Top Critic Average
"Cibele" is an important game, not a great one. None of its individual parts are exceptional in themselves. To a certain extent that's a virtue when we reflect on the fact that most video games are constructed around heroics. The game's conceptual force, however, is undeniable, presenting a clear blueprint for how video games can be used as a prop to explore everyday life.
This is a game about that drive to connect, to see others and yourself clearly. It's an experiment in how a creator might put themselves into a work and make a game that speaks honestly about their real life to the people who play it. Through Freeman's relationship with Ichi, it also illustrates how the distance between people shapes the way they understand each other, and how collapsing that distance can be a profound risk. It's the same risk that permeates a project like Cibele, both in the creation and the playing. In sharing so much, with a friend or a lover or an audience, you give up just as much control. What if they don't like what they see?
Finding yourself is difficult. Finding someone else is complicated. Cibele bears both burdens in a candid and empathetic glimpse of burgeoning love in the 21st century. So many games either waste or misunderstand their medium as a storytelling device while Cibele thrives inside of its own technology. By no coincidence, it's one of the most human and relatable games, too.
The gameplay of Cibele, in the form of the levels of Voltameri we're forced to play through, is something of a letdown… I was left to wonder how on earth Nina could spend so much of her time playing such a dull and boring game
Cibele has some things going for it, such as a narrative structure based on interaction with the main character's computer. It's a fairly predictable story told in a new way. Some parts of it were intriguing, but overall it didn't really wow me.
Cibele is a flawed game with a well-told story and certainly worth a playthrough. It didn't have any lasting impact on me, as the basis premise is well-worn territory, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this is both well-written and performed. I don't hesitate to recommend the game on a narrative level, but have some issues regarding the gameplay and presentation. Tightening up the controls, or tweaking how the game is presented, wouldn't have gone amiss.
With the game giving such an importance on the audio of conversations and the inclusion of real-life video scenes, one wonders if Cibele would have been better off as a YouTube short, instead of forcing itself into an interactive medium. Nevertheless, the game still manages to be a somewhat enjoyable tale of first love, even if it feels like a 'you had to be there for it' story.