Xanthippe's Last Night with Socrates

by Victor Gijsbers profile

Romance, Historical

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Number of Reviews: 10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
What might it have been like to be married to Socrates?, October 10, 2023
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour, IFComp 2023

So right off the bat let me tell you that I'm right on the line here between giving this one 3 or 4 stars. To me it does everything well, except provide for much narrative branching or interactivity. The writing is superb and the humor is excellent. As I've said on social media, if Victor were to ever write a novel I'll be first in line to read it. He really is talented. My only complaint is that the story is very linear.

In this game you play as Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, spending the last 12 hours you have with your husband in his jail cell before he will be forced to drink hemlock as a method of execution. As the author notes, we donít know much about the real Xanthippe, and so the author uses his creative license to reimagine and subvert the very few descriptions that we have of her. And the result is fantastic. This Xanthippe is a character I could easily see myself spending a lot of time with. The game gives you your primary objective on its opening page, (minor content warning) (Spoiler - click to show) you are horny and would like to be intimate with your husband one last time, but he does not seem to be in the mood at the moment. What are the chances that you can talk him into the mood, even if it means going over, or around, some of the baggage that the two of you have with each other. However, even though the game starts you off with that objective, there is so much more ground to cover and more philosophies to delve, both the universal and the personal kind. The piece takes you on a rollercoaster, starting out with the simple (Spoiler - click to show)convince your husband to have sex one last time objective, before exploring why Socrates would choose the path he did, the ways youíve hurt each other, the ways youíve loved each other, all the Athenian ingrates that donít appreciate him (or you), and the way each of you hopes to be remembered.

The author does a good job of using Ink to create some fun and humorous scenarios and reactions (by the game and Socrates) to your choices. The writing is excellent throughout, with flowing dialogue and clever turns of phrase. You could imagine this being part of a Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino movie (and I mean that in the best way possible). But, as multiple playthroughs reveal, the amount of choice you actually have as the PC is very limited. Iím not sure you can direct the narrative off of what appear to be its rails. Rather than explore branching narratives, you get to explore the personalities of the characters. And that is enjoyable, but I wonder if I wouldnít have enjoyed it more if the author had picked out his favorite scenes, his best jokes, his optimal route through the game, and published it as a short story. Iíd hate to think Iíve missed out on some of Victorís best writing.

I might reconsider my rating in the future with the perspective of time and revise it, but for now Iíll give it three stars.

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