I have never really needed a lot of sleep. When I was growing up, I used to listen to the radio on Sunday nights. From 10 PM to midnight, one of the local stations used to host a comedy hour followed by an hour of old-timey radio plays. Shows like The Shadow, Lights Out and The Adventures of Harry Lime would keep me entertained in a way that television or videogames never could. The folks at Reactive Studios must have grown up with radio plays as well, because their iOS game, called Codename Cygnus, plays just like an old-fashioned radio drama, with a little bit of a twist.
Codename Cygnus is an interactive “radio play”, cheese and all, where you play the hero, out to thwart the plans of the villains. Your character is a James Bond-esque spy who is in constant communication with your “dispatcher” and HQ. The game plays out before you like something of a choose-your-own-adventure novel in radio form. You listen to some dialogue and then make a choice (either by speaking out loud or touching your selection to indicate what you want to do). The game then loads up the clip playing the consequence of your actions, which forwards the plot. It’s a neat, multi-branched approach to story-telling.
In the absence of fancy eye candy, we are treated to voice actors who really seem to enjoy what they do, as well as some great, crackly music! Like well-written radio plays, the plot moves along well and the characters develop before your very ears – all without actually getting stuck in the trap of being too cheesy or copying other spy stories. Codename Cygnus is its own animal, and all the better for it. Really, it feels like a tribute; a celebration of the days long gone where people didn’t need to be spoon-fed their entertainment. Don’t get me wrong; I love television, movies and videogames; but there is something nice about shutting off the light, leaning back in a comfortable chair, and just letting your imagination run wild, inspired by what you hear. Even a 4K television can’t beat the resolution of your imagination!
The game tells you what kind of spy you are.
The audio itself is great, with filters that give the audio an “old timey” radio feel (even when you have paused the game – ambient hiss). Being an interactive story, you can’t really “lose”; you can only find different ways to get through it. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. As a fun addition, the game also has a chart that keeps track of your decisions, informing you of your personality type. It’s a nice extra that makes the game all the more engaging.
You can try out Codename Cygnus for free, as the prologue costs nothing. Individual episodes cost $1.99 or, depending on promotions, you can pay a discounted bundled price for all of the existing episodes.