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It’s hard to feel optimistic about the game industry sometimes. It seems like we can’t go a day without something shady happening in e-sports, a game industry higher-up saying something stupid and inconsiderate, games being rushed out with buggy results, a lack of creativity from bigger budgeted games, indie games hive-minding around trends and killing them as fast as they can, Kickstarters failing to deliver or delivering at all, certain minorities in the fan communities ruining it for everyone, and you get the idea. It’s partly a reason why I have slowed down on writing game reviews. Not that I don’t still enjoy it because I do, but sometimes my interest for the industry drops off as I work on other articles for my website. I think a game that encapsulates that whole cynicism is The Magic Circle Gold Edition. No, it doesn’t represent everything that is wrong about the game industry, but instead builds a rather humorous and interesting experience around it. It might have its flaws, but it’s easily one of the more memorable games that I have played in a while. Let’s dive in and see what’s up.
The Magic Circle puts you into the shoes of an unnamed individual who happens to be the hero of a fantasy RPG stuck in development hell. As you complete the rather pathetic condition the game is in, you get contacted by what is essentially the creative spirit of the game. You are then given the powers to essentially edit everything around you. Can you screw over the almighty designers’ plan? Can you salvage an actual game? The best part about this game, like I mentioned above, is its cynicism. While it is a jab at all the tropes of what could possibly go wrong with a game stuck in development hell and delusional dreams of grandeur of a designer voiced by Dr. Venture from The Venture Brothers, James Urbaniak, it’s still optimistic and hilarious. Some of the jokes don’t hit, but you will pretty much get a laugh out of the majority of the clever writing and how the story progresses in the game.
The Magical Circle is essentially a first-person puzzle game, where you gain the abilities of a PC god. If you see an enemy about to turn you into deleted data, you set a trap and catch it. You can then edit the beast, and either make it useless, or attack your enemies, or do I what I did, and make an entire army of monsters with different abilities and have their attacks do the hard work. This is pretty much all you do in The Magic Circle. You hack, explore, hack critters to solve puzzles, and so on. It will take you about three or so hours to complete, and maybe an hour or two longer if you want to complete everything. The only real reason to replay the game is to find other creative ways to solve the puzzles in the game.
Graphically, it’s the only time where looking like a bad unfinished game is the point. The graphics look like a game stuck in development hell, and if you have played any game that was in this situation, like Duke Nukem Forever and Ride to Hell: Retribution, you know what I mean. The 3D graphics look pointy and rough, the pixel art is hard on the eyes, and it’s just a fitting presentation. The voice work is also really good, with I think James Urbaniak putting in the best performance of being an ego self-indulgent game designer with too high of goals for a game that has been stuck in limbo for years.
So, what’s actually wrong with the game you can’t write off as “that was meant to be the case”? Well, some of the solutions are obtuse, in terms of finding certain upgrades or puzzle solutions. I also found no real reason to pick up the game again. It’s fun, but I never got that personal feeling of “man, I want to play this again!”. Why should I buy a game if I don’t ever feel like playing it again? Open-ended puzzles aren’t a good way to bring me back. I can solve the puzzles a different way each time, but the story is going to be the same. The puzzles also weren’t fully satisfying. I don’t know, I never felt that feeling of, “aw yeah, that was great!” from The Magic Circle. In a way, it feels more like the game banked on its humor and cynicism more than being a great overall experience.
However, even with those complaints, I did enjoy my time with The Magic Circle, but I don’t see myself coming back to a game like this. Maybe in a long time I will, but not anytime soon. If this game sounds like it’s something you would enjoy, or if you like games that are similar in tone to Hack n Slash, then you will probably enjoy it. It’s not an underwhelming game, but just like the game itself, there could have been more to it.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.