Manon (re-)plays: The Goncharov Jam

Normally, I would create a thread in the Competition category, but the Goncharov Game Jam happened almost a year ago already… So here it is… And I needed something to do before the IFComps starts :stuck_out_tongue:

For some background, the Goncharov Game Jam was started by @cchennnn last November, during the Goncharov meme craze on Tumblr:

Goncharov is a film that might or might not exist. In one universe, it is a 1973 film about the Naples Mafia, directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Matteo JWHJ0715, and produced by Domenico Procacci, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Or perhaps it was directed by Matteo JWHJ0715, and merely “presented” by Martin Scorsese. It was called the “greatest Mafia movie ever made”, and was renowned for its complex depiction of a cycle of violence and trauma, and for its homoeroticism.

In another universe, “Martin Scorsese Presents Goncharov” is a message found on a shoe caused by a misreading of another film’s title, which became a meme on the social media platform Tumblr in November of 2022.

The game jam was open to all medium, not just Interactive Fiction games. There was even an entry by someone pretending to be Martin Scorsese.
A list of IF entries can be found on the IFDB. Though I might review some visual entries as well here…

As a foreword: I participated in the jam with Goncharov Escapes!, a one-button entry. also recently remastered
I also played most entry during the jam. And have reviewed some in the past months (see next post).


Previously reviewed games:

Since I didn’t review the games chronologically, they will be replayed and reviewed without an order :stuck_out_tongue:



Entry - More by Monday - IFDB - Tumblr Review

Parody on parody, in an alternate universe
I think this line summarises the game best: Your name is Goncharov. You are fifteen years old, and today is your first day of mafia school. G-TMHDS is a very short datim-sim game, dabbling with the Goncharov “lore”. Dipped in humour and sarcasm, the game gives the player a short introduction of the main players of the “movie” and their relationship to one another… if this was a Highschool AU.

Due to its short length, the game feels more of an introduction to a larger dating-sim, rather than a fully rounded story. You wake up, get ready for school, meet up with a friend (Joe), and try to talk to your crush (Katya) and be jealous of her friend (Sofia), before the game ends with a hint of a dark attraction (Andrej). There are a few choices throughout the story, each giving some humourous variation (try ditching school).

From the start, it is clear the game is not to be taken seriously. It will treat your not-so-smart question with disdain, and your doubt with deprecation - an attitude many would have towards teenagers or very naive individuals. The narrator is not afraid to call you out for stupid decisions (or as-stupid thoughts about doing something). “Teresa Maria, Goncharov, don’t be such a square.” had me wheezing.

Honestly, I still haven’t decided whether this was meant as a parody of the meme or of the highschool dating-sim genre. It makes fun of both mafia tropes and of those dating-sim (as much as it can with the limited passages), juggling between the two without missing a beat. While reading through it, it reminded me of that KFC dating sim game from a few years back - I Love You, Colonel Sanders! - it is of the same tone: frivolous, humourous, and plain stupid (the hahaha this is so dumb kind). It just hits all the right notes.

I think this game might work even better in a VN form…


Goncharov by ExcavatingLizard

Entry - VNDB - Tumblr Review
Note: this entry wasn’t on the IFDB list, but I thought I should shed some light on it anyway

The Iconic Bridge Scene
Goncharov is a fairly short highly-stylised VN, whose story is based on the iconic bridge scene of the movie, a climax between Katya and Sofia, as truth is revealed, but betrayals can still happen… There are four endings to this game.

The game was insanely gorgeous. Fully in black and white save for some crimson accent, the visuals portray Sofia and Katya at a stand-still on the bridge, the former wearing a dress and pointing a gun at the latter, wearing a pantsuit. Behind them, the coast of Naples, with a setting sun, with red lines encircling it slowly clockwise. A slight wind brushes through their hair and the hanging dress. The theme helps set the dramatic scene. The subtle animations even gives it that extra oomph.

While the game is titled Goncharov, it refers only in passing to the main character of the movie/meme, focusing instead on those two women*. While it is mentioned Goncharov is coming to take Katya down, he does not show his face, relegated to a line to further Katya’s point. The story is about those two women, the betrayal of one of them, and the fatalistic end of their story.
*Katya is married to Goncharov, taking on this name as well.

There are three choices in this story, pertaining to Sofia’s past actions (killing), Katya’s attire, and Katya’s beliefs. Each offer one to two screens of variation after the choice. While at least one of these choices will affect the end, I have only found two. I have been wondering if the circling background may be some sort of timer affecting the ending?

