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before i forget
FYI, not part of the game

As neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel once stated, “Memory is everything. Without it we are nothing”. Our entire identity, and pretty much everything we do is predicated on memory. Consciously or not, we use our past as a point of reference on how to act in the present in order to achieve our goal – whatever it may be – in the future. I mean, that’s the general trajectory of life in a nutshell, isn’t it? So what happens when we not only start to lose our memories but lose the ability to retain new ones as well? It’s a terrifying thought, to say the least.

While many games – Night in the Woods, Celeste, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – have successfully tackled mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, there haven’t been any that deal with dementia specifically. Nor is it anywhere near as widely discussed or acknowledged in the current cultural zeitgeist. 

So how does the aptly titled Before I Forget (named after the book I’d imagine, rather than the song) deal with such complex subject matter? Is it successful in accurately and effectively portraying the experience of a victim of such a serious mental affliction? Let’s find out.


Not to make it all about me but as a reviewer of this game, I think it’s necessary to disclose that I lost my father to a kind of early on-set dementia – Pick’s disease – when I was very young, and have pretty much no memory of him when he was himself. In fact, one of the earliest memories I have is the confused, almost struggling look on my father’s face when – probably for the umpteenth time –  my mother introduced me to him as his son. 

So as you can tell, the subject matter of Before I Forget is pretty personal to me, and so this review should be read with the understanding that my perspective might be biased. Obviously, not everyone who plays this is going to come from a similar context.

Before I Forget is a walking simulator-ish experience by 3-Fold Games, a micro-studio from game developers Claire Morwood & Chella Ramanan, and takes roughly an hour to complete.

First of all, if you’ve personally been affected by dementia in your family/friends, I recommend you go play the game blind to experience it as purely as possible. While I won’t be spoiling any plot points here, some of the gameplay mechanics and powerful sequences will be mentioned.

Forgotten Identity, Reclaimed

before i forget

You play as ex-cosmologist Sunita Appleby, who, after being diagnosed with dementia, was forced to retire young. The whole game takes place in her house, and reminiscent of games like Gone Home, the majority of Before I Forget is spent exploring the residence and interacting with items, gradually learning about her (former) life.

As you interact with items around the house, they act as memory triggers – you get brief flashes of Sunita’s past that provide context to you as the player, while simultaneously also helping Sunita herself remember her past more clearly. 

Interacting with an umbrella in the storage closet, for example, results in Sunita reminiscing about the origins of her relationship with her significant other in Amsterdam. Letters from her parents about (classic Indian) things like pushing her into starting a family soon, while fleshing out her character, also serve as a painful reminder of a future that could’ve been. Magazines, photos of her graduation and marriage, post-it notes around the house, e-mails on her desktop, etc. do a great job of providing important details about her past. I’ve always been a fan of environmental story-telling and it works well here. 

before i forget
I just wish the text didn’t take up so much of the screen

There are also a few star chart sections in Before I Forget – where you trace out various constellations – which tie into her fascination with space and the stars while also exploring an Indian mythological tale that’s connected with that particular constellation. These sections, as does the rest of the game, feature top-notch voice-acting and also detail the origin of Sunita’s interest in the field – the stories that her aunt Leela used to tell her as a kid. 

It becomes apparent how that led to her pursuing cosmology, and becoming exceedingly prominent in the field – winning awards, being featured in magazines, etc. This only makes it that much more tragic when you realize that she has no recollection of her numerous accomplishments, and has no knowledge of her life well-lived. She has essentially lost a huge part of her identity. 

A Day In The Life

before i forget

The easily-missable board of identical post-it notes at the very beginning of the game, all saying the same thing, illustrates just how long she’s been stuck in this hellish loop of discovery, ‘undiscovery’, and rediscovery, where her memories are constantly fading and jumbled and nothing is certain. The more you think about it, the more heartbreaking it is. 

