Cyborg Arena

by John Ayliff profile

Science Fiction
2021

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Number of Ratings: 11
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1-11 of 11


- Kinetic Mouse Car, July 30, 2022

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
E, December 15, 2021
by +-Mynx+ (None ya)
Related reviews: John Ayliff

This Game is amazing sure it's short but I really enjoyed it and plan to write about it (a Story of the characters I got and was while playing)This is great entertainment and I love how the littlest changes can lead to different endings I love the plot and multi options if there was a way to give money on here I'd 100% tip I don't see a problem with this game at all.

Note: this rating is not included in the game's average.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
More than just fisticuffs, December 1, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

The credits for Cyborg Arena include thank-yous to a large number of Patreon donors, and I can see how a game like this would be perfect for building a dedicated following on that platform: itís got a compelling and accessible hook, clean storytelling, lots of opportunities to customize the player characterís identity and key relationships, a complex but manageable set of mechanics, and a half-hour length thatís perfect for showcasing the impact of choices without letting things become unmanageable (and also makes it possible to finish new projects at a reasonable clip). Turns out this makes for a solid IF Comp entry too!

The premise here is sturdy, and well-communicated by the blurb Ė you guide a cyborg gladiator through a climactic fight Ė but everything is realized with more craft than it needs to be, from the grabby in medias res opening starting things off with adrenaline to the embedded character-defining flashbacks that go beyond the literal nuts and bolts of your stats to get at how you navigate the dog-eat-dog social milieu of the gladiator stables. While the worldbuilding doesnít go beyond whatís needed to support the big fight, thereís also some plausible social satire that I thought was well handled.

All this attention to bells and whistles (oh, and on that subject, the visual design is good without being overly fussy) doesnít come at the expense of the gameís core appeal, either. The fight involves juggling two distinct tracks Ė thereís a set of rock-paper-scissors combat options that depend on the stats youíve chosen for you and your opponent, but you also need to keep the audienceís interest high, which requires not repeating the same moves too many times. This means you have to mix things up and trade off fighting effectiveness against crowd appeal, sometimes taking a punch if it adds to the match's excitement. Itís not especially hard, but itís engaging to decide on your round-by-round approach, and this added complexity makes victory feels satisfying.

If I have a critique, itís that the game ends rather abruptly, and while there are lots of different ways the fight can conclude based on your decisions, thereís not much of a denouement laying out your characterís fate beyond the immediate events of the night. But since one of the key tenets of showmanship is to always leave the audience wanting more, itís hard to lay too much fault here Ė Cyborg Arena is already much more generous than it needs to be.

Highlight: The game takes a page from modern deckbuilders by disclosing what move your opponent is going to make each turn, meaning combat isnít a roll of the dice but requires strategic consideration of your options, as you consider both short-term success and your longer-term positioning in the fight overall.

Lowlight: I mentioned the abbreviated ending above, but I especially wanted a little more closure on the legal and social changes the game briefly sketches in Ė again, this is efficient worldbuilding but it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied at a lack of follow-through.

How I failed the author: Cyborg Arena is sufficiently short and player-friendly that I donít think I could have messed it up if I tried.


- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), November 15, 2021

- MoyTW, November 6, 2021

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One battle for all the marbles, November 1, 2021

Here is a very brief game where the player decides what moves to make in a single fight scene. There is some story woven in to give the game stakes, and plenty of choices to try out on replays. You get three kinds of moves to choose from, and the game makes it clear when each one should be used if you want to win. However, you are given several reasons you may not want a flawless victory. The game builds as the fight and the story continue until (Spoiler - click to show)one competitor has a choice whether or not to kill the other.
However, as soon as the kill is made or rejected, the game ends quickly. It really felt like you would get to experience some consequences one way or the other, so the abrupt conclusion was jarring
. There are enough variables to make playing again worthwhile. I thought it was pretty fun and implemented some good ideas.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Combat as trust, October 27, 2021
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Hereís what I like most: the fact that weíre playing a variant of rock-paper-scissors where you are told in advance what the opponentís move will be. Of course this makes it utterly trivial to win the fight thatís playing out in this cyborg arena; but thatís precisely how youíre clued in to the fact that winning isnít the point. Making the audience happy, thatís the point, even though that may involve taking some heavy hits yourself. This is not a real fight; it is a cooperative ballet. And your partner trusts you so much that they never conceal what theyíre planning to do. Thatís the subtlety. Thatís what you have to realise.

All of this is placed in a serviceable framework, but apart from the mechanic described above thereís not much subtlety to be found. The political commentary is simple to the point of being simplistic and so are the emotional strings that get pulled. It works; but itís no more than a vehicle for delivering this one brilliant idea: combat as trust.

Reason to play this game: it makes us think about the narrative potential of combat mechanics.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A brief fighting sim and relationship manager, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a small but polished game, one that feels like an intentionally compact micro-game. The system would be appropriate for a longer game, but there's not much room to fit more in the game besides having multiple matches.

You are a cyborg gladiator in a political climate that seems to be modeled on current transgender discourse. You get to choose how you treat your fellow cyborgs, and you also choose your body type and weapon.

Combat has a kind of paper-rock-scissors format, with unusual combinations pleasing the crowd.

The game uses strong profanity every few screens and has elaborate violence and (spoilers for certain paths) (Spoiler - click to show)some vaguely described sexual scenes.

I don't feel like the game lasted long enough for me to get a good grip on it emotionally, but it's polished and descriptive, and the interactivity was interesting and responsive.


- mediocre.marsupial (Australia), October 20, 2021

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Combat simulator with a slick interface and blunt political message, October 20, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes

In this game you play a cyborg, forced into pugilistic slavery by dastardly conservative lawmakers and corporations. You life involves fighting other cyborgs in an arena - "To the repair!", rather than to the death - for the amusement of the populace. Half the game is backstory on how you ended up in this particular fight, and the other half is a combat simulator employing a rock-paper-scissors like rubric for deciding if you or your opponent takes damage and how much.

The interface is well implemented, with bar chart stats, life gauges a la Mortal Kombat, and colorfully highlighted dialogue for the different characters. I also enjoyed how the fight interface was pushed to the background, but not eliminated, during the flashback scenes. However, there were some issues with the text. At times both "you" and your opponents name would appear right next to each other as if the game couldn't figure out who was performing the following action. Also, there were continuity errors regarding which weapon your opponent was wielding.
Text based choose-your-own-combat scenes grow stale very quickly, and this one was no exception. You are provided with some incentive to choreograph your combat in a particular manner, but in my multiple playthroughs I couldn't determine how that made much of a difference on the ending.

The background information and flashbacks I felt had the seed of a good story in them, but they were applied like a plank of wood to the face: lacking depth and unnecessarily blunt. I had just started to care about the characters when the story came to what felt like a premature end without the payoff that I was expecting. Also, I couldn't determine much of a political message other than Conservatives Are Bad. I'm fine with political messages in my stories and games, even ones that I disagree with, but there has to be some substance to the argument, some allegory to modern life, and some solution to the problem. I didn't feel like I got any of that in this story other than a generic rise-up-against-your-oppressors vibe.

I hope the author tries again with another IFComp entry next year. I feel there is potential here, but it didn't manifest in this game.


- Sobol (Russia), October 3, 2021


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