We all fear something. Whether it be insects, clowns, heights, snakes, or whatever else, that’s just part of the human experience. “Gynophobia” is the abnormal fear of women. Luckily, most of us aren’t plagued with such a fear — but it’s a very real thing. Not to be confused with misogyny, it’s a social phobia that someone has decided to turn into a video game aptly named Gynophobia. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using games as a vehicle for expressing emotions and mental states. Well, that is, unless the title shoehorns it in as a way to spice up an otherwise dull experience.
Gynophobia begins in an apartment with the protagonist being its sole inhabitant. Wandering through the rooms you quickly come across a tarantula. The screen shakes in apparent terror. No, it’s not a woman, but apparently this guy has a debilitating fear of both arachnids and women. Things only get worse when you try to leave the house but peer through the peephole to find a random lady standing out front! Well, what else can a guy do in this situation but sit in front of his laptop and play a video game? This is where things get meta.
You actually play a game within a game. His game of choice is the least entertaining zombie FPS out there. Zombies are incredibly fast and react to the sound of gunshots. Even if they can’t see you, they’ll start running directly at you. Because they’re so fast and gang up readily the best course of action is to “cheat.” Most levels have a spot that zombies can’t hit you from. Of course, running out and ducking back into a safe zone makes for incredibly boring gameplay, but surviving the hordes normally is far more frustrating.
Unfortunately for anyone who cringes at terrible FPSes, that’s basically what Gynophobia boils down to. It does provide narrative framing of a freaked out dude in his house, but most of the time you’re situated in FPS world. After a brief moment of respite from zombies, you’re once again thrust into a shooter. The only difference this time around is the enemies which are now spiders and mummies. Expect to be ganged up on frequently and curse the infrequent checkpoint system.
Once you’ve endured an hour or two of pain the story comes to a surprising and inconclusive end. Without spoiling the specifics, it basically flushes any intent at being a “real” exploration of social phobias in any respect. At least the developer didn’t choose to go a controversial route by forcing players to shoot tons of women. This misconception has been going around a lot concerning this game, so just to be clear, that’s not what happens. You fight zombies, mummies, spiders and one particular boss woman, but not in a way that’s particularly eyebrow raising.
Why name a game Gynophobia when you don’t attempt to push some sort of storyline related to it? True, the beginnings of a story are here (as is a sudden ending) but nothing else in between. Had there actually been an attempt, even flawed, to pursue it further that may have been a reason to give the game a chance. As is, its name is the most notable aspect. Once you get over that there’s little else to differentiate it from copious other shooters out there.
There’s little to make Gynophobia stand out against a litany of far-better shooters out today. The visuals are average, although they don’t seem to use any stolen assets as some Greenlight/Desura titles are wont to do. Sound effects are middling at best and gameplay alternates from incredibly boring to annoying. Though some glitches occur, it’s definitely not a broken product. That’s probably the biggest compliment anyone can give the game. Gynophobia is a functional FPS, but that’s about it.