Circa Infinity isn't quite like any other puzzle game I've ever played. Now I understand why PewDiePie dug it so much.
Circa Infinity just launched on Steam, and it's hard. Hard on the reflexes, tougher on the brain. The idea is that you're moving through a series of concentric circles, and there are two ways to delve a layer deeper — either from the outside like this:
Or from the inside of a circle like this:
Before long, you'll find that everything is circling around you in a strange, vaguely horrifying merry-go-round dance. It's hypnotising, the sort of thing you'd think the devil sees when he wangs himself on the head while getting out of The Devilmobile. The music, which is great, only adds to the mesmerising effect. Listen to some of it here:
In my hour-and-a-half or so of playtime, I've had to scoop out more and more of my grey matter to make room for the increasingly complicated movement patterns of enemies like these crying dudes and flying dudes:
These dudes that can switch between levels:
And these dudes that are so big that they can hit you through multiple levels:
There are also bosses:
Sometimes you've got to leap over enemies, other times you have to duck under them. Oh, and then there are the moments where you have to duck through a surface at the exact moment they do, avoiding death by the slimmest of margins. It makes my heart race every time.
When that all comes together at the same time (and it happens a lot), it can look like this:
Ouch, my head hurts just watching the GIF.
And I'm only on the second major part of the game. Each level brings insidious new complexities. Just when I think I'm spinning all the plates I can — and juggling a chainsaw or two at the same time — the game tosses in a bowling ball or opens a vat of live piranhas beneath me. Circa Infinity does a great job of making you feel like you're drowning, but slowly. If you kick hard enough, you just might keep your head above water. And piranhas. And bowling balls. And chainsaws. So to speak.
Despite the difficulty, Circa Infinity is remarkably non-frustrating, only sending you back a couple rings each time you die — as opposed to making you start a level over or something. Granted, reaching the end of a level and seeing ten or more skulls (one for each time you died) puts a damper on victory festivities, serving as not-so-subtle incentive to do better next time. Still, even tough levels are beatable without too much trial-and-error, provided you're persistent about it.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with Circa Infinity so far, even as my brain begs for the sweet release of death or a really solid nap. The whole game has an almost musical cadence to it, a churning swirl of interlocking audio and visuals that lulls you into a purely reflexive state before jolting you awake with a section that requires serious forethought. It's a fascinating stop-go flow, a game where each moment is unified yet singular. People were talking — quite animatedly, I might add — in the room where I was playing it, and I honestly can't remember a word they said. I was gone, spirited away, absorbed.
Occasionally, I would die and mutter, "SNARF" at a volume that was probably louder than I thought. People turned and looked. I considered caring, but decided against it. I had better things to do.