Finding out what life means is something we all have to determine. We don’t need to all have the same answer. In fact, we won’t have the same answer. But we all need to look inside ourselves and ask what life means to us and what we’re going to do with our time. That isn’t easy to do.
Journey of the Broken Circle is the story of Circle and their journey to find out who they are. Circle is almost completely round, but not quite. There’s a small slice missing that they’d like to fill. We all want to feel complete and Circle is no different. You control Circle on this search to find … whatever is missing. Circle doesn’t know what it is but is determined to find it. You’ll move through the world and travel across it, searching for that part of Circle that we all look for in ourselves. This is done through clever platforming sequences that tie into the game’s themes.
I guess this is what they call reality
Circle rolls left to right, working with and against gravity and verticality. Circle can jump but only just enough. Circle is balanced and movement feels unremarkable. The game almost feels too easy at first. But things change in both situations and circumstances, depending on where Circle is and who you’re traveling with.
The struggles are felt in the controller. Not in a frustrating way but present and communicated from the screen and through your fingertips. Circle encounters resistance and challenges on a world that alternates between bright and beautiful landscapes and dark and ominous colors splashed across emotional dialogue.
There may not be spoken dialogue in this game but it doesn’t need to have it. Subtitles and sounds say it all. This game is filled with the joys and horrors of life’s struggles as Circle continues on their journey. These characters are alive even if they just look like objects. I love this because we all have feelings. Everything does. Who am I to question the feelings of something else simply because their existence is different than mine? People, animals, sentient pinecones, balloons … whatever. I wouldn’t. Existing is feeling and experiencing the world around us.
Along the way, Circle encounters friends that will join them. They help each other. Circle gains a friend who influences and affects them in both positive and negative ways. It’s not unlike the relationships we forge with those around us as we go on our own journey through life. We help and strengthen each other. That’s usually the goal. But we also hinder each other at times too. This is communicated effectively by altering the control and feel of Circle. For example, you may be able to float now but gravity is constantly working against you and you must stay afloat when Circle is traveling with Balloon. Floating can feel like flying, until it doesn’t and you’re losing air and heading towards nothing.
Sticky is a pinecone that fills in Circle’s visible emptiness. A perfect fit at first but things change, as they often do. At first Sticky allows Circle to grip surfaces, which allows greater control as you move vertically. What were once hurdles are now tools to maneuver and continue your travels. This changes though when Circle and Sticky start to disagree with each other. They want different things. Circle can’t stop moving and they need to move, roll, climb, explore, and discover. Sticky was good with traveling until they weren’t. They want to stop and enjoy the sights. Sticky doesn’t see the point in moving to move without stopping to take it in. This creates a rift when their desires can’t find a functioning compromise. Sticky’s grip changes from allowing you to grip and use the world around you to gripping you and stopping you from moving.
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
This relationship between gameplay and story continues throughout the entire game and the feelings being explored are threaded through it all so effortlessly. Guilt, doubt, depression, anger, jealously, resentment, love, and everything in between and around those feelings and emotions are discussed through you, Circle, and your senses. It’s such a smart experience that consistently evokes the desired response and feelings. My experience was connected to Circle’s and I went on this journey with them. I felt it. It’s special when developers are able to tie players and characters into each this well. I can’t help but feel more impressed that Journey of the Broken Circle is able to do it with minimalistic graphics as opposed to millions of polygons that a team spent years designing.
The characters all feel alive and the world has weight to it. For a brief time I existed in this world and I wasn’t just there. I experienced it. The colors and shapes of this world communicate the hardships and victories of life so eloquently. The music emphasizes the emotions. It’s like punctuation and formatting that stretches and twists the details across it all. Beautiful and haunting melodies evoke dread, anxiety, and pain only to lift you with Circle as bliss, forgiveness, and love wash across the screen and the heart of the characters of the game: you, Circle, and everyone you love and grow with along the journey.