“What 4th Wall?” – A Closer Look at The Magic Circle

“Craig, what do you know about The Magic Circle?” Jon asked me, to which I replied “A magician never reveals his secrets…”

Turns out, I’d gotten the wrong end of the wand and this game has next to nothing to do with the illustrious order of conjurors.

The Magic Circle is a bizarre 1st person adventure where you, the player, play as a playtester for a fantasy RPG game that has been stuck in development hell for years. It transpires that the two lead designers on the game are having constant differences of opinion on which way to take the game, one of whom wanting to sabotage the game so they can get fired.

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While becoming embroiled in this dispute, you manage to uncover an old AI within the depths of the game’s coding who teaches you how to slip between the cracks in the code and hack the creatures around you. This opens up a wealth of abilities to you, as the devs removed weapons from the game to make it more “family friendly”.

This old AI is from an old Doom style FPS, complete with blocky corridor textures and forcefield doors and asks you to help free him, to get him back into the game and help the playtester escape.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this game brings a very unusual approach to puzzle solving, while presenting the player with a surreal pseudo-game experience and very immersion stretching jokes and humour.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzxm4WtVUt0]

Originally released for early access on Steam in May of 2015, this game has now made its way on to current gen consoles. It’s currently available for £15.99 and, actually, for the amount of humour and enjoyment I’ve had from it so far, I’d suggest it’s definitely worth the investment.

The Run Down

Graphics – 7/10: By keeping to a greyscale palette for the majority of the game, with colour only being used in the sci-fi portions of the game or with your hacked critters, there’s not a huge amount to be wowed by visually. However, it is nice to see the differing styles when jumping between the two styles of game and the surroundings you do get do look very crisp and polished.

Story – 8/10: As I’ve said, this game is odd. There’s not a huge amount of depth to the story, but the way it’s told to you does draw you in and you get a real sense of what’s going on in the outside world by overhearing the game dev characters and talking with the old AI.

Sound – 7/10: Nothing wrong here, but nothing to write home about. There are some familiar voice actors on the roster for those of you familiar with the wider video game world, which is a nice touch considering the nature and theme of the game, but the sound effects feel quite generic, which I suppose you would expect from a game still in development.

Replayability – 8/10: I can see this game getting a lot of replay, finding different ways to solve puzzles and reach the different areas, particularly with its non-linear approach to discovery.

Satisfaction – 9/10: Considering I knew nothing about this game when I started it up and had no idea what to expect when playing it, I found myself laughing regularly and getting the thrill of exploration that I’ve come to relish from a good sandbox. I’m not usuall one for puzzle games, but this one grabbed me and kept a tight hold.

Have you played this game? Maybe you give it a try after reading this review. Let us know what you think in the comments.

As always, I’ve been and shall remain Craig.

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