I have had my eye on The Magic Circle for quite a long time now. In the past week or so the game went on sale from $19.99 to just $4.99 and I couldn’t resist picking it up after about a year or so of deciding whether or not to take a chance on a game I knew very little about. I try to give Indie games a chance more so than Triple-A games because more often than not the really deep and impactful stories you can experience in video games arise from Indie developers. The Magic Circle is no different and it tells a great story about the culture surrounding video games and the actual act of creating a video game in a probing and poignant way. Before I get into the details about this game (I will avoid major spoilers, but the minor ones I will not be able to avoid), The Magic Circle is best played by going in blind and not knowing what to expect. If you want a game that is truly unique and has a great concept, then pick this game up and let me know whether you agree or disagree, but if you want to get a better idea about what I am definitely recommending then read on ahead.
The Magic Circle is a First-Person puzzle game that has elements of combat and platforming in minor respects. You play as a tester for an upcoming, and wholly unfinished, game that is little more than a mash-up of unfinished textures and stock sounds all formed around a faulty narrative. Throughout the game, you are approached by the creators of The Magic Circle who are trying to give you an ever-expanding explanation to dismiss the dejected quality of the game you are playing. I recorded a small clip of some of the banter that takes place to give you a taste of what the game feels like that you can see below.
As you can tell by the clip, the writer of the game is trying to break the mold of the “Hero of the Realm that does whatever he or she pleases without anyone batting an eye” and create a more narrative-based experience that would be genuinely better off without the player in it. However, through your time in the game, you are shepherded by the “Pro,” an old video game tester who has been testing the game for a very long time. The Pro tells you that the game, as it stands, will never be finished and that you are the only force that can finally kick the developers into gear and make them finish The Magic Circle, and this is where the heart of the game is shown.
The Magic Circle is all about creativity and showing that creativity to others. As someone who (semi) regularly puts my inner thoughts up on the internet for everyone else to see and judge, this really struck a chord with me. I am notoriously bad at getting REALLY into something for about a week or two and then completely giving it up with very little chance that I will revisit it in the future. This quality makes it fairly easy to play new games to write reviews and thought about, but makes it extremely difficult to create anything of my own and actually get good at it. I’ve tried to learn roughly 5 different languages, to teach myself nearly all inexpensive game designing software, and to create music and art digitally and physically and nothing ever sticks. In the Magic Circle, you are brought against a man who is a master of his craft, but cannot come up with a way to create his dream. All the while, the longer he puts off the creation process the more ravenous his fan-base becomes. Being so new to the reviewing and writing scene, I still find it difficult to put my thoughts out for everyone to see and critique and not be offended if someone, in particular, doesn’t like how or what I write. I’m learning that pushing past that feeling and getting at least SOMETHING out there, even if it isn’t your best work, is just as important as slowly but surely crafting the perfect review that makes everyone want to come back for more, and this issue is what The Magic Circle displays. You watch as a creator loses the drive and will to create his dream and leaves a potentially deep and beautiful world filled with half-attempts and unfinished ideas. Because of this, the world is sad, seeing all of the things that could have been forces you to use your own creativity and literally hack into the code of the game and create something of your own. If that means you want to create a rock that has a railgun and the ability to fly- do it. Or if that means that you are going to create a turtle-master that can control all the other turtles and make them fire-proof and explosive- you can do that too. The Magic Circle gives you a playground in which to explore and improve as much as possible to make it an enjoyable and engaging experience for someone else.
While the game-play of the Magic Circle isn’t very demanding, the story that it tells wholly makes up for it. I started this game up a few days ago and found myself playing for almost 4 or 5 hours from start to finish in one sitting, it was that engaging to me. Between the ability to reach in and change creatures and objects to your liking, the game encourages you to break the rules and create things that are so powerful and ridiculous that you think you get yourself into an unreachable part of the game, only to have the game say “Good Job” and give you a firm handshake on the event of discovering Secret Area 1 of 20. The Magic Circle hits a lot of important areas of my personality for me and was an extremely enjoyable experience that I would recommend to anyone who has been having trouble being creative and just needs to finish SOMETHING to keep the dream alive.