South of the Circle

poster for the video game sSouith of the Circle. A male figure stands in the foreground to the left wearing a black hat and brown jacket. Behind hom are some mounthans with the game's logo and title to the right.

When is a game not a game, is a game, but not a game? Who cares? As long as what you have in front of you provokes a reaction, then it can be whatever the hell it wants to be. In the case of South of the Circle, this couldn’t be any more true.

I have ADHD and something I have always struggled with is reading. As in, I can read and all that, but a book, especially one of fiction just cannot hold my attention. My mind starts to wander, or I simply cannot focus on the page. My brain craves something more.

Oh in case you were wondering, this clearly won’t be a point by point review of South of the Circle. More just my own ramblings.

I tend to enjoy stories in games more than the books I have forced my way through, or the movies I watch. Why? Because they keep me engaged with interaction, no matter how small that interaction is. Hell it is probably why my favourite books were the Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books.

Persona 4, The Last of Us, Binding of Isaac, etc have provoked more of an emotional reaction from me than anmy book in the past. This isn’t because the writing in games is better than in books or movies. That’d be crazy talk at this point, but it is because my brain has been more engaged and cared more about the characters, due in part to the aforementioned ‘mental wandering’ when it comes to reading.

South of the Circle shines in its story-telling, from the opening few minutes I was engaged with the story and not long after I felt connected to the characters, especially that of main protagonist, Peter. The story moves along at a nice pace and the interactive elements, whilst minimal are frequent enough to keep you focussed on what is happening.

I honestly can’t tell you how important good timing of interaction is when it comes to interactive-fiction. Too much and you lose focus of the narrative. Not enough and you start to mentally wander. So the balance here is just right. It helps that for me at elast, the story of South of the Circle is wonderfully written and presented. It was like a good book I simply couldn’t put down.

This is backed up too by a wonderful art style that seems to envoke memories of many classic animation styles but with a very modern vibe. I am thinking ‘The Snowman’ mixed with ‘Flashback’. Hell, you’ll probably see it different.

What also adds to eberything is how the game is presented. Every scene feels like it was meticulously created, but without doing so on a grand scale. Where needed the scenes are cut back and only ever give what is needed to convey the information needed at that precise moment. It blends together so so well.

We have come a long way since the old text adventures and even the TellTale Walking Dead games. We are telling morfe stories interactively now and the likes of South of the Circle make a very good pitch for why we should look at this as a legitimate form of storytelling, adding it as another option to a written novel in the way audiobooks are used.

Aside froma couple of moments where the screen was too bright for me, I loved the entirety of South of the Circle and I cannot wait to see what developers State of Play do next.

Liked it? Take a second to support Mental Health Gaming on Patreon!