South of the circle painful memories review
Games

South of the circle – painful memories. review

played on Xbox series S

1964 Two Britons fly to Antarctica for unknown reasons, but their plane crashes. The pilot’s leg is stuck, he cannot contact anyone, so his assistant is looking for help – it is known that there is a British base somewhere nearby. Exploring the snow-covered Antarctic region becomes a journey through the protagonist’s past – memories flood up at every turn, and not always pleasant ones.

It was a long time ago

South of the Circle is set during the Cold War. We manage Peter who was a former Lecturer at Cambridge College. The status of an educational institution is extremely important for the management in such a difficult time, so Peter was allowed to work on a monograph on climate research for more than three years – observations in it are so interesting that the reputation of the university could rise significantly after its publication.

    Peter would have more fun with a pilot

Peter would have more fun with a pilot

The developers tried to convey the mood of the era in the game by using themes relevant to the time in the dialogues. Negotiations between Britain, the US and the USSR to renew the Antarctic Treaty will either resume or be postponed. People in the streets are demonstrating and talking about the need for unanimous nuclear disarmament. Rumor has it that the “Cambridge Four” is actually a five. Well, sexism in Britain is alive and well – men in suits don’t even consider women as people capable of holding high positions.

Against this background, Peter meets Clara – she also gives lectures but does not have the opportunity to work on anything more serious. Therefore, the characters decide to work together to complete the monograph: they arrange trips, travel and become more and more friends over time. Straight away we have to mention the amazing voice acting of the characters – although the visual style is rustic, it’s the voices that make the characters look like real people. Thanks to them, an incredibly cozy and “tube” atmosphere is achieved, which makes you go through the game in one go in three hours and not want to be distracted.

    The camera work is sometimes particularly good

The camera work is sometimes particularly good

All of those Cambridge episodes are brief reminders of Peter that pop up on almost every corner. Trying not to die from the cold, he walks or drives from one base to another in search of help – and they are all abandoned. Somewhere there is an opportunity to contact the pilot and tell how you are, but other people do not meet along the way – neither alive nor dead. But as soon as he opens the door, sits on the bed or burns himself, we are immediately in the past and see a new fragment of Peter’s biography: how he has fun with friends, how he makes appointments, how he argues with the principal or gets to know Clara better.

On emotions

Instead of the usual choice of lines, as in any interactive film, we choose emotions. Icons will appear on the screen, the meaning of which will be explained to us at the beginning of the game. A symbol means panic, excitement and confusion. The other is passion, interest and curiosity. The idea, while original, is actually not the most brilliant. Firstly, you can forget what this or that symbol means, since there are half a dozen of them. And secondly, you don’t know what exactly the character will say – maybe he’ll be rude or joke unsuccessfully, but you didn’t want that.

    Most of the time there is a choice, but sometimes only one emotion is offered.

Most of the time there is a choice, but sometimes only one emotion is offered.

In the end it doesn’t matter what you say as there is no branching here. They only play the role of deciding whether your Peter is polite, friendly, insecure, or rude – but that doesn’t really change what happens. The developers wanted to tell everyone the same story, and it’s a very good one – there’s something to think about and something to be sad about. The ending might not be for everyone, but it seemed more than logical to me, and thanks to that, the plot left a very pleasant impression.

But the gameplay is hard not to fault anything. All we do is go from one point to another and sometimes interact with objects. We read the letters left behind, we use the devices left behind. But there aren’t any puzzles or mini-games – all of these things are either optional and not very useful or advance the story. Sometimes moments in the game are fun, like driving through the snow and panning out the camera to reveal a breathtaking landscape to epic music. But for the most part, you get the feeling that the gameplay is added just so the game doesn’t become a “kintso”.

    After passing, a menu will open with dozens of concept art and other images

After passing, a menu will open with dozens of concept art and other images

***

South of the Circle is an interactive short story in an unusual setting that is most reminiscent of Firewatch. Beautiful graphics and great acting complement the captivating story, and the narrative elements are so good that the rather weak gameplay doesn’t spoil the impression. It’s unlikely South of the Circle will go down in history, but it will definitely brighten the evening.

Advantages:

  • an interesting story that unfolds in an era unusual for such games;
  • cute and vocal characters;
  • charming visual style;
  • great music.

Defects:

  • gameplay “for show”;
  • The emotions selected in the dialogues do not affect the development of events.

graphic

The game looks rustic but nice – even the animation is surprisingly good.

sound

There is nothing wrong with the music or the work of the actors – all of the highest standard.

single player game

An atmospheric story for an evening that is difficult to tear away from.

Estimated travel time

3 hours.

collective game

Not provided.

overall impression

A fascinating interactive novel – the gameplay isn’t impressive, but the plot and atmosphere are wonderfully good.

Rating: 8.0/10

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About the author

Alan Foster

Alan Foster covers computers and games and all the news in the gaming industry.

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