experience, clocking in at roughly an hour, start to finish. It likely would have been possible to extend that length and go deeper into the story, but that also would have increased the likelihood that the overall message would have become heavy-handed or even condescending. As it is, what is here is concise without feeling fleeting. Even now, a few days removed from completion, I still think about what I experienced regularly and feel like I now understand a little more what my grandmother experienced.
Brief and concise, but being no less affecting for its brevity, Before I Forget is heart-breaking and uplifting in equal measure. The framing of the story induces a genuine sympathy and understanding of what those who suffers such conditions go through, but successfully stops short of crossing the line into patronising schmaltz. I urge all of you to experience it for yourself and make sure you avoid spoilers for maximum effect. I cannot recommend this enough.
Before I Forget is available on Xbox Series X|S (review platform), Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: 3-Fold Games
Publisher: 3-Fold Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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