Out of all the games I’ve reviewed for Brash Games, none of them have had me laughing and grinning like an absolute fool nearly as much as The Magic Circle. I am a chump when it comes to any bit of decent meta humor. So the idea of playing as part of an unfinished game and rebelling against the very creators of said game is just awesome to me. Before we get too into what makes this game unique, let’s cover the basics.
The audio quality in the game has to be fairly high due to how often you’ll be listening to the PRO (forgotten hero), Ish, Maze, and Coda (all people working on the game you’re the hero of). The PRO will pop in and give you hints, tips, or just to make fun of the game’s development team. As for the others, they’ll mostly be bickering between each other and don’t know you’re listening. Visually, the game is very pretty while being largely in black and white. As for gameplay, I haven’t personally played anything like this game before.
The player doesn’t fight any enemy directly, instead using these very enemies by trapping them and changing their properties. For example, the Howler in the picture below may have started with properties like “I move by: Ground”, “I attack by: Melee”, and “My enemies are: THE HERO”. These are only a few properties but you can change them so that the Howler can’t walk, attack, or is actually your ally. This mechanic confused me at first, but I quickly figured out how to use it and I felt like I was ‘getting away with something’ when I would use this mechanic to get somewhere crazy.
Realistically, the player has few abilities. It’s up to the player to make the most of their abilities to walk, jump, undelete content that the ‘gods’ of the world previously deleted, trap, and control creatures to do their bidding. The power to control creatures is completely determined by which properties the player stitches onto them, but some creatures (e.g. Mushrooms and Juggodillas) have innate properties that should be taken into consideration while trying to solve puzzles. On top of all of this, the player will eventually inherit a new ability that allows the player to direct their pets with a point of their finger. The player also has a map that can be used to summon any previously edited creature even if they’re dead. This, combined with the ability to teleport to any ‘crack’ you’ve been to before, makes puzzles much more manageable and reducing the amount of time players waste backtracking over the same terrain time and time again.
If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you may have noticed that I tend to avoid giving any story spoilers. I want to be sure that if you play a game I review, you won’t be able to say that my review ruined any bit of the game. With that said, I can’t say very much about the story of the game because the actual story does not last all that long and doesn’t truly have too many ‘mission objectives’. I played through the game twice and managed to collect everything there was to collect on my first playthrough. This playthrough took me several hours and I learned a lot about the world, it’s inhabitants, and it’s creators. I looked in all the nooks and crannies so that I could find all there was to find. Doing this, I was able to go through a second playthrough very quickly. In this playthrough, I collected very little and managed to get through to the end in about an hour or two. Also, this playthrough net me the last two achievements I needed to 100% the game. I don’t want to make it sound like I was upset with the length or anything, in fact, I really enjoy the fact that the player gets to decide whether the game is long or short based on how explorative the player chooses to be. The entire game can be passed over if you dislike the gameplay and simply want the story. While on the other hand, you can take your time so that you find out more about the world you’re exploring and all the changes it’s gone through over the years.
All in all, The Magic Circle does near everything right. The only complaints I may have is that it could be a bit more fleshed out, it could use some work on it’s very strange map system (it’s a little difficult to figure out where things are because the map is a little odd), and I believe the player character could probably use a few more abilities (hell, a ‘run’ button would have been more than useful). These are truly the only issues I really noticed.
I truly enjoyed how hard Question (The Magic Circle’s developer) tries to make the player believe they are actually a part of this game that these people have made and the player is actually making a difference. I think there are two things that help this along. One is the fact that, besides the creatures, a bunch of characters in the game talk directly to the player and speak as if what you’re doing is actually happening. The second is actually simply one character in particular. This character is the PRO, who follows you throughout the game, giving you direction and tips. The thing about the PRO is, he makes sure you remember that both you and him are virtual. The PRO wants you to remember that you’re in a virtual world made by ‘real’ people. This little detail (for some reason) makes the whole world feel more real than most other game worlds.
Everything I’ve said here makes up this very unique title that I can whole-heartedly say is a breath of fresh air and maybe even a god-send.
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