Codename Cygnus Is Big On Drama, Low On Gameplay [Review]

Codename Cygnus Profile

One of my favorite things ever is Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast based on H.G. Wells’ Martian-invasion novel, The War of the Worlds. If you’ve never heard it and have a free hour, here’s a link. Just come back when you’re done.

Codename Cygnus by Reactive Studios
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad
Price: Free

Codename Cygnus is an interactive radio drama from developer Reactive Studios. And if you liked the storytelling, acting, and music in Welles’ production, it’s for you. If you thought it was cheesy and overly dramatic, you should try Cygnus anyway. Here’s why.

Not only does Codename Cygnus re-create the style and feel of old-time radio dramas, but it revels in them. You take on the role of an international super-spy who is racing against time to stop shadowy, nefarious, shark-tank-owning villains and their plans for world domination. It’s a slight caricature of established spy stories like the James Bond franchise, but it never descends into parody, and the actors are obviously having so much fun with the material that their enthusiasm becomes infectious.

Players might recognize the actor playing Neptune, Cygnus’ aquatic-minded baddie; it’s Logan Cunningham, the velvet-voiced narrator of Supergiant Games’ Bastion. And while I initially thought that this might be distracting, Cunningham fits right in with the rest of the cast.

The prologue is free to download, and the individual episodes are $1.99 each. Or you can spend $7.99 for the entire “mission” of five episodes, but only the first three are available at the moment.

Codename Cygnus

Sometimes you choose courses of action, and sometimes you just advance the plot.

If you’re wondering how you actually “play” Codename Cygnus, it’s pretty simple: The story is composed of a series of audio clips. You’ll listen to the clips, and then the game presents you with a choice. For example, do you sneak past a couple of guards in your path, or do you knock them out? You can either touch the screen or, if you’re listening in your car (or are completely un-self-conscious), you can make your selections vocally. I preferred the silent approach, although the game had no problems understanding my verbal commands.

It’s a slight caricature of established spy stories like the James Bond franchise, but it never descends into parody.

The game tracks each decision and collects them in a handy graph so you can see what kind of character you’re playing. My results are at the top of the page. Look at how athletic I am!

It plays a lot like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of old with one major difference: You can’t fail. James Bond never dies or loses, and neither will your fictional spy. Your choices affect the tone and flavor of the story, but the outcome will always be the same. So Cygnus is more like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead than, say, Quantic Dreams’ Heavy Rain.

All of this begs the question as to whether Codename Cygnus is a game at all. If you can’t lose, are you really “playing”? That’s a pretty big question to try to answer here, but I will say that as a piece of interactive fiction, Cygnus is definitely worth checking out.



Codename CygnusGame Name: : Codename Cygnus
The Good: It’s an interesting concept executed well with amazing production values. Voice and touch controls work exactly as advertised.
The Bad: Players looking for deep choices and a dramatically branching storyline will be disappointed; may not actually be a game.
The Verdict: Codename Cygnus is a unique and interesting bit of interactive fiction that is entertaining throughout.
Buy from: App store

Cult of Mac rating: 4/5

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About the author

Evan KillhamEvan Killham lives in Nebraska and isn't interested in football, so he has plenty of time to play and think about video games. He has written for Bitmob and GamesBeat and sometimes, he even goes outside. But not too often because he's heard there are bees out there.

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