South of the Circle on Apple Arcade — Just Not For Me
I like to think that I enjoy narrative games. Half Life 1 and 2. Bioshock. Cyberpunk 2077. When I see something like, South of the Circle, I cannot help but install it, try and play it.
Unfortunately, I could not get into it. I gave it about 10 days of play time, and trying to play it, at least, twice a day. Eventually, I had to remove it. It is too dull for me.
No Game Play
The game opens in an intense fashion. There is a plane crash in the snow mountains. The setting is the cold war, I think. The pilot is is injured, and the hero must venture out on his own to arrange rescue. The initial portion is a ton of dialogue, some interaction (picking up a first aid box) and walking. The voice work is excellent, and so is the direction.
It’s like watching a indie movie with unknown actors and minimal music. I am okay with this. Already, I was beginning to feel unimpressed. Tapping to walk and hand over a med kit isn’t my definition of a narrative adventure. I assumed, the game was simply setting up the story first, before making things interesting.
But, the entire game is just that. Tapping to walk (extremely slowly) and touching here and there. That’s the game play. Occasionally there are these choice bubbles but no matter what you select, it does not seem to have an effect. Perhaps, they would have, if I played it longer. The choice bubbles themselves are vague and indecipherable.
I had no idea if I tapped a good bubble or a bad bubble. Eventually, I simply tapped whatever color I like at that moment. Instead of engaging me, the bubbles became a game of color, to tap, detached from the overall story. The dialogues were interesting, hinting at something dangerous. I think, it was setting some sort of a spy story, similar to the Brad Pitt movie, Allied.
I liked the romance portions as well. Until, the dialogues stopped moving the story forward, and I quickly lost interest in that too.
Stunning Characters and Scenery
The only thing that kept me going through 10 days of boring ‘narrative adventuring’ was the incredible painting like experience of the game. There are many movies that I simply watch for the sake of visuals. Anytime I am bored, I play ‘John Carter’ or ‘Blade Runner 2049’ on mute. Speed Race, another gorgeous movie.
Simply play it on the big screen, and let my eyes feast on it.
Unexpectedly, the game rotates between two time periods. I think, this is one of those ‘memento’ style stories where the narrative meets at the center. Or time travel thing. It does have an abandoned research facility in the ice mountains. Perhaps, like in ‘The Thing’, there is a mysterious monster around. I mean, when a game is set in the cold war, your mind automatically assumes that the Russians are the villains. I feel like that is a red herring.
So, two narratives. Present time is the rescue operation in the snow. Past tense is the love story at a London university. I was unable to get invested in either of the two. The love story started strong but failed to keep the momentum. The snow story never took off.
It was hard for me to stop playing and removing this game from the iPad. I so wanted to see what happened to the romance? the snow facility…did it have a Thing like monster or was it really the humans doing crazy things? is that pretty woman a mole for the Russians? Or, perhaps, an alien here to take over the planet.
Others might enjoy this game, but, for me, it’s just not my type.
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