The Magic Circle is a small first-person open-world platformer by Question that strives to put more power than ever into the hands of the player. Trapped in a game that is itself trapped in development hell, you play as the protagonist known only as The Hero.
You must utilize the development tools of “the gods” in order to sabotage the game badly enough so that the current director gets fired and a new god may take his place and finish your world. The games self-aware nature and witty writing make for a good laugh as you traverse a world rendered in a beautiful hand-drawn art style. The main mechanic of the game is almost reminiscent of Scribblenauts. You can edit the game’s NPCs. You can steal attributes from various creatures, and stitch them together onto other objects in order to suit your needs. One such example is pulling the legs and teeth off of a “howler” which is a crude model of a dog-type enemy, giving them to a rock, setting that rock as your friend, and Eureka! One pet rock ready to fight by your side!
As you progress through the world there are puzzles that can be solved in various ways. Since the theme of the game is that it itself is not finished, there are very little limitations on how you can create solutions to these puzzles. Some of the world has been deleted or “ghosted” meaning you must die in order to interact with them. While in ghost form, you can only interact with ghosted objects, but you can return to normal immediately upon finding a “crack” which is an area you can draw life from. While it is refreshing to see death used as a mechanic rather than just an inconvenience, the bright colors and flashing of the respawn animations are headache inducing at best.
While playing the campaign you overhear conversations between “gods” such as the artistically demanding director, the jaded designer desperately trying to get fired, and the perky intern who’s just happy to be there. Their conversations make for a dark satire on the game development industry, and helps add a little life to what is otherwise an intentionally bland world. The main campaign is rather short, taking only about four hours to complete, however there is much more to this game than just the campaign. Besides a vast world to explore filled with creatures and objects to play god with, beating the campaign unlocks the level editor mode. The level editor is simplistic on the surface but offers a lot of depth to be discovered. You never get to play the level you create, however you do send it to a tester. As you watch the tester progress, a fun meter is constantly falling unless the tester is presented with a variety of gaming elements without any dead time. This makes the level editor its own game, as you strive to add enemies, health packs, treasure, and story elements in just the right increments to keep your tester happy. Each element you drop into the editor uses life. Your base pool of life comes from the amount of collectibles discovered in the open world, encouraging deep exploration.
Overall, the Golden Circle definitely is wonderful experience, its funny writing, unique mechanics, and beautiful are direction are held back only by its brevity and visually obnoxious respawn animations.