PEGBRJE: Circa Infinity and HEADLINER

Brain melting for different reasons

I am so lost yet so enamored. Send help.

Circa Infinity is a brainteasing run and jump game made by KennySun, an indie dev out of New York. This title, made back in 2015, follows an undisclosed individual stuck in what can only be described as a bizarre loop of time. Thing is, I’m not even sure if that’s what is going on here; this is all just assumptions I’ve made as players keep hoping to reach the centre and escape this endless spinning circle.

The objective of each ‘level’ is quite simple, reach the centre by jumping into the next layer of circles. Of course, this means that players are running in a circular manner meaning that left and right directions aren’t as cut and dry. Left becomes clockwise, with Right being CCW. This is easily the first main brain hurdle to get over, as even later on in the game I was still forgetting which button went which way. The next thing to learn? The character starts on the wrong side of the circle. There are two ‘parts’ to each circular level, where the first involves entering the level itself from the outside through the pie piece, and the second part is reaching the smaller circle within to continue onward. The action to jump and morph into a circle is the same, so one doesn’t need to fear accidentally jumping instead of performing a similar action. What this creates is a constant, almost flowing experience, where players will run to the entry of the circle, morph inside and then jump into the next circle to which the world zooms inwards to that circle and begins again.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t the possibility of failure outside of personal execution; while there are no pitfalls or traps, there are these curious red enemies that manifest within each level. Their stylistic aesthetic betrays their functionality, so learning how each enemy attempts to hinder that flow is crucial. They start out small, simply blocking the way and being a mild inconvenience, but shortly new baddies appear that can morph through walls as well, or even persist into the next level from the outside to become a hazard in places that one originally thought as safe. However, I never felt that the game was scaling at a rate that I couldn’t handle; each new mechanic introduced that breaks a preconceived notion, whether through enemies or the structure of the circles themselves, allows for a simple level first to understand the new rule being added. Each level that follows reintroduces older mechanics to allow for players to warm up to this new rule, learning how it changes the game and its interactions with the already set mechanics. It’s brilliantly done, and even allows for that flow mentioned earlier to go relatively unbroken if players pick up on the new mechanic quickly. Of course, there will be some that truly melt the brain of a player, such as my dozen deaths at the hands of the enemies that remained past their level.

It certainly helps that Circa Infinity just oozes style. When players reach the centre circle, how they enter directly correlates to where they start the next level. After all, the inner circle is the next level just shrank down; players can even see what they are getting themselves into for the next level, with little silhouettes of enemies within. Speaking of which, enemies are red when ‘active’, but become monochromatic upon the player moving on to the next level and become part of the background itself as the player continues. It’s this constant zooming in per level that just adds to the feeling of infinity, that each space entered is just another within the rest so far until players reach the true end as a spiraling circle of infinity. Oh and the sound track is just perfect, matching the high octane feeling and keeping the player upbeat while remaining just catchy enough that I can still hear it even after closing the game. Jack + Jim Fay really did a fantastic job with this sound track.

When it comes to these run and jump/infinite-style platformers, I’m normally not one to perform and usually die a lot. However, thanks to the brilliant design by KennySun Circa Infinity helps to introduce its mechanics perfectly for players that may not be as confident such as myself. For those that are, the smoothness and snappy controls give this fantastic speedy run and jump that utilizes a series of mechanics I’ve not yet seen working together before. If you are looking for a title to blow you away while possibly blowing your mind, this will definitely be one to try out.

HEADLINER is a narrative choice simulator made by Unbound Creations, whom many will remember from the sequel that was posted earlier within the bundle titled HEADLINER: NoviNews. As the game to kickstart the series, HEADLINER features a News Editor for one of many Galaxian newsgroups preparing for the upcoming Festival held every year. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of unrest in the people surrounding a few issues, and it’s up to the player to juggle what to permit with their own family life.

As before, players will recognize the choice-based simulation style from earlier games and made arguably most popular by Papers, Please. Each day there are a set amount of articles handed out to be decided if they should be published or axed. These have little clips on them to give a bit of information on their ‘purpose’, between comments from the public, info pieces and the ‘spicy’ op-eds. These pieces are all written by individuals with differing opinions and affiliations, and are all labelled on the bottom of each piece. Some days have a specific amount of pieces that need to be published, other days are packed and can only fit a few. The two pieces stapled together is also here as well to truly force an opinion from the paper; can’t run from taking a stance forever.

HEADLINER also shows off the earlier version of the open world concept that made me enjoy NoviNews so much. Once players end their day, they head outside and walk home, with the world reflecting the decisions that they made; of course, it’s a little more abrupt than one might expect, as running an expose will immediately cause a riot outside. However, that’s to be expected as this is a world full of future modifications, and I can only assume information just travels that much faster. The open world does have some places to stop, but it’s mostly on request from the spouse and only adds to the conversations that are had at home rather than bringing a different perspective. There are little interactions from bystanders who know the position the editor has, and depending on the choices made the conversations that one can overhear can drastically change.

It’s always nice to see where a game’s roots came from, and HEADLINER definitely shows the framework that it built to create the later installment. The themes are still as heavy dealing with the tension between modified individuals and unmodified minority of the Purists, the possibility of warring neighbours and socio-economic hardships. As a smaller title, there are less issues to be worrying about than in NoviNews (no pandemic talk, thank goodness) and the routes feel a bit more constrained, but the title knows what it wants to tell and does it quite well. It’s hard to recommend to anyone that has already played NoviNews, but it’s definitely a good title to experience if you’ve been curious about how a game’s themes and studio progress when tackling a game with similar themes and mechanics.

Links!

Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.