Developed and published by RMTeam, The Imaginary Circle is a narrative-driven puzzle experience which is intended to only last an hour and a half. You are exploring an abandoned prison, reading notes from prisoners and guards on death row and ultimately reaching the end goal of self discovery. The only problem is that you’re hardly given much time to discover anything as I managed to complete The Imaginary Circle in 35 minutes.
The Imaginary Circle is a point and click puzzle game. You start off outside the prison, and must search the area for items that you can use to access different areas. You point and click to move the main character around, though the camera is fixed in place.
Despite its short length, The Imaginary Circle features a small amount of inventory management as you will not have enough space to carry both the notes left behind from guards and prisoners and also your tools, so you must craft to merge items together and make space in your inventory to pick up more. About halfway through the game (so 15 minutes in), I discovered that you could also combine the notes to form ethical and moral questions and hypothesis based on their disturbing contents, which should be taken into account when making your decision at the end.
In total, there are four levels to unlock as you make your way around the cube of the building. There are multiple choices to be made along the way concerning the puzzles you must complete and how you do them. It’s up to you how you use the items available to you, with one in particular being vitally significant: a loaded gun. The question is, do you use the loaded gun to make your way around the prison, or do you save it for later. Do you ever use your only bullet at all? That’s up to you.
The Imaginary Circle looks and sounds beautiful, though these elements are not without their flaws. Each time you enter a new level, the soundtrack will spike up before fading away again, and these short bursts of music are always heavily relaxing and ambient. I do wish the soundtrack played throughout the game though. After all, it’s short enough that it would be impossible for the music to get repetitive or annoying since you’re not given long enough to reach these impressions. The ambient background track of sound effects from the street outside, although soothing, is also on a loop. And when this loop refreshes, there is a gap in the audio.
And the art style, although gorgeous and creative, is difficult to navigate around, especially when it comes to moving through walls. As you enter the next room, the only visibility that you’ll get through the wall is a circle around your character, which makes it very difficult to see what’s in the room or where to go next.
On top of this, although The Imaginary Circle is short and the gameplay mechanics are very simplistic, it’s not without its glitches. Sometimes when you click on a certain area for your character to travel to, the game will take into account the upper levels of the area and you’ll find him going up there instead. Other times, I found the game would glitch and I would be unable to select certain places at all (places which I had already been to). For example, I tried to play the last level again after completing the game, but couldn’t access it because the character wouldn’t go through the doors leading to that level. There is also a random door in the first level which appears to be usable but you can’t actually go through it, I spent most of my time on that level being confused by this until I discovered another way to move to the next location.
The Imaginary Circle has beautiful writing and the themes the game is built around are very compelling. The only problem is that you’re simply just not given enough time to absorb it all. One minute you’ve read a few accounts from some guards and prisoners, expecting to see more points of view and more questions, and then the game just suddenly ends. For me, I was expecting another hour of this and couldn’t believe I had just finished it in 35 minutes. I could have accepted an hour and a half, making The Imaginary Circle a short, but compelling experience. But just 35 minutes was severely underwhelming and I was just expecting so much more. There could have been so much more.
Jess reviewed The Imaginary Circle on PC with a review code.