Before I Forget — Memories in Watercolour

Videogames often place us in roles where we play super-powered heroes, warriors, or mystical beings. Before I Forget places you firmly in the role of an older lady, Sunita, who is dealing with early-onset dementia. The story that unfolds is an impactful and insightful view into a world which many will not know about, and those that do will recognise far too well.

3-Fold Games originally created Before I Forget during a game jam event in Bristol. With “borders” as the theme, 3-Fold Games took an imaginative approach to the idea. Their original creation went on to win the game jam choice award. This led to them expanding on it and to creating this hour-long narrative experience.

Through the eyes of Sunita, players experience a stylistic impression of a monochrome world devoid of meaning. Like many narrative games, you are tasked with piecing together the story with what clues you find. Players interact with the environment and wander through the house inspecting mundane objects. When looking at a photograph, or a note on the table, memories are triggered, and the world fills with colour. Sunita, voiced wonderfully by Anjali Kunapaneni, draws the player into the story — Sunita’s pain and worry over finding Dylan is our pain and worry. Her confusion is ours. We are living in her hazy, memory-filled home with no true understanding of why we can’t open all the doors. 

Before I Forget‘s painterly art style creates a beautiful and tragic world. Sunita’s home becomes a puzzle to unlock. It becomes a way for the player to experience some of the symptoms of memory loss in some unsettling ways. Something as simple as finding the bathroom becomes a desperate quest. Each door in Sunita’s home suddenly all looks the same and leads to the same dark cupboard as we get trapped in a loop. Deep holes that appear out of nowhere in an otherwise naturalistic game instill a sense of foreboding. The imperfect painted visuals give the player no useful information, the sense of desperation an echo of what Sunita is feeling.

Before I Forget living room watercolour
Before I Forget protagonist, Sunita, fills her world with colour as she remembers

In contrast to these harrowing moments, are moments of pure joy as the player joins Sunita in living through happy memories that made her the person she is. From star-gazing to moments in the rain — it is all-important.

This experience is carried further by the music that underscores the game. Tuning a radio to a favourite station sparks a memory of music and draws you into the story further. There was a moment where a piano piece picked up and the game let me watch the world go by out the window. I found myself stopping to enjoy the scene. I let time go and allowed the music to play out for a while, without caring for anything else. Personally, I think the moments where we slow down and reflect is exactly what the game is hoping we would do. It is an attempt to get the player to understand the difficulty some people face when trying to remember. But also, the happiness in remembering something and then enjoying the feeling.

Before I Forget Dinner time at night
Before I Forget highlights the loneliness of dementia

The challenge of the game lies in trying to move forward to better understand a condition as broad as dementia. The puzzles are never taxing or challenging for the player, the game is focused on guiding us through Sunita’s story of love, loss, and a life well-lived. It is an attempt to provide a sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of dementia and memory loss through a relatable experience. And it does it well.

Before I Forget is available on Steam 16th July as well as being available in Humble Bundle’s Choice for June 2020.

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