When I accepted the review key for this game I had no idea what to expect, but I’m glad that I did. Magic Circle is by far one of the strangest, yet mechanically basic, games I have ever played. It is equal parts frustrating and calming. It is paradoxically bland, yet deep. Rather than talk in circles let’s get into the meat of the game.
Magic Circle has an aesthetically simple design. You guide a circle that just eats other circles and gets progressively bigger. Your circle can simply float about and grub on green circles, the important ones, but also grab these circles that give you power-ups. After a minute or so you will start to hear a narrator sort of judging your actions. He reflects on his own life and will criticize you for just about everything.
If you eat the powerups he will chide you for getting distracted and not staying focus. Ironically he is right, picking up power-ups and purple orbs will increase the difficulty of the game. Moving blocks will crush you upon collision, and antagonistic triangles will zoom after you but lose interest if you can put enough distance between them and yourself.
When you die, and you will die, you will simply start over from the beginning but each time the beginning goes by faster and faster. It feels like a roguelike but with very little mechanics other than avoiding getting hit. The music is very soothing and the visuals, while simple, are full of these mesmerizing particle effects, like watching glitter swirling in ripples on a still pond. Think of a modern Galaga screen if it was looked at under a microscope and set to ambient mellow music.
The longer the game goes on the more the narrator will open up about his own thoughts and yours. He’ll say philosophical things about your pursuit of a simple life and how you avoid danger and temptation (if you only eat the green circles) or remark about how you showed so much potential but failed again (upon dying). It becomes clear that you are being observed by him much like a biologist observing a cell in a petri dish.
One last things to mention about the gameplay is that control of your player circle is very slippery. You navigate with the mouse and can adjust the sensitivity but it never quite feels right. I set it to sensitivity eight as that seemed to be the sweet spot for me in terms of speed and control, but it can vary from player to player.
Magic Circle is a tough but intriguing game. As of time of writing I have yet to complete it and so I am not giving it an official score but I have played more than a sufficient amount of time and seen more than enough to know what the game is. While I wouldn’t recommend it universally, I would say if you want to ponder life’s mysteries and your accomplishments on a grander scale, while avoiding triangles and squares, this might just be the game for you. You can find The Life Of A Magic Circle on Steam/PC developed by Solideo.
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