2021 in review: Before I Forget? I’ll remember this masterpiece

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“It takes an hour to complete, but I’m still thinking about it eight months later.”

Hello! We’re continuing our look at some of the most memorable games and moments of 2021. Here’s Henry.

I had to remind myself about this year’s releases before choosing a moment that impacted me. Sinking countless hours into older JRPGs (looking at you Trails) didn’t help matters, and even the most generous editor would struggle accepting that. As a reviewer, I’ve gone through numerous big releases and had some fantastic experiences. Seeing the Great Ace Attorney finally localised is up there, Metroid’s 2D return was magnificent, and Mario Party continues infuriating my very core. Choosing a major gaming moment was tough, yet when I considered Before I Forget, there was no contest.

Launched last year on PC, Before I Forget jumped over to consoles back in April, hence the inclusion here. Much has already been written about 3-Fold Games’ incredible experience and while it takes an hour to complete, I’m still thinking about it eight months later. Playing as Dr. Sunita Appleby, we have the tale of an esteemed cosmologist who has retired after developing early-onset dementia. I lost my own great-grandmother to dementia eight years ago, so this quickly became an emotional journey for me.

Due to Sunita’s condition, events unfold like a mystery, split between the past she’s trying to recall and present-day challenges. Trying to find her husband, Dylan, you’ll examine different household objects to jog Sunita’s memory, ranging between old umbrellas to scientific achievements. Memories are scattered and seemingly nonsensical to the player, though there’s some brilliant environmental storytelling at play. Exploring her home shines a light on this situation.

Before I Forget trailer

However, when holes appear in the floor and doors don’t lead where you’d expect, exploring’s easier said than done. Dementia is primarily associated with forgetfulness, but the reality isn’t straightforward. It’s a range of neurological conditions affecting your brain, including challenges with mental clarity, and hallucinations. Conveying the illness’ full extent accurately through a game would be impossible, and the 3-Fold team were aware of these limitations. Instead, they offered a window to those unfamiliar with this condition, showing how it affects someone’s life.

Crucially, 3-Fold never depicts Sunita as someone to pity, choosing instead to celebrate her achievements in life. What we see is an accomplished individual, one who isn’t defined by her illness. The care put into this story is plainly apparent. Not everyone plays games searching for a profoundly emotional experience, and given the sensitive subject nature, I wouldn’t blame you for looking away. It’s utterly heart-breaking, incredibly compassionate, and absolutely beautiful all at once.

No one can truly understand dementia until we’ve been affected, though the team at 3-Fold’s clearly done their research, remarkably conveying the stark realities of this illness. By putting you directly in Sunita’s shoes, this game tells a story that films or books never could, showcasing this medium’s unique interactive beauty. Truthfully, I’m not sure I could ever go back, one playthrough is all anyone needs. That said, if you’re up for trying this out, I’d recommend giving Before I Forget that hour of your time. I’ve never experienced a game like this.

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