Cibelle landed itself on the most recent Humble Sale. I’m normally cautious about experimental narrative games and unabashed hater of Gone Home, but the concept of Cibelle kept me interested. One dollar later and I find myself flubbing in a puddle of nostalgia. The game gets hammered for value given its normal price tag of seven bucks. At this moment, you can completely ignore that and really judge Cibelle without the fetters of the cost factor.
We’re in an odd moment of gaming brilliance where simple, practically threadbare games like itch.io exist in the spotlight. We praise Overwatch as being the raw essence of party-driven shooting. I honestly have no qualms putting Cibelle in a similar class. What Cibelle lacks in enduring playtime, it recovers in how perfectly it encapsulates the supreme awkwardness of love over video games. Unlike Overwatch, however, narrative-driven games are fundamentally unsuited to be analyzed from the value derived from cost, so it is natural that Cibelle would be buried in negativity.
Is it a good game in terms of hours played? Of course not. Is it one of the best pieces of multimedia art to come out? Damn straight. Cibelle is a masterpiece of minimalism. If I could describe my youth, I point to Cibelle and say, “This is what love was like.”
Cibelle does slice of life better than most mediums. Imagine the slice of life metaphor as a pie. Anime typically takes slice of life and extends it into a full, twelve-episode buffet filled with pie. Cibelle is a singular, literal slice. In its small size, it creates an odd time machine. It’s nuanced interactive elements are skinned down to their most basic elements, ranging from tiny snippets of conversation to the accurate crappy high-school anime drawings. I can’t really do justice to the props used. In terms of minimalism, Cibelle is a masterful in creating the illusion of a believable desktop environment during the 2000s. Normally, there’s a cheesiness to trying to reinvent a cluster of folders with bizarre mock icons, but Cibelle gets the most delicate of details just right. It’s commendable, frankly.
I’d analyze this more breathlessly because Cibelle, intentionally or not, is a master-class in credibility. For that one short hour, I was lost in the maze of details and emotions. It was inexplicably wonderful. Mileage may vary, but if you lived and loved over the internet, it’s really hard to deny Cibelle’s authenticity.