I learned about Journey of the Broken Circle because of the different promotions by nakana.io, the publishers of the game, that involved either getting their games for free or at a really cheap price. And more than being exposed to the game I’m going to review now, their promotions made me aware of games that, in their own words, “share an experience to remember”. So the question now is, is my experience with Journey of the Broken Circle worth remembering? Let’s get into it.
Journey of the Broken Circle is a platformer where you take control of Circle. Circle is quite talkative – throughout playing the game, it will often express what is in it’s mind. You’ll learn very early from what it says that Circle is broken. It is literally missing a piece and is incomplete.
Unlike most games, Journey of the Broken Circle isn’t looking to give you a challenge to overcome. Instead, the game aims to tell the story of Circle’s quest to achieve completeness and to make you feel what Circle feels throughout his/her search for happiness. So the game play mechanics to start are very basic – Circle can roll to the left or right and can jump. Building momentum helps Circle jump higher and farther.
As you progress in the game, Circle gains or loses abilities. As Circle’s abilities change, so does the way in which you go through the game’s levels. These levels are designed around utilizing Circle’s abilities. The game does an excellent job at teaching you the new abilities, presents different obstacles to help you master them, and finally throws some challenging sections that will put your skills to the test.
The game is on the short side, with only sixteen levels in the main campaign. You don’t have lives in this game – if you die, you just respawn almost right where you died. With this in mind, you can probably breeze through the game in three to five hours. There are two special levels that can be unlocked by collecting a specific number of mushrooms which are hidden throughout the levels. Completionists can try collecting all the collectible mushrooms too – there are 38 out of 39 total.
What I find amazing about Journey of the Broken Circle is how effective it is at showing how relationships work. Through Circle’s dialogue, as well as the events that Circle experiences, the game is able to illustrate how relationships form and what makes them good. Then it goes and shows what makes relationships bad and illustrates the different ways they can end up breaking. It’s almost uncanny how relatable the events of this game are. I don’t want to spoil anything, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Aside from breaking down relationships between two individuals, Journey of the Broken Circle also looks at abandonment and how it relates to grief and anxiety. It’s a difficult subject to handle but this game handles it appropriately. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything so I don’t want to say any further.
Visuals and Audio
Graphically, Journey of the Broken Circle is very basic, using simple shapes that look like paper cutouts. However, the art style works really well for what this game wants to do. The colors of each level are effective in conveying the emotions that each stage wants to convey.
This game’s music stands out a lot more than it’s graphics, in my opinion. I can’t believe how well each stage’s theme music is able to match the emotional story it is trying to tell at the time. Happy levels have happy music, sad levels have sad music. And it’s different kinds of happy themes too. A stage that tries to convey the joy of starting a new relationship has a different theme compared to a stage focused on recovery and healing. Here’s a sample of one of the levels that I like to replay simply because of its theme:
I’m glad that you can replay any of the levels that you’ve already beaten, because this game has a lot of music that I like listening to.
The Special Stages
As I mentioned before, collecting mushrooms hidden in the different levels will unlock two special stages. Collecting ten of them will unlock The Bad Trip, a special level that is an homage to some really difficult games that I’ve never heard of. This stage is really hard, it took me hours to beat once and I don’t think I have the time or patience to try again.
Collecting eighteen mushrooms unlocks The Good Trip. After beating the game, if you are curious about how Circle is going to play like with all of it’s abilities, then you’re going to find The Good Trip interesting. Because there are 38 collectible mushrooms in the game, it’s highly likely that you’ll unlock The Good Trip before beating the game. I suggest that you hold off from playing this special level until you’ve seen the game’s ending.
I have several of nakana.io’s published titles because of their different promotions in the past, and Journey of the Broken Circle is my favorite. The game experience is short, but very impactful. It’s even made me reflect on my past experiences. It does what it aims to do, and does it beautifully and efficiently.
However, Journey of the Broken Circle’s regular price on the U.S. eShop is USD $8.00. It’s hard to recommend this game at that price given that you have only somewhere between three to seven hours of gameplay on average. If you like indie games that are leaning more towards the “art” side rather than the “game” side, you can consider getting this title at full price. According to Deku Deals, this game has gone on sale for as low as USD $2.00 during the last holiday season and has been on a 40% discount twice this year. It’s easier for me to recommend this title at those prices.
Final Rating: 5.0 out of 5 stars.