I’ll be the first to admit it- I get frustrated far too easily. If a game gives me the slightest opportunity to blame it for my failures, I will jump at the chance. Circa Infinity is the epitome of a ‘hardcore game,’ billing itself as a “brain-melting circular platformer.” Loading the game, I was expecting to condemn myself to a few hours of banging my head against a wall, before giving up, shutting down my computer and curling up in the foetal position, determined to never play again. I’ve got to say though, I was pleasantly surprised- instead of merely irritating me, Circa Infinity hooked me in, and I enjoyed the hell out of playing it. Circa Infinity revolves around a simple, but unique concept. You take control of two unnamed protagonists (a male and female), who are forced to jump through a seemingly endless series of black and white concentric circles for some unknown reason. It’s possible that these two have been condemned to the depths of hell for crimes committed in a previous life, as they’re forced to keep running and jumping in this demonic hellhole, killing themselves over and over, unable to ever break free. I think that’s got to be one of the worst forms of torment imaginable. The gameplay is reminiscent of the 2012 title, Super Hexagon– both rely on a similar skillset. Circa Infinity varies the formula, adding puzzle elements, and including a variety of red devil-like enemies. The challenge is working out the best route to avoid getting hit, and reacting to the movements of the enemies, who rhythmically run, jump, and fly around to make timing your movements into a nightmare. As I travelled deeper into the circular void, I struggled more and more to avoid them- Circa Infinity is tough on the reflexes. I had to stay alert at all times, as one wrong move would send me back to the previous circle, and earn me a skull to represent my failure. Each time you die whilst completing a stage, a skull appears on your record. At the start of the game, I managed to make it through whole stages with barely a death to my name. However, as the difficulty stepped up, I began racking up endless row of skulls, leering mockingly at me, daring me to try again. A completionist would probably feel compelled to redo these stages, but frankly, I was content just making it to the end of the levels. To sum up Circa Infinity in one word: It’s torture. But not in a bad way – torture has never been so fun. The game threw monumental challenges in my face, and repeatedly asked me to rise above them, and it’s rising above these challenges that makes Circa Infinity such a rewarding experience to play. When you die, you’re thrown straight back into the action, making it easy to keep trying and failing over and over. I’d frequently get stuck in horrible loops, making it through a bunch of circles, only to die so many times I’d wind up right back where I started. It is frustrating as hell, and it damn near pushed me to the brink of quitting several times. And then, just as suddenly as I got stuck, I’d get unstuck, leaving me wondering why I was even struggling in the first place. In those moments, the sense of accomplishment I got was huge, and it really spurred me on to keep playing the game. This game is a torturous, cruel abomination- and for that, I love it. The controls are so simple the game doesn’t even bother with a tutorial to explain them. You can move left or right, and you can jump or duck using the action button. The simplicity of this control system presents a deceptive challenge- it’s easy to lose your sense of direction, as when you’re looping around inside a circle, travelling far enough in one direction results in pressing left moving your character to the right, and vice versa. The game’s difficulty curve is steady, but unforgiving- it doesn’t bother with spoon-feeding. New mechanics are introduced slowly, but the game never lets up on challenges it previously established, so the difficulty is constantly ramping up. But, as much as Circa Infinity challenges the player, it also rarely feels unfair. Empty rings that you can’t die on serve as checkpoints, which are well situated to prevent you from being forced to play the same sections over and over, and saving you from being driven to rage-quit the game. The visual style is simplistic, using a lo-fi, pixelated aesthetic. It’s not pretty, and the developer clearly isn’t an artist. The minimalist colour palette (black, white and red being the only colours used) keeps things nice and simple, and in a game that relies on the player to analyse the visuals so quickly, that’s a real blessing. In fact, the speed actually contributes to the visual style. The game quickly turns into a demonic merry-go-round, all at once hypnotizing, spellