Switch version tested
Review code provided
Journey of the Broken Circle rolls onto Nintendo Switch as developer Lovable Hat Cult and publisher Nakana.io join forces to make us whole again. This native-driven platforming adventure asks the question – what would you do to be complete?
Touted as a story of love, life and existentialism as you take control of a Pac-Man styled lead and seemingly broken circle. The journey unfolds across 16 beautifully minimalistic, yet remarkably crafted levels with two additional bonus sections that can be unlocked through the collection of mushrooms. The primary objective of this tale is to guide the incomplete circle from A to B while experiencing the subtle story, which in itself should be a simple task. Traverse over, under and through varied landscapes from woodland areas to mountain ranges to the sky and more. Initially, you are restricted to a single jump and roll control system for exploration.
It soon becomes apparent that the broken circle just wants to be complete again, to have a sense of purpose and fulfilment and with this as a driving force will stop at nothing. Each of the passing backdrops is home to a barrage of obstacles to overcome and NPCs to interact with. Some NPCs simply add context while others allow limited interaction through multiple choice answers. Ultimately it doesn’t seem to have a massive bearing on the overall story arc but it’s a nice option to have.
The story being told attempts to be deep and thought-provoking, which it achieves in some respects. Every few stages you will pair with another character, temporarily completing an imperfect circle and adding a new ability required to beat the current area. The added mechanics include sticking to surfaces, floating and high-speed movement. As each newly formed duo progress and understand each other’s objectives relationships are often strained to the point of breaking. This is a journey of self-discovery and it becomes apparent that our circle is not always the easiest to get on with. As you near the end of the 16 levels a clear shift in perspective occurs as the circle begins to understand some underlying issues. Although there are no true BOSS BATTLES you will find threats to initially evade.
In terms of a gameplay viewpoint Journey of the Broken Circle is a fairly standard platformer with light puzzle and problem-solving elements. There isn’t anything too taxing and the core mechanics work well enough that you can absorb the story while not having to worry too much about what your fingers are doing. It is a very chilled experience that will keep you playing for a few hours until you reach the end. The game’s story is told via text bubbles while the unseen narrator gives additional context from time to time, these can easily be missed when moving a speed. Every touch of quality and trick used will be familiar to fans of the excellent Thomas Was Alone, if only Journey of the Broken Circle had opted for voiced narration like the aforementioned. It really would have added to the sense of emotion, thankfully the soundtrack is great. The tunes flow add gravitas which goes some way to compensate for the omission of voice work.
Although the game can easily be completed within a single sitting it’s not without a few areas of contention. By far the biggest issue is with the new abilities that are temporarily gained. Yes, they are part of the bigger picture and drastically change the style of play for a reason but it also has an adverse effect on the placing. You also never really get to grips with the fiddly mechanics, some of the jumps seem impossible to make while sticking and unsticking feels clunky. It’s easy to die and replaying sections can be somewhat tedious, the inclusion of mid-level checkpoints are literally a lifesaver. Once the game is over there is a level of replayability if you are interested in collecting all of the mushrooms scattered within the stages. As previously mentioned these are used to unlock bonus levels which are outside of the main storyline.
Journey of the Broken Circle is an interesting concept that delivers its message better than it plays. Gameplay is relatively generic masked by clean visuals and a chilled-out soundtrack. The culmination of these elements makes for a pleasant experience which is ultimately hampered by some fiddly in-game mechanics. Retailing at $8 / £7.20 Journey of the Broken Circle isn’t the cheapest budget title around but worth the asking price for a quirky and fun adventure that will get you thinking along the way.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 18/09/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Platformer
Developer: Loveable Hat Cult
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop