Release roundup: Journey of the Broken Circle & Collapsed

While the release calendar for the PlayStation 5 still looks awkwardly empty, the PlayStation 4 is getting tons of new releases for games that previously launched elsewhere – and thanks to backward compatibility PS5 owners also benefit from this. We’re looking at two of them: Journey of the Broken Circle and Collapsed.

Journey of the Broken Circle

Developed by Lovable Hat Cult and published by Nakana.io, Journey of the Broken Circle previously launched on Steam and the Nintendo Switch. Now it’s out for PlayStation 4, alongside a version for the Xbox One as well. It’s a narrative-driven platformer that shines through its delivery rather than radically different gameplay, and provides a welcome change of pace.

There are very few distractions in Journey of the Broken Circle, and that starts with our protagonist – a curious little circle who wants to learn more about the world and the others who live in it. No elaborate character design, no fancy controls – just a circle that can roll around and jump and who looks a bit like Pac-man because a part of him is missing. You then meet Sticky, and together they can overcome more obstacles by combining their strengths.

With the emphasis on shapes and characters complementing each other, I quickly thought of the excellent Thomas Was Alone as a game that was perhaps an inspiration for this one. The storytelling certainly has similar nuances to it, as Circle and Sticky part ways again and our round protagonist goes through various mental states over the course of the adventure.

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Even though it’s a story about simple shapes, the way it’s told lets players experience plenty of metaphors for real life issues with mental health – especially in a time like this. And where Thomas Was Alone stuck to a minimalist approach for the entire visual design, Journey of the Broken Circle also evokes player response through its beautiful visual design, as subtle changes in colors and backdrops complement Circle’s ever-changing personal feeling while he meets others and discovers himself.

A relaxing soundtrack also helps, making this a pleasant delight to play through despite the sometimes serious undertones of the narrative. It’s not for the platform purists who only care about gameplay – the game lacks challenge and elaborate platforming mechanics – but highly recommended for those open to something a little different.

Collapsed

When relatively unknown developer Glaive Games released Collapsed on Steam in 2019 and then on the Switch last year, it completely passed us by. However, as fans of rogue-like action platformers, the trailer for the PS4 version (published by OverGamez) immediately grabbed our eye. This one’s a bit shorter and very action-oriented, but ultimately fun to play and worth checking out.

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Collapsed gives you a choice of four different characters to play with, though the differences are more about strong nuances than actually offering radically different classes. For instance, all four have both a melee and a ranged weapon, but the difference is in how powerful each one is. While some may see this as a relative lack of choice, we actually thought this made it easier to jump back in and enjoy a second playthrough without having to adapt too much.

As per the norm in the rogue-like genre, death isn’t the end, and you carry part of your progress with you in your next attempt. In this case you actually don’t even lose your items, and your skill tree progress actually carries over to the other four character types as well – further making that second playthrough seem less daunting.

Levels are randomly generated and populated each time, so that helps in avoiding repetition even though the core gameplay stays the same. Twin stick controls allow for rapid fire action, and at times I got a distinct arcade vibe from the game because of it. As with some of the Housemarque titles, it’s great to eventually get through what initially seems like frantic mayhem. Part of that is due to the upgrades you acquire along the way of course, and part of it is the learning curve that allows you to recognize patterns and come up with strategies of your own.

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What’s a tad ironic is that some of the pillars of the rogue-like genre are very basic in how they’ve been implemented here. You don’t run into game-changing new weaponry, but just upgrade what you already have, and many elements of the skilltree don’t feel particularly impactful either – just ways of gradually getting stronger.

You’ll need that though, because eventually you’ll run into the game’s challenging boss fights – and there are over a dozen of them. They all use different attack patterns and require different strategies to fight, and the order in which you encounter them is also randomized – making for a few (un)pleasant surprises during each run.

If you prefer a slower-paced journey through a rogue-like where you carefully weigh your options and change your loadout, this probably isn’t your thing. If you enjoy fast-paced action platformers with a few rogue-like elements to keep you coming back and pushing forward, then Collapsed is well worth it.

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