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About the Story
integration necessitates evisceration
6th place out of 902 entries, Mood - Ludum Dare 25
praise from Harvey Smith (who worked on System Shock)
For deconstructing power fantasy; lovingly reminding me of System Shock, one of my favorite games of all time; for expanding the narrowly defined boundaries of video game subject matter; for excellent writing and a cutting sense of humor(?).
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Related reviews: porpentine
Play it if: you want a nearly-pure transformation of text into a visceral, cinematic experience.
Don't play it if: you have a weak stomach for just about anything that could reasonably be expected to make a human being queasy.
The first two words in this game are "wet" and "sticky". And if you think the use of sentence fragments as impressionistic descriptors is passť, the rest of Cyberqueen probably won't be to your taste, because what it mainly does - what it does best - is transplant the experience of fragmenting consciousness into writing.
Cyberqueen is a war between intimacy and grotesquery, violation and transformation. The tone and content draw from the erotic and the clinically repellent, switch between them and occasionally combine them. In a certain way it reminds me of the Guillermo del Toro film Pan's Labyrinth, which had the audacity to sew together a wondrous, childlike fantasy and a grim, horrifically real war story. In both cases, the achievement is admirable, though exhausting.
The tale itself reads something like a fusion of System Shock and parts of Ray Bradbury's The City. Interestingly enough the antagonist, while malevolent, is not entirely unsympathetic, though she certainly stretches and probably breaks the boundaries of what constitutes acceptable sympathetic behavior. In certain readings she might be taken to be the protagonist, albeit not the player character.
The nature of this work's structure makes me wonder if it can even be described as interactive fiction, because while you are ostensibly presented with alternative options the game is ultimately an extremely linear experience. You are certainly made to suffer the protagonist's fears, pains and frustrations, but the "interactivity" is illusory. ("Sorry to ruin your power fantasy," gloats the antagonist as she seals your fate.) "Cinematic prose", perhaps.
The story plays with themes of identity, both in an internal sense and in a physical sense; it preys on the communal horror of deformity and dysmorphia. Which is good - it's touching on things of great social relevance. But it doesn't really discuss them, preferring to let them come to fruition in a more emotional than intellectual sense. Forsaking both the pen and the sword, Cyberqueen attacks the human comfort zone by wielding itself like a chainsaw. This would be a flaw under other circumstances, but I get the distinct impression that this was the author's intended direction for the story and as a result I must call it a success.
So why five stars? Firstly, because it deftly exploits the medium in such a way as to charge up the emotional responses we are asked to give to the events of the story; and secondly, because it is a complete and unabashed triumph in terms of what it tries to be: a fleshy, palpitating tale of agonizing transformation that demands your attention.
This was my first Twine game and, needless to say, it summarized my future expectations and experiences with most Twine games I've had the misfortune to come across in the future. It starts out fairly typical; you wake up in a (mostly) abandoned space station with little idea of what's going on. Eventually, after getting through the introduction bit, you're given something that almost looks like a real piece of interactive fiction. You're in a place, there are other places in cardinal directions, and there's things you can look at. Splendid. It turns out that only one of these places even matters in the long run, so you go there, do some things, and here's where the game gives you the boot.
I'm not sure how to word this any better without getting spoilery, so if you're worried about spoilers, don't click it. It shouldn't take you long to get through the game anyway.
(Spoiler - click to show)Nothing you do in this game matters. You can cooperate with this AI, you can fight this AI, you can struggle against this AI, and it will all end in the exact same manner. Imagine if, in System Shock 2, you pick up a gun and then a cutscene plays where you're thrown around by electrical wires controlled by SHODAN, get laughed at and told you're worthless, get chopped up and turned into a robot, and then get a game over screen, and that was the entire game. That's essentially what CYBERQUEEN is.
"But it's playing on themes of helplessness and is subverting the players' expectations that they're going on some sort of fictional AI-buttkicking power fantasy!"
Big deal. It's not fun or all that intriguing to have nothing I do matter. If I wanted that I wouldn't be on a website claiming to be about INTERACTIVE fiction. I'd go and read it on some website for short stories or something.
It's not poorly written, by any means. I've seen far worse. It's just about as interactive as a roller coaster. You click some links, get a slightly different paragraph than if you clicked the other links, then it's back to the main text. None of my choices mattered in the slightest, and, ultimately, that doesn't make this or the vast majority of Twine games enjoyable at all.
This story reads like a prologue to the original System Shock from the point of view of one of the doomed colonists aboard Citadel station. If you've played SS, you remember the absolute unreal amount of gore and viscera and fragments of bodies that litter the hallways, all examples of the experimentation that the mad AI Shodan wrought upon the crew as she created her army of cyborg warriors that were your enemies in the game. This gives you a first person perspective of what that was like. Very gory, very visceral, very adult and would almost qualify as good enough to be one of the original computer logs in that game.
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I imagine that the interactive nature of IF would allow themes of fate and free will to be used powerfully. Perhaps the PC is given a glimpse of his or her future and the player tries to avoid it. Are there games in which this is done?...
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