In The Magic Circle, you are the protagonist of an unfinished 1st person fantasy game, trapped in development hell. The fictional designers are god-like, but so indecisive that they’ve given you no powers whatsoever. With the help of a mysterious disembodied voice you must seize the tools of game development from these unworthy ‘gods’, uncovering more of the darkly comic 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 behaviours, and re-mix them to explore and master this world-in-progress. Can you out-think the game gods? Can you release The Magic Circle from inside it?
- Explore a World-In-Progress – A sketch-like fantasy land left “incomplete” by fictional game developers with delusions of grandeur – restore what they erased, discover the ruins of their discarded game ideas and bend them to new purpose.
- Creativity is the Key – Exploit the game systems to solve freeform puzzles with many correct answers.
- Play Game Designer – Rewrite objects and creatures from the inside, steal their powers and transplant them into your pets. When you’re ready, edit whole groups at once, to affect the world on a wider scale.
- Frankenstein’s Army – Make a mushroom grow teeth, a rat breathe fire, or turn a group of flat rocks into a floating staircase. One favorite swiss-army pet, or a weaponized zoo? You decide.
Brought to you by developers ‘Question’, The Magic Circle is a quirky game that sees you enter an unfinished RPG as the hero. There is no tutorial as such, you are pitched straight into the unfinished game world and are presented with the story as told by the game designers. These designers are represented in game as a massive floating eye as seen below.
Whilst this commentary is going on, you start to learn about how to move and how the world ‘works’. Scattered throughout the game are notes left by the programming team which gives a small insight into how a game is developed, these notes are more often than not placed at what would be trigger points in the ‘finished’ game. Some are also in hidden places which can only be discovered when the player has the requisite abilities (more on that later). One such note can be seen here and is placed just before a puzzle that has to be solved.
As the game progresses you as the hero are given free reign to alter the attributes and characteristics of any creature or object that you meet and trap with your ‘Magic Circle’ power. The things that you can trap and alter include corpses, rocks, cyber-rats and mushrooms. Say for example that you trap a cyber-rat, you can then edit everything about it. You have the option to rename it to anything you want, you can take or edit how it moves, how it attacks, what it’s abilities are, who it’s enemies are and who it allies with. If you take all abilities you will leave it an inaminate thing that does nothing, but all the aforementioned abilities are now available to you to attribute to anything else that you trap. So if you then trap a rock (yes I know), you can give that rock any or all of the abilities that you took from the rat. So in this game you could end up with (like I did) a flying rock called Burny McRock, that spouts flames at any enemy of the hero.
On the subject of rocks, as you move further into the game there are spaces to fill with your power and when filled they are big rocks with faces and give advice on how to progress.
To move on in the game there are various puzzles that need solving before you progress and they can only be solved if you have the required abilities. This requires a certain amount of exploration and trapping of creatures and objects to add to your allies. When you’ve built up a little army of allies then you’re set for pretty much anything that the game can throw at you. Most of the puzzles and situations are straightforward enough and with a little thinking pose no great problem.
One of the things that I discovered after finishing the game is that there isn’t just one solution to most of the problems, many of them can be solved and overcome in a few different ways depending on what abilities you have. There are some abilities that I have yet to find but I was still able to complete everything despite their absence.
While the very beginning of the game is linear, as you go on it turns into more of an open world free to roam affair. There is no set order that you have to accomplish things and much fun is to be had exploring. A map is provided and you can ‘fast travel’ to anywhere that you have already been and you also have the ability to summon everything that you have trapped instantly. If you die you can ‘ghost’ your way around and this is a cool way to explore what’s ahead and to work out what you need to do to get there when you’re alive again.
The main aim of the game is to get close enough to the big boss ‘Sky Bastard’ to edit him. Even after that is achieved, the game continues and there is a little more to do. I won’t write about that here but suffice to say there is still a bit to do after you think you’ve finished.
The look of the game is as it should be, colours not being totally there as it’s meant to be an unfinished game. Still the shading and textures are exactly what you would expect. The whole 8-bit blockiness of some of the levels isn’t out of place and feels like it should be there.
The music fit’s quite well with the situations you find yourself in, haunting melodies play as you move around and you know when the poop is going to hit the fan when the soundtrack kicks up a gear and epic music is blasted out, it all adds to the atmosphere and gameplay experience.
The story is engaging and I really enjoyed hearing the interplay between the main developer and his minions. There is a little bit of bad language in the script but it’s not excessive.
Although it’s quite a short game ( I finished it in around 7 hours) there is replayability. I have yet to discover everything and I also want to try some of the boss battles using different abilities.
I give The Magic Circle – Gold Edition a big thumbs up and a healthy 8/10
I really didn’t know what to expect from this but I was pleasantly surprised and although it’s not my ‘type’ of game I actually enjoyed playing it and I will definitely play it again to explore a little more.
Game kindly provided by the developers.