Journey of the Broken Circle – Review
Follow Genre: Platformer
Developer: Lovable Hat Cult
Publisher: nakana.io
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Journey of the Broken Circle – Review

Site Score
6.5
Good: Beautiful overall presentation
Bad: Writing lacks nuance and subtlety
User Score
7.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Whenever we see that nakana.io has published a new title, we already have an idea of what to expect: a short but sweet story-driven experience that is more about provoking thoughts and less about deep and engaging gameplay. That’s not to say nakana.io’s releases are repetitive, as the differences between EQQO’s heartwarming tale and Infini’s descent into weirdness are enormous, but we have come to expect certain things for a release from the publisher. Does Journey of the Broken Circle fit the nakana.io mold or does it surpass our expectations?

Story

Journey of the Broken Circle attempts to deliver a message about existentialism through a cute story, about a circle that is missing a wedge and feels incomplete. Taking a fairy-tale story approach, with narrative text appearing out of thin air and characters talking in speech bubbles, the game tries to make a relatively heavy subject palatable for the masses. Our Pac-Man-esque protagonist, aptly named Circle, is struggling with the “why” and “how” of his own existence. In order to find answers, Circle sets out on a journey of self-discovery. 

On this titular journey, Circle runs into a charming cast of characters and engages in conversation with each of them. The dialogue is often a bit on the nose but it does help to flesh out Circle as a character. Throughout the journey, you’ll learn that our round protagonist isn’t always the most sympathetic of characters and can even be quite selfish sometimes. The symbiotic relationships that Circle builds with the friends that merge with him are thinly veiled metaphors for actual relationships and follow a pattern where things start out cute and happy but gradually devolve into arguments before Circle and his companion of the moment break up. Meanwhile, other characters offer different insights as they question Circle’s motivations and actions.

Like other nakana.io titles, the game isn’t shy about its true purpose. It invites the player to engage in self-reflection and relate to the ordeals that Circle faces. We can’t really fault the game for this admirable goal, but we did feel that the overall writing is a matter of style over substance. The dialogue leaves little room for the player to draw their own conclusions and is very in-your-face at times. There were some fantastic moments on the journey, including a hilarious bit about polyamory, but these were too far and few between to really sell us on the overall story.

Graphics

Journey of the Broken Circle’s visuals are as simple as they are eye-pleasing. The game uses vector-based graphics and pastel tones to bring a calm and relaxing atmosphere to a world filled with a variety of environments. Objects and characters you encounter are little more than simple shapes reminiscent of papercraft, but everything comes to life thanks to expert use of colors. The game even manages to convey a sense of temperature by playing with the way color depicts the environment. If anything, the characters themselves are visually the least interesting part of Journey of the Broken Circle, as their designs are almost oversimplified and they only manage to convey emotion through dialogue and not through their expressions. 

Sound

The game’s soundtrack really ties the experience together. The beautiful electronic soundtrack perfectly matches the visuals and sets the mood. Each of the game’s many environments is accompanied by its own music track, creating a haunting soundscape that is set to linger with you even after you finished the game. The music is the star player here, as environmental sounds are limited and there is no voice acting. Gibberish is heard when characters engage in dialogue but this only occurs occasionally. 

Gameplay

Although Journey of the Broken Circle is best described as a platforming game, don’t expect an action-packed experience.  Players take on the role of Circle himself and, as the title indicates, set out on a journey of discovery and self-reflection. As with any platform game, the aim is, of course, to get from point A to point B. By himself, Circle has limited abilities. He can roll, of course, as well as jump. Along the way, however, Circle will meet new friends that fit into the gap in his body, turning him from a broken circle into a complete one. Each of these friends offers a new ability that allows Circle to move around in different ways. Take Sticky, for example, a seedling that can stick to surfaces. While Circle and Sticky are merged, the pair is able to climb walls. The various abilities of Circle’s friends allow for some gameplay variation, but as we said before, the focus is more on the story than on gameplay, so don’t expect any mind-blowing super moves. 

The levels themselves are simple but varied. You’ll explore a wide range of environments, from underground caverns to the clouds and everything in-between. There are no traditional enemies to be found in the worlds you visit. Instead, the environment itself offers challenges and obstacles. Rocks will collapse as you roll across them, ice floors are slippery and pitfalls can only be jumped across when you’ve built up enough momentum. The most interesting, and perhaps most challenging, the environmental effect is caused by lava. The heat of lava reverses your controls, meaning you’ll have to move your joystick left in order to move to the right and vice versa. This requires some quick thinking on some of the game’s trickier sections as you keep switching between lava-altered controls and standard ones.

Still, the game doesn’t provide a real challenge and can be cleared in roughly four hours, although you can collect hidden mushrooms along the way, in order to unlock drug-inspired bonus levels. These bonus levels, titled Good Trip and Bad Trip, add some replay value as you won’t be able to reach some of the mushrooms on your first playthrough. Instead, you’ll need to revisit the levels with one of your merged buddies. The game never really gets difficult but we’d say it’s relaxing instead of just easy and it offers a nice change of pace if you’re looking for some carefree platforming. 

Conclusion

Out of all of nakana.io’s titles, Journey of the Broken Circle is the one that comes closest to a traditional game experience, and as such, it will have the most mainstream appeal. The pleasing visuals, atmospheric soundtrack and relaxing gameplay blend together to bring you an appealing overall package. However, the story has less of an impact than the other nakana.io games because it lacks nuance and draws conclusions for you rather than letting you reach them on your own. As such, we consider it a good jumping-off point before you delve into one of their other and better titles, such as Lydia or EQQO.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Journey of the Broken Circle - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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