The Magic Circle is an action adventure indie game that thrusts its players into a plot heavy world. Its 20 dollars on Steam, and it has quickly become one of my favorite indie games of all time! I played it with only 5 minutes of the game in mind, then I jumped in with no other prior knowledge. And it captured my heart, so if your interested in the game check it out! It was the best spent 20 dollars of my life!
In this darkly comedic story, you are the hero of an unfinished fantasy game, and your designers have failed you. Steal the power of a game god - trap their creations, swap behaviors and body parts, crafting your own unique solutions to free-form puzzles. Can you release a game ...from the inside?
StoryYou are the protagonist of an unfinished 1st person fantasy game, trapped in development hell. The designers (played by James Urbaniak, Ashly Burch, and Karen Dyer) are god-like, but so indecisive that they've given you no powers whatsoever. With the help of a mysterious disembodied voice (Stephen Russell) you must seize the tools of game development from these unworthy 'gods', uncovering more of the darkly comedic story as you go. Rather than traditional puzzles with a single solution, the incomplete state of each environment is a question that you answer in your own way. Trap the designers' creations, steal their behaviors, and re-mix them to explore and master this world-in-progress. Can you out-think the game gods? Can you ship The Magic Circle from inside it?
The plot in The Magic Circle takes an interesting turn. You are literally playing a game while playing a game, being the hero while being the player whose the hero. Yeah, its one of those things that's cool but if you think too deeply about it you get a headache. Like time travel.
But I could kiss the writers of this game, the plot and deeper meanings are just so ingenuous! When you get far enough into the game you'll see what I mean. But as a gamer and writer myself who has many years of both things under my belt, the deeper meanings meant a lot to me. Once again, I'm going to keep this semi-spoiler free. So I can't say much more.
You know those arguments about plot versus game play? Well imagine a game who has both interesting plot and fun game play. (Not that plenty of those don't already exist mind you, but this is one of them!) So well woven together that its not just a fun experience, but one you might never forget. Well that's this game. Its been so long since I've played a game so deep and well done that when its suspenseful my heart speeds up, when something's revealed my pulse jumps, and I'm left excited to discover more around every corner. It made me, someone who doesn't even cry when my favorite character dies, feeling feelings!
Voice ActingOkay so I don't usually talk about voice acting in reviews, but I think this is something we should cover for this one. Somehow this indie game has an amazing star studded cast of voice actors. When I played I recognized each one, but wasn't sure if it was really them. But when I found out I was right, I was pretty happy. I mean Nick Valentine (Stephen Russell) (Also soon to be Corvo Attano!) called me Boss! I'll probably never forget that.
Then my girlfriend from Life Is Strange; Chloe Price (Ashly Burch) became the ultimate protector of the in-game game fantom! Also I got to help out Sheva Alomar (Karen Dyer) again, but this time zombies weren't in the picture! Oh, wait, no zombie's were around, just not very many. And lastly I crushed Dr. Venture's (James Urbaniak) dreams of a sequel!
This game has amazing voice acting, as you would expect from this cast. Its better than even some triple A game titles! Hearing these familiar faces in this amazing new world was just the cherry on top for this game!
GameplayEvery part of this game was pretty fun! As I mentioned before, there are moments you almost feel like a Pokemon trainer cause you just wanna CATCH EM ALL! Ahem, I mean you have to amass a small army of creatures to take down your enemies. And here in lies some interesting choices your given. You get the chance to re-arrange some of these creatures as you see fit, taking abilities from others and adding it to your favorite one. I had a Howler who I named Vera and gave a ton of abilities and leveled her up like crazy! She was my favorite, clearly, and by the end of the game she was a force to be reckoned with!
There are also moments where you have to be clever. It's like puzzles, and you have to find the keys in the map and then figure out how to use those keys. I feel like this game was trying to challenge me a bit. You know those friendly challenges you have against friends, that's what it felt like. Not really hard per say, but when you got it, had that moment of 'ah ha!' it felt good. No hand holding, just your own skill as a hero and player put to the test! Although Nick- I mean Old Pro, does give you a hint here and there if you've spent a long enough time just sitting and staring at certain puzzles. Not that I had any problems with the puzzles! I just liked hearing Nick Valentine call me Boss, I swear!
EnvironmentOkay so in this game stuff is usually in gray, as this world is unfinished. But the detail is breath taking, and when you see those colors pop when they do show up, its glorious! True art. While the map is say, nowhere near the size of Fallout 4, or even one of the DLCs of Fallout 3, there are many diverse areas around with plenty of secrets to discover.
You can go from an ancient magical forest to a pixelated space station, plus more! And the music behind the art of the environment is just as good! Makes you feel powerful, or that something mysterious is going on, and makes you really feel the suspense and urgency of the near-ending of the game. It ties everything together into a nice beautiful big bow!
SummaryBefore I wrap this up there's one comment I'd like to share from The Magic Circle's Steam Page:
This is something you don't see often enough in my opinion. Passion. Passion in this over saturated video game / indie game era is extremely lacking. Most triple A titles just want your money, and a lot of indie game devs lose motivation for their game. But the people who created The Magic Circle not only made an amazing game, they listen closely to the players and fix their mistakes. Because they care and they've kept their passion and motivation for their game!
I fell head over heels for this game quickly, then it utterly stole my heart. I wish I could personally shake the hands of all the parties involved and thank them for making this game. I could play it over and over again, and I'm planning on getting copies for my friends. And if this group decides to make another game they have my complete support!
So if your so inclined, check out The Magic Circle. I promise you won't regret! I've never given anything a 10 out of 10 faster!