I found the topic of Katya’s attire quite interesting. It seemed as if she had realised who she really was, and what her place in the world might be, leaving behind the ultra-feminine glamorous outfit as was expected of her being a mafioso’s wife for a more masculine relaxed and easier to move around outfit. Shedding herself to the core. A sort of emancipation - which would have fit with the period the “movie” was set to have been released (70s).

Though this might not be the ending I have in my heart for both women, I found the ending where time ran out on Katya the most striking. The fade-to-… white was particularly well done.


Someone Else’s Story by E. Joyce

Someone Else’s Story - More by E. Joyce - IFDB - Tumblr Review

How good of a honeypot will you be?
Told from the point-of-view of Sofia, Someone Else’s Story takes a look at the start of the relationship between two side characters: Sofia and Katya, two women linked to big characters whose actions will drive the “story”'s plot. Spanning a conversation, you were tasked to extract information from the lovely newcomer. Will you managed without her noticing?

Someone Else’s Story is a fairly short game mixing choices, to drive the conversation forward, and hypertext*, to provide additional contextual information to the scene or about Sofia’s state of mind. Each choice provide variation in the next screen, with some even adding an option to the choice-list. The combination of all choices made throughout the game will determine how the conversation between you and Katya ends.

To get information from Katya, you must ask the right questions, in the correct manner. Though you have multiple choice available to you, from flirty to pushy, the type of questions asked may tick Katya that something is up, or may just confuse her. She will comment on the matter, before ending the conversation and leaving for the night. You do not learn, however, whether how successful you were at your task. Though, as Katya warns, when one is this expendable, does it truly matter?
(kinda yes… i always want to know how well i did.)

The game raises an interesting point, hinted by its title. Though you are the main character of this game, this short story, Katya may tell you that you are just a pawn in someone else’s story. You may drive the plot in this beat, but someone - your boss - is pushing you to this point in time, requesting things from you to further his story. You may down the line have a relationship with Katya (not in-game), but it will still be framed around other more important players - your struggles being a continuation of theirs.

Still, the illusion of agency still hods, even after replays. You may not be a major player, but the game makes you feel like your actions actually matter in this story, that they actually may change the course of the night. Even if, ultimately, it won’t - Katya will always try to change the subject, or look at her watch, signalling the end of the conversation. Your efforts don’t feel in vain.

While the game will mention a few important characters to the main lore or themes, the strongest one emanating from this entry is the concept of time. You are limited in time to find information for your boss about Goncharov before he potentially makes a move, to extract information from Katya during the party, before time inevitably cuts your effort short - when the watch strikes “twelve”. But there is maybe a more ominous limitation from Katya’s final remark: the time left before you will get hurt (if you continue snooping, that is).

* Another entry in the game jam, Vespertine , used a similar interactive element, though more abundantly.


Goncharov: Coda by Jinx/Lapin Lunaire Games

Entry - More by Jinx - IFDB - Tumblr Review

Make. Meaningful(?). Choices!
Like other entries in the jam, Goncharov: Coda takes the movie-making approach to the Goncharov mythos, where you play as an actor in a “contemporary remake of the film”. Playing as either Andrej or Sofia, the story will take you through the re-enactment of relevant scenes, where you can showcase your wits and line delivery. After all, you are here to honour an unprecedented legacy…

The game starts with the first table read of the screenplay, introducing the team working on the remake - many of the characters having funny pun-y names (especially the director’s name). It is at this point you get to choose which path to act (Sofia or Andrei, supporting roles), and where the first scene sets off.

Though you have two distinct paths, the game is built around bottlenecks. Both paths will share scenes (first and last, disregarding some variation), and out-of-character beats (in-between shooting scenes). The central part, however, is highly dependent on the path chosen, as each is set in a different location, follows a different group of characters, and focuses on different themes (or take on the theme).

The played scenes follow the “canonical” sequence of the “movie”. Starting with the Goncharov’s imminent arrival in Naples, the play indicates the start of new relationships (namely between Sofia and Katya), hints at a change in relationships (Goncharov and Katya), and questions other relationships (Goncharov and Andrei). The middle scenes will continue with this theme of relationships, focusing on how these relationship can also change a person (important especially for Goncharov and Katya), as well as hinting at the culminating fight up ahead. It all ends with the infamous bridge scene, the showdown to end all showdown - I did find that scene confusing, I think there are some flashforwards(?), it’s pretty chaotic.

