The original version of The Magic Circle came out for PC last year and this summer sees the release of the console versions, with the release of a Gold Edition of the game. We never played the original game, so we were more than curious to find out more about this highly original game.
We all know that the indie genre is brimming with original and experimental ideas. Some successful, others missing the mark by feeling more like a novelty act than a game. The Magic Circle is both highly original and somewhat experimental in nature, and manages to pull it off. It’s the debut title for developer Question, whose developers earned their wings by working on titles such as Bioshock and Dishonored.
The Magic Circle is a game about a game – or rather the development of one. In this case, it’s a game that’s been two decades in the making with a team of developers that just can’t seem to wrap up the game. You’re a game tester and while testing you decide to take matters into your own hands and finish the game from within the game environment. Don’t worry, the game doesn’t require you to have any coding skills….
Throughout the game, you’ll pick up little bits of conversations between the designers/programmers that give you more insight about the game’s design and the issues they’re dealing with, giving you as the player some insight into how game development really happens. It’s meant to be entertaining more than it’s educational though, with a lot of subtle and comedic references to real world events and anecdotes – such as the fact that you’re trying to get a playable version of the game ready for a convention called the “E4”.
How this all translates into an actual game is best experienced, but I’ll try to explain it anyway. Over the course of the development cycle, code fragments get created and left behind. These can be found again by you as a player, and then subsequently used to overcome enemies and obstacles. As such, you can reprogram an enemy to become harmless, but the most interesting dynamic comes from being able to overcome puzzles creatively.
Most of these puzzles have multiple solutions and can be approached creatively, although unfortunately (perhaps as a result) most of them aren’t especially challenging. This makes The Magic Circle both open in terms of how you play it, but at the same time relatively easy to complete. Unless you’re really into collecting achievements and are willing to do multiple playthroughs, you’re looking at about four to five hours of gameplay time here.
Still, those four to five hours are highly inventive and original, the writing is strong and the subject matter very interesting. In the end it’s a game that just comes together quite well in a way that’s worth exploring. Had one or two of the game’s elements been more generic than that would have probably hurt the game, but Question has instead crafted something unique. The Magic Circle will probably be remembered more for its creativity than for its core gameplay, but in some cases that’s just enough.