Circadia’s colorful dots are only so much fun for so long
As games grow more complex across all platforms and genres, it’s rare to see a title which truly goes for minimalism and simplicity. And yet, that’s exactly what you’ll find in the case of Circadia, an incredibly simple and straightforward game that nonetheless offers a great deal of challenge. There’s an elegance to it to be sure, but there’s also the potential for boredom. Circadia is the one of those games that will either instantly grab you and refuse to let you go, or you won’t see the appeal and will abandon it almost immediately.
Circadia‘s gameplay is deceptively simple: every level features a white dot (and it later levels more), as well as a certain number of colored dots arranged around the screen. Whenever you tap a colored do it sends out a pulse, and the ultimate objective is to get all the pulses to overlap at the white dot at the same time. Sounds simple? You’ll find out quickly that it’s anything but.
In addition to the colored dots being scattered different distances from the white one, different colors emit different tones, and their waves travel at different speeds. Red dots, for instance, emit incredibly slow-moving waves, while pink ones zip across the screen quickly. The deeper the color the slower the wave, so trying to converge them all at a specific point can be incredibly tricky. As if things weren’t hard enough later levels introduce moving white dots or multiple objectives, creating entirely new layers of strategy and focus.
Whereas many games attempt to excite the senses and amp up player adrenaline, Circadia seems perfectly content to dial things down and put you in a more relaxed state. I’ve found the game to be a nice treat before bedtime, letting me wind down naturally while still keeping my brain engaged before drifting off to dreamland. Those craving constant stimulation need look elsewhere.
Perhaps the most significant criticism against Circadia is the fact that it can be a trial-and-error experience, just as likely to produce frustration as it does euphoria. The timing of the pulses needs to be so precise that even the slightest misstep will lead to failure, and the inclusion of moving dots makes things all the more random. All these elements lead to a supremely challenging game, but also one that can go from supremely enjoyable to painfully not fun in a hurry once you find yourself stuck on a level.
In many ways Circadia wears its novelty as its armor, hoping that the quirky premise and different approach to puzzles will be enough to gain and hold fans. It’s the type of title which, intentionally or not, divides the audience into artsy types who “get it” and those who just see a boring, uninspired game about dots and colors. It’s impossible to say which side is right.
For my part, I liked Circadia, but after about 45 of the game’s 100 levels I started to get bored. Even though each puzzle is challenging in its own way, the repetition of the primary mechanic, coupled with the annoyance of having to blindly guess at most challenges until I blundered into the solution, caused Circadia to eventually lose its luster. The game is solid, but not an all-time great.