Another important theme hammered on from the start is the one of choices, or lack thereof. The director of the movie makes a point to remind the player to “Make. Meaningful. Choices” at the start, when improvising certain lines. The middle scenes interactions between Katya and Sofia or between Andrei and Goncharov also emphasise on the choices we make, where they lead us, and the consequences of those choices. Sofia reminds us that choices can set us free, while Andrei will show that other factors, like loyalty, will force our choices to entrap us. It is interesting to see that our choices can be both meaningful and inconsequential to the story.

While it seems like the game is a very serious and maybe dark affair, the game is nothing but. I already mentioned the pun-y names at the start, but the humour doesn’t stop there. It also appears in lines to choose from, with funny one-liners; sarcastic descriptions of locations, reminding you that you are totes still filming the thing; or the almost deranged behaviour of some characters, the director especially had Dean Pelton (Community) vibe. Even the final passage, which is a bit sad when you think about it, was quite funny. I was chuckling throughout the game.

A final point should be spent on the care spent on the UI of the game. Looking like a movie script sitting on a table, with the Do Not Distribute warning at the top, the UI will use screenplay formatting to distinguish between reality and the played scenes. It even goes further as highlighting the actions and lines of the character you are playing (like with a real screenplay) - it must have been a pain to handle all those indents… The UI is pretty smooth to use, especially in fullscreen.

It’s so interesting to see how many entries of the jam took the movie making approach to the meme. Yet, each of them have taken a different approach, from remakes, to fan content, to adaptation… though so far they seem to avoid using the making of the “real” movie.


Goncharov by Stanwixbuster

Entry - More by Stanwixbuster - IFDB - Tumblr Review

Did we watch the correct movie?
Goncharov is a fairly short stylised kinetic piece, presenting itself as an adaptation of the “original” movie, through snippets of different critical scenes, as defined in the meme lore. Though, you could play the scenes chaotically, by doing a random order for examples, the story is best enjoyed when followed chronologically.

Above a usually animated background, dialog boxes pop up on the screen, typing out descriptions of the scene or the dialogue between characters. Locations, time and present actors are visualised through small screenshots - the character sprites do not change from scene to scenes, so it is easy to recognise who is who.
Depending on your setup, the animated background and text may lag.

A few scenes in, you get the sense that something is not quite right. Maybe it is because each scenes have very few words, or because they lack connection between each other. Their succession from the listed menu makes sense, but it is clear there are gaps between each scene. Or it could simply be the game trying to send you off track, like any good intrigue movie: nothing is truly as it seems.

While the end scene is quite something, the truly interesting part of the game, in my opinion, is when the credits roll. We sort of leave the realm of the movie and the canon, to have a more… meta discussion. Some criticism mentioned above, as well as potential failings of both the game itself and the meme at large, are discussed through two viewers of the movie you just experienced through the scenes. These criticism, from the lack of coherence to the missing actions, are linked to discourse that happened around the meme (though in-game, the discourse is about the movie).

You could take this final conversation at face-value: two friends watching a movie and discussing it when it ends. Or you could look at is as a discussion of the strange phenomenon that was Goncharov - the meme. Taking the internet by storm, it spread without rhyme or reason, with many users contradicting each other with sequencing, lore, or details, as they made up their version of the fake movie. As a collective, we all made the “movie” happen, each adding a scene or lore, trying to make our voice heard through the sea of creators participating. Maybe we were all Matteo, in a way, directors of Goncharov.


Thank you for this lovely, thoughtful review!

The game is a sort of metacommentary (not a particularly deep or original one) on the role of female characters in movies of the type that all the Goncharov stuff is pastiching. Goncharov is Doomed by the Narrative and it’s a tragic culmination of his flaws and/or past sins, but then Katya is doomed by Goncharov’s narrative - it’s not even about her, she’s collateral damage. So I guess I wanted to explore a Katya who was aware of that (playing off a Sofia who isn’t quite), in a non-fourth-wall-breaking way.

Originally I had intended to have a “good ending” with perhaps an implication that Katya and Sofia would run off together and leave the whole mess behind. The Bound (1996) ending, if you will. But it wasn’t quite gelling thematically, so I ended up going the intentionally-disappointing-ending route, where, as you note, the game doesn’t even tell you how well you did (at either getting information or building a genuine rapport with Katya, whichever of those would constitute success in this scenario). These things are being tracked and you do get different endings, but they’re not really different in a meaningful way, because neither of these characters has much sway over the events of the larger plot. Which is definitely a risky move, so I’m glad you still enjoyed the game and felt like the choices mattered even though it was frustrating not to get a clear indication of exactly how well or badly things went.


