Ever since music was added to video games, the two have shared a symbiotic relationship. The music heightens the atmosphere to help the player enter the universe the game wishes to create, while the gameplay gives a sense of rhythm to the overlaying tone brought on by the music. As the industry grows more experimental, publishers and developers have been looking for new ways of making the two fresh and innovative. The outcome varied greatly in success. Some rose to the top and created fads around the music genre like the nauseatingly successful Guitar Hero franchise, while others flooded the market and put less and less effort in until it killed the genre like the nauseatingly successful Guitar Hero franchise. But despite the rise and fall of an entire genre, music and rhythm-based games persist. While there are still a few left from triple-A developers, they now mostly thrive on the indie scene. One of such is Digital Tentacle’s Circuits.
Circuits is a music-based puzzle game designed around the concept of layered musical tracks. The goal is to complete a full song sample you are given with certain tracks missing. You must select from a series of alternative clips that could, potentially, fit with the rest of the song. Only one is correct and finding it requires you to listen carefully to each track individually. Matching the right rhythm, sequence, and instrument to the missing segment allows you to progress to the next challenge. While this is an interesting concept, a few problems arise with the execution.
Circuits (PC [Reviewed], Mac, Linux)
Developer: Digital Tentacle
Publisher: Digital Tentacle
Released: April 17, 2014
When designing any music-based game, there is a hurdle that all developers must face regardless of subgenre. Music is highly subjective. Games like Beat Hazard may not appeal to someone due to the high octane dance tracks regardless of if the gameplay itself is enjoyable. Circuits uses very ambient dance tracks and while later challenges picked up the pace and got catchy, it still wasn’t enough for me to dismiss how droning the task was to repeatedly listen to a humming synth track. If you can’t lose yourself in the music, the music isn’t going to drive your persistence. While I cannot argue that the tracks compliment this style of play, I would suggest more bouncy, rhythm heavy songs or diversity in genre all together.
Furthermore, when I’m not writing and reviewing for Geekenstein, I help edit my own show called Random Assault. The act of scrubbing through audio tracks and piecing together layers is quite familiar to me. While this won’t be a problem for the common public, I found it to feel a lot like work. Coupled with the relaxing nature of the music itself, I found myself dozing off from time to time. Not even the gradual increase in challenge was enough to keep me focused.
Circuits does do its best to stay fresh to the player. The incline in difficultly and consistent introduction of new mechanics always presents something interesting. Singling out tracks and learning how to mute others is a unique twist for a puzzle game. So much so, it almost seems like it’s misrepresenting itself with such a basic concept. It’s also notable that once you’ve laid down all your tracks, it’s pretty rewarding to watch them play out both audibly and accompanied by a visual flowchart.
Circuits may not have fully appealed to me, but I cannot demerit the game because of it. It’s well designed, well programmed and the concept is simple yet unique. It faces obstacles that both puzzle and music games must undergo and is only held back by those few unavoidable aspects. While the music could definitely afford to be a be less ambient and a bit more catchy, it doesn’t hurt the overall theme the game is going for. Even if it did cause me to zone out from time to time.