Klabater’s The Amazing American Circus, which was developed by Juggler Games, offers a fresh new take on the card battler genre. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t actually focus on battling – go figure. Because it also has an interesting premise, we decided to check it out – it’s available on all major systems and our test was done on a PlayStation 4.
The Amazing American Circus is based on the almost forgotten tradition of the traveling circus, something we these days mostly see in movies like The Greatest Showman. It’s partly a management sim, but one where card/deck building elements also feature heavily. It’s bold in trying something new in a (nowadays) very crowded genre, but also borrows from some of the pioneers – games like Slay the Spire come to mind when you look closer at the mechanics.
You’re not fighting enemies here though, nor do you have a band of warriors at your disposal. Your “troops” are “circus troupes” this time, and your goal in “battle” is to please local audiences with your acts. A good performance will draw applause and cheers, while failures result in them booing – probably more painful than the usual sword attack anyway.
Perhaps it’s the mechanics, but the game has a steep learning curve when it comes to fully understanding its mechanics despite a lengthy tutorial section. In fact, it wasn’t until I restarted the campaign that I started to appreciate the gameplay more, and felt more drawn into the game’s well-presented narrative. The Amazing American Circus takes you back in time to where a traveling circus was the pinnacle of entrepreneurship in entertainment, and does so in an engaging way with some solid storytelling.
Gameplay-wise, you’ll gradually unlock more cards, giving you more options for each performer as they take five of them into their “battle” with the audience. Some of the better cards use up energy when you play them, so stamina and the buildup of your performance are things to keep in mind – which also applies to the ‘finale’ meter that lets you perform extra powerful feats.
Between circus upgrades, new performers you can hire and a few generic management tasks, there’s plenty to do in the game – though some of it feels like a distraction at best, and with so much going on it’s hard really focus on the core gameplay and appreciate it. Where other card battlers instill that sense of “I’ll go in for another quick round”, The Amazing American Circus is more campaign-driven and I doubt I’ll go back to it again. Having said that, I enjoyed my time with it, its novel premise and its story delivery.