The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
In the Internet era, people are forming complex
relationships, uttering "I love you," before ever being in the same room
together. Even so, one universal truth remains: Relationships are hard. Cibele
is an honest look at Internet communication, love, and sex. The tale is highly
personal, but it evokes an eerie feeling of déjà vu. You've probably had a
similar experience or know someone who has formed a bond this way.
Cibele is unlike anything I've played. The story unfolds in
pieces as you read emails, look at photos, and play games on a personal
computer in 2009. The narrative is split into three acts (taking around two
hours total), allowing you to check the computer for new files to see how the
relationship has grown between two characters: Nina and Blake.
Each act has you logging in to a fictional MMORPG,
mindlessly attacking monsters as you listen to the voice chat. The MMO action
is simple and effective; you click on enemies to auto-attack, and you don't
have a health meter to worry about. This conveys the automatic process that MMO
players develop without getting bogged down in mechanics. Plus, it lets you
focus on the dialogue between the two main characters. These exchanges get
progressively more flirtatious and revealing, leading to sexy photo exchanges
and more innuendo. Watching the relationship unfold is exciting as you're
wondering just how much further it will go - it has a "will they or won't
Cibele's biggest strengths are that it's raw and honest. The
narrative is based on a true story, and developers Nina Freeman and Emmett
Butler play the roles of the main characters in the live-action scenes. The
live-actions scenes and voice chat conversations play out naturally, making the
experience feel all the more real. This story is Freeman's, and she puts
herself out there, showing her class poetry assignments, personal photos, and
old website templates. At times, you almost feeling like you're invading her
privacy because it gets so intimate. Freeman lets you get a glimpse into her
life that most people would hide under lock and key, which is admirable - but
at the same time, it makes me feel voyeuristic.
My favorite moments are when the two converse in the MMO's
private chat, discussing everyday topics at first and eventually going deeper. Many
people form connections playing games together, and Cibele's simulation of that
experience works well. While playing the MMO and chatting, you get messages
from other players and email alerts, putting you in the moment and making it
feel genuine. There's also something to be said about the intimate
conversations; the chats start to get more sexual and involved, but you're
still always left wondering just how much these two people revealed about their
real lives to one another. This mystery kept me hanging on, intrigued to see
the tale through.
Unfortunately, the finale doesn't end up as satisfying as
watching the relationship unfold. The ending is abrupt, providing you little
closure. We see so much of the relationship evolve, but the later part of the
arc is missing and left unaddressed. It feels like someone yelled, "Cut!" too
soon. I liked how Cibele is set up to explore the digital age and
relationships, but it doesn't let its characters offer much reflection on the
subject matter. In addition, some of the live-action video feels like a missed
opportunity to flesh out the characters, since they don't add much to the
journey beyond the growing sexual nature.
Games are continuing to evolve. Just like with
other media, such as movies and books, various genres are surfacing. Cibele
shows an intriguing direction for games to become representations of their
creators' real lives, almost like confessionals. As we've seen more in recent
years, developers are confronting tougher topics, such as sex, depression, and
death. This is an enlightening movement that's still in its infancy. Much like
Cibele, these early lessons have revealed a few stumbling blocks, but I'm glad
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.