You are more than welcome! I don’t think the review (well any review I write) fully does the piece justice…

This is my personal canon ending of the movie :joy: (also the one we managed to get during our TTRPG session).
Frustration aside (which was honestly super minor - I’m just a sucker for tidying up loose ends), I think the game works best without that “good” ending. It drives the theme to the point even better: the supporting and minor characters are just that… supporting the plot. And the game ending at the end of the conversation leaves the door open enough to hope that they still will runaway at a later point in the (overall) story :stuck_out_tongue:


Took a break yesterday. Resuming reviews today!
There are only two left in the IFDB Jam listing (including this one), and a handful of other games in the jam.

GONCHAROV 2073 by sweetfish

Entry - More by sweetfish - IFDB - Tumblr Review

If Paul Verhoeven was in on the meme…
Goncharov 2073 is a fairly short stylistic linear piece with one small choice, set in a not-so-far and not-so-implausible future, in which Goncharov is a movie written by an AI, rather than the illusive and very human Matteo JWHJ0715. At the movie premiere, you and a group of activists will try to derail the event as a protest. Will you truly succeed?

Following Kon - not their real name - you oversea the smooth running of a project started months prior. Due to the significance of the event, the first ever screening of an AI generated movie, it is of the upmost importance things go the way they should. One small mistake and it will mean the end of the team. Things often go haywire on sabotage missions, and it is never when you think it might…

While the entry might seem to follow tropes of sabotage missions, delivering the tension at every turn, having the blasé handler, or things not going quite as planned, it is not much of the story or the meme that is most noteworthy, but the messages behind it. It should not be this surprising, with the author’s other games often having quite a bit to say or critique about the state of things.

In the past years, there have been increasing talk about Artificial Intelligence and its use in different industry. Recently (as of this review), it has been found that Entertainment Companies have been looking into rendering the likeness of background actors and using AIs to render them in the final project (without needing them on set). The use of AI software to render text or visuals is becoming more common, even going as a replacement for employees. It feels a bit hard to remove this topical aspect from the story of this game: an AI has written this movie, an AI is controlling the likeness of a (probably) dead Martin Scorcese…

The onus is not really put on the AI here - it is just a tool (and not a reliable or great one at that, if the comments about the movie are to be trusted*). The game takes a hit at the companies behind it, the ones using the tool, the ones actually profiting in this endeavour. *or that could just be making fun of the meme, whose lore is often contradictory.

In-game, the rules around AI use regarding using the likeness of someone cannot be done without their consent, a fair system… if it wasn’t an op-out one. The rules don’t seem to apply to people who died before the system was put in place - ruling impending - which explains the presence of a holographic Martin Scorcese at the premiere. Still, you have a sense that regardless of the legality of the tool, those company would try to find a way to use it anyway…

The criticism goes even clearer with the reveal of the activists’ manifesto: the technological advancement is not the problem, capital endeavours are - butchering, making almost a mockery of creativity with their generated “work”.

On the other hand, the game does not shy away from critiquing the actions of the activist group, showing that the sabotage of the premiere would not only shed more light on the movie, but ensuring its popularity at the box office - people who might not have cared about would come in flock out of spite. Activism is hard: there is no one way of doing things, actions can backfire, and you could be going against organism so large your actions might not even make waves or get you quite a bit of retaliation. Replaying the game to see the different option of that choice may hammer on this aspect…

With its title reminiscing of the Blade Runner sequel title, or its dark and gritty UI (a bit à-la Metal Gear Solid - very very cool), and the messages above, the game gave me vibes of Paul Verhoeven movies.

This is another entry using the Tape Window engine.
It’s kind of a cool engine, that does interesting things visually. But I don’t know if I really enjoy it as a player (the typing display of the text that can’t be skipped is somewhat tedious).

70 New Works in (Goncharov 1973) by ksixjs

Entry - IFDB - Tumblr Review

Gaslight, Gatekeep, Goncharov
70NW is essentially a one page game emulating the (in)famous fanfiction website Archive of Our Own, listing Goncharov fanfics - texts unavailable to you aside from their tags and blurb. You can click on different elements to filter the 70 fics into smaller groups.

While you can’t technically read each of those fanfics - ironic, considering you can’t really watch the movie either - the elements of each fic may give enough to infer what they could be about. From the title, to the blurb, or the tags including different characters, themes, content warnings, or story structure. Many will refer to specific scenes or motif of the “movie”, or a specific ship. Some fill the gaps the movie didn’t cover, some deep dive into non-canon territory. Some take the alternate universe approach, others have crossovers (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Turnabout Clocktower)

The “game” both makes fun of the meme itself with the deranged theories that sparked during the craze and of fanfic websites like AO3 with its as deranged tags and fanfics (honestly). Even though I never really frequented these fanfic sites, the game does a pretty good job at takes their likeness (a more yellow-ish coffee stain background might have been too on the nose…), as well as the representing the deluge of fanfics submitted to those websites soon after the meme took over Tumblr (there are over 300 of them right now on AO3).

