[Review] Journey of the Broken Circle – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Lovable Hat Cult
  • Publisher: Nakana.io
  • Release date: 18/9/2020
  • Price: £7.20 / $8.00
  • Review code provided by Nakana.io

Introducing Journey of the Broken Circle Switch Review

Something I adore about the Switch is that it has a lot of smaller experiences that you may see on PC, but not on the other consoles that are usually hooked up to your TV. In an age where it seems that big games are pushing towards longer and longer playtimes or simply endless grinds, it’s good to see that there are still developers who are dedicated to making short experiences that know just how long they need to be without overstaying their welcome. Journey of the Broken Circle is one such game that knows just how long it wants to be and gives us an experience in that timeframe.

Rolling along

Journey of the Broken Circle is about a circle (who is referred to by everyone as simply “Circle”) that is missing a piece of itself. This leaves it looking like a sort of Pac-man shape as it searches for the piece that will complete it and allow it to become whole. Along the way, Circle meets several characters that either serve as a short conversation to be had about Circle’s journey or will join Circle to move together through the world and discover more. It’s all fairly simple in concept, but it’s the interactions with the characters that serve to bring some more depth to the journey that you’re going on.

The game actually dives deeper than I initially thought it would. While Circle struggles with loneliness and a sense of missing part of themself, the other characters are just as interesting. For example, there’s Sticky, who starts out by going on a journey with Circle in order to see more of the world and find a place to put down roots. However, the relationship between the two is where the story lies. At first it is a partnership that benefits both parties, but as time goes on and their interests diverge, it becomes clear just how bad the two are for each other, even if Sticky does fit somewhat into Circle’s open slot. There’s also elements that explore clinginess, driving others away, hopelessness, freedom, and even a light touch on depression. It’s all there and honestly, some of it hit close to home. I wasn’t sobbing on my couch as I played, but the game did evoke feelings, sometimes strong ones.

Sticking in place

Mostly this is a 2D platformer, and a fairly simple one at that. While the mechanics change up a decent amount, it’s never really without warning and there is always time to adjust before things get a little difficult. In each section of the game, I usually only died a handful of times. It might be harder for someone who is not very adept at platformers, but I never felt that I was super challenged, though this isn’t a game that is going for a lot of difficulty in the first place. If you’re looking for challenge, the place to find that would be in the bonus levels that are unlocked by finding mushrooms during the campaign. The levels here are fun takes on the game that wouldn’t have fit into it normally and serve as nice break after you finish up.

Each of the characters that Circle joins with changes up the mechanics a little bit, shaking the gameplay up for just long enough to give the game the burst of energy that it needs. Sticking to walls, jumping in clouds, and straight up floating are all fair game. However, my favorite just might be the segment where there are areas that will reverse your controls for a little bit. Perhaps this was the part that I had the most trouble with, but it was also one of the most fun times that I had with the game. 

Seeing the sights

The visual design here is really something. The areas that you will move through are all visually distinct and range from volcanic caves to the skies above. Most of the time I had no trouble with any of it, though there was one small issue. Given the dreamlike pastels that much of the game is rendered in, Circle’s white coloring can sometimes get a little lost in the pale colors of the background. It wasn’t often and it usually wasn’t in anywhere that was challenging but I did feel like it left me a little lost every once in a while. Otherwise, the game is beautiful. The visual distinction of what is going on by what completes Circle or by other visual signals was really great, making everything easily understood while you are playing.

The music was perhaps my least favorite part of the game and that is disappointing to say. While there were one or two tracks that I felt really suited the moment, everything else felt rather forgettable and even just a day after finishing the game, I can’t remember a single melody off the top of my head. The synthetic sound of the music also feels really at odds with the generally naturalistic setting of the game and could be jarring every once in a while. The worst part, though, was the piercing tones that cropped up in some of the tracks. While normally when I play handheld, I keep the volume at 75% or so, this time I had to take it down to 25%. Anything else made the loud sharp tones that were prevalent in some of the tracks feel like they were stabbing through my skull. This won’t bother everyone, of course, but it was a bit of a takeaway for me, especially since the very first track of the game is like this.

The bumpy road

Journey of the Broken Circle runs smooth as butter no matter where you intend to play it, though I fond myself in handheld for most of the time. As a fairly short game, it’s pretty suited to short play sessions and on the go play. It actually is one of those games that’s great for laying in bed and unwinding at the end of the day with.

Reaching completion

Overall, I really did like Journey of the Broken Circle and it did touch me, but I think I got all that I needed to out of it in my first run through the game. I don’t think it’s one that I will be coming back to very often and some of the smaller problems with the presentation were enough to keep me from singing it’s praises from the rooftops. However, it’s still an exceptionally wonderful title that’s available at a decent price if you’re willing to give it just a few hours of your time.

Pros

  • Simple but engaging gameplay
  • Gameplay elements that change up at a regular pace
  • A story that is deceptively simple, but touching at the core

Cons

  • Circle can sometimes get a little lost in the visuals
  • The music was nearly headache inducing at points

Verdict

Small hangups keep Journey of the Broken Circle from reaching perfection, but it’s a touching experience nonetheless.

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