Theseus Review: Minotaur Blues

I, like many others, went through a Greek mythology phase in middle school. Thanks to Hades and the Queer Literature course I took last semester I am fully back on my bullshit in 2021 — which is why I am obsessed with modern retellings of Greek mythology. So Theseus, a game about a breakup between Theseus and the Minotaur, obviously caught my eye.

There have been a few retellings of Theseus and the Minotaur — like Theseus, the aforementioned Hades portrays them as enemies turned comrades in death. I also recently came across The House of Asterion by Jorge Luis Borges, a short story that pulls on my heartstrings and characterizes the Minotaur so well. The Minotaur could be so many things in fiction; an outcast, a rejected child, a loner. And if that’s the case, who is Theseus to him? His mortal enemy or his redeemer?

Theseus adds a new interpretation to this intriguing relationship and dares to ask some important questions. Why is Asterion’s trauma so palpable? Why do they fit so well into the role of toxic lovers? Why is this specific statue of Theseus and the Minotaur so homoerotic?

Canova, Antonio, Theseus and the Minotaur, 1762

Theseus was made by Sisi Jiang, who I’ve been following since I played LIONKILLER: their interactive fiction game where you play as a gay Mulan during the Opium Wars.

Theseus casts Theseus and Asterion (the Minotaur) as lovers in a mutually abusive relationship — one that Theseus longs to leave, but first he has to find his way out of Asterion’s labyrinth.

The way that it characterizes their relationship through a physical space is fascinating. The labyrinth, inescapable and confusing, is filled with relics of their past, reminding Theseus of how he ended up there in the first place. In a short span of time (as the game can be played in a one-hour sitting), Theseus manages to touch on the traumas left not just by lovers but also by shitty parents, something Greek mythology has a pantheon of.

The game is carried by Theseus’ inner monologue and an imaginary conversation he has with Asterion that displays itself as physical text as you walk through the maze. At one point I did get lost and ended up backtracking through the whole map and playing out all the scenarios I didn’t choose, the what-could-have-beens.

When I took my first steps out of labyrinth, I felt heavy in the heart. I could see the horizon yet I turned back instinctually to look for Asterion, but there was nothing but the labyrinth’s brick walls and the warped remains of Theseus’ thoughts.

Theseus is a short but poignant game that left me in my emotions. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a Greek mythology fan or enjoy a good angsty breakup. It’s currently available for $5 on itch.io.

Harriette Chan

Harriette Chan

Harriette is a cheesecake enthusiast, videogame lover, and disgruntled college student. When they grow up they want to be a writer, or an archaeologist, or a barista. Whatever, they'll figure it out. You can find them @heyriette on Twitter.
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