Remember those little party favors with the tiny metal balls and a plastic maze inside? They always show up in goody bags, with a fancy colored paper backing. The player would rotate the toy around to make the ball follow the maze, perhaps ending in a little cup or corner.
That’s the first thing that came to mind when I tried Circulate, a new casual game by SlaveCircus.
The main objective in the game is to complete level goals by moving spheres into place, using your mouse. This is done by moving the entire board left to right. New levels are unlocked using ranking stars, and these ranking stars are earned by finishing each level as soon as possible. You can earn up to 5 stars on each level. Each level is preceded by an explaination of the objective, and some special tips.
The objectives vary, but there are a few general types. For example, one type is met when balls of the same color are all grouped together. Sometimes, balls must be collected in cups. In other cases, balls with opposing properties (like fire and ice) must be paired to dissolve each other. Pods produce new spheres, while forcefields and doors can contain spheres. You can even design and customize your own levels, which is a cool touch.
While meeting objectives, you must keep in mind the different properties of the balls. Metal spheres do not react with other spheres, but may be grouped together using magnets. Bombs destroy surrounding spheres, and stop signs freeze balls in place. Hover spheres are not affected by gravity, while bubble spheres float to the top. Crystal spheres are delicate and may not be moved to quickly.
It’s impressive purely from a programming perspective. The balls react naturally in their environment, depending on their properties of course, but there is some cool realistic physics involved. By varying objectives at each level, it prevents the game from becoming monotonous. Even though it starts off with very simple challenges, it gradually builds up to more complex game play. You have to stop and think about the best way to approach some of the problems, while always being mindful of the clock.
I would have liked a bit more variety in the music, which was good overall but didn’t feel like an exact match. Also, it’s not quite as addictive as I hoped, despite being interesting for short spurts.
Perhaps having an option to turn off the timer would have been a plus. I sometimes felt rushed, and so resorted to randomly swinging the board around hoping for a lucky shot. On the whole, it’s the sort of game to play when your waiting for the pizza delivery guy, or during commercial
breaks when there’s a lull.
Last Updated: March 3, 2008