While all of this is happening, there’s also the mystery of where Sunita’s husband is, which serves as a driving element of Before I Forget. Though the relationship aspect of the narrative didn’t necessarily impress me – it was kinda clichéd and slightly melodramatic for my taste – it’s still engaging to learn more about their relationship and what transpired. And Sunita doesn’t know exactly what happened that resulted in his absence in the house, she still believes they live together, which, again, is goddamn heartbreaking. She’s tasked with the tragic task of rediscovering over and over again what happened to the stable relationship she once had. 

Coming to the visuals and sound, her husband, a talented pianist also serves as a great reason to justify the classical piano soundtrack, which is really solid. Each room at the start of the game is black & white, and watching the color seep into your environment as you interact with the items in the room is both satisfying and serves as a brilliant metaphor of Sunita reclaiming her identity. That was a pretty genius aspect of Before I Forget in particular. 

The gameplay is generally quiet and has a lot of down-time which might’ve been boring in other games, but here, it had me contemplating the nature of identity, memory, etc. so it worked in the game’s favor. Also, certain points in Before I Forget – like sitting down on a chair, for example – results in a timelapse and a view out the window of the clouds passing by accompanied by beautiful piano music. This, in my interpretation at least, is symbolic of the meaninglessness of time that results from constantly unstable memory. Without memory to count on, does time even have meaning? Scientists have argued forever whether the concept of time is even real or if its just our limited capacity of perception that makes us resort to the concept of time to make sense of reality.

Comfort In Serenity

As for the tone of Before I Forget, I realize I might’ve made it sound incredibly depressing and disheartening but it’s not. The timelapses I mentioned are blissful and serene – the weight on your shoulders that is your mortality disappears with the concept of time. The immortality of the stories behind the constellations that you remember offers some comfort and a certain sense of awe. The countless happy memories that are highlighted as you interact with items clarify just how good of a life Sunita has had.

Somehow, Before I Forget accomplishes the very difficult task of walking the line between depressing and terrifying, unrealistically optimistic, and hopeful. While the very concept of such an illness is depressing, the portrayal here doesn’t neglect the peaceful, almost blissfully serene aspect of it as well, and as someone who watched his father suffer as a kid, this is a phenomenally comforting thought.

The only negatives that majorly affected my enjoyment of the game: the font style was just not to my liking and the font size was way too big even when set to the minimum. 

Standout Sequences

If you feel like you already know too much, now is the time to skip to the verdict. Though it’s spoiler-y, I couldn’t not highlight these sequences in the review, they are just too amazing to omit.

In the first one, you’re tasked with going to the bathroom. I’ll just leave it at that. Manipulating the visuals and the color in this sequence, with the world getting progressively darker and a static noise louder, the game does a great job in portraying what that inner panic would feel like. 

The other one is a flat out masterpiece of a sequence that’s genuinely terrifying, in which you walk through an endless hallway while a beautiful piano tune plays, accompanied by a weeping violin as the walls on either side of you fill up with newspapers. The music gets louder and faster, layered with overlapping voices, the doors on either side of you close as you walk past, and the hallway turns into a maze. The whole experience, combined with the metaphorical message behind it, floored me, not to mention left me with goosebumps. Before I Forget is worth playing for this alone in my opinion: that’s how powerful I found this sequence.


Before I Forget is almost a masterpiece of the ‘walking simulator’ genre (not meant in a derogatory way). It makes use of the interactivity of the medium, creatively manipulates the visuals & sound, and features great voice-acting to tell a gripping story about memory, love, and loss of a life well-lived. It is a great example of the often overlooked and underestimated capacity that videogames – as an inherently interactive medium – have of exploring complex issues in an engaging and powerful way.

As someone who has has been personally affected by dementia, this title was cathartic, therapeutic, and beautiful. I played it twice and can see myself playing it again. I have a proclivity to block that part of myself out and just avoid thinking about it, and this game honestly helped me process that, and the importance of that can’t be understated. Plus, as an Indian, I appreciate the representation. I genuinely can’t wait to see what 3-Fold Games comes up with next.


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