Out of all 70 non-fic, The fruit vendor didn’t deserve this?? was my favourite. When is the crossover with the Cabbage man of ATLA planned?

And this is the last of the listed Gonch work on the IFDB. I’m going to check out the other textbased entries. Maybe I’ll post about them here too :stuck_out_tongue:

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Speedy Goncharov by GLOBUG

Entry - VNDB - Tumblr Review

Don’t do drugs, kids.
Speedy Goncharov is a short Visual Novel following Andrey and the consequences of his action after the event of the “movie”. It is framed as a psychological character study of the man through his point-of-view. Grief and regrets are the central themes of this story.

Sitting at a bar, you discover, through both internal monologues and quips from other characters, that Andrey is feeling quite morose - understandable considering the “disappearance” of his friend. Looking around the room or hearing certain words bring flashbacks, pushing him further into grief.

Peer-pressured by his mates to lighten up, Andrey partakes in illicit substances. This does not help much in the matter, as Andrey start hallucinating drinks of our current times, as well as transforming one of his friend into a video game character. [I can only imagine this is what drugs do?] The whole thing becomes even more surreal than its original subject.

What the entry does well, in my opinion, was the depiction of Andrey’s grief as overwhelming and debilitating. Sure, he is out and about, but mentions of certain things or sights will freeze him in place, or he will act erratically. It is hard to lose someone and recover quickly (assuming the game happens shortly after the “movie”), so the feelings of hopelessness and uncertain future (will he ever move on?) are quite obvious here.

The sprites representing the characters are also quite charming. They both feel a bit out of place with its more traditional art style againts a more modern/realist background; and fitting quite nicely, with the grainy texture reminiscent of fading memory or blurry vision.

It’s strange, maybe a bit confusing, but I liked it.

Goncharov by MartinScorsese

Entry - VNDB - Tumblr Review

Not what you’d expect…
Goncharov is a short visual novel, playing the 2-truth-1-lie game with its blurb. Faithful adaptation of the “movie” it is not. A trippy ride however…

This game was very strange. Promising to be a faithful adaptation of Goncharov (the movie/meme), it subverts expectations with the narrator waking up in their room, remembering the date they agreed to attend today: one last with their girlfriend. Waiting before the cinema, you meet Jade, your beautiful girlfriend (looking like a businessman with the head of a cat*) and head inside. The cinema is eerily empty, but not too concerning for one in a small town. It is when you open the door to get to the room that something unexpected happens…

I don’t know what to think of the game, actually. Aside from a mention of the “movie” in the game and it being made by “Martin Scorcese”, there is little to tie it back to the meme itself. Maybe the concept of time, with the impending departure of Jade - but even then, it feels a bit far-fetched. Even the subverting expectations felt a bit weak after a screen or two, and the twist was underwhelming.

I don’t think I enjoyed it much…

Some notes on other Goncharov games:

  • Finding Goncharov (2010), a veeeery short bitsy game where the narrator reminisce about their life, comparing it to Katya’s struggles during a specific movie, and the realisation of finding their true self (as is a theme of the “movie”)
  • Goncharov - The Beginning, the shortest prequel you will ever play. Even better than any other prequel out there. Really puts the gonching into Goncharov. (it is as serious as the meme)
  • Goncharov: Streets of Naples, a simple 3d shooter. Use arrows to move around the block, click to shoot at the bad guys, make sure to not get shot. It’s a bit clonky.
  • [REDACTED] of Goncharov, a 3D interactive game where Goncharov tries to live a simple life in the middle of nowhere with Andrey, the love of his life. I didn’t manage to get quite far, I think it doesn’t register touchpads…

Note a game, but made by one of our own:

Aaaaand that’s it!

Do check out the other reviews I’ve done before I started this thread, those entries are quite something :wink:


Thanks for lining up all these games and giving us your thoughts about them. My only contact with the Goncharov-verse so far has been @sophia 's Vespertine. Which I loved.

I played it more because it was made by Sophia de Augustine than for its connection to the movie. But now that you’ve put all these works in a row, I’m tempted to dig a little deeper into this phenomenon that is Goncharov.


It is a wild and never ending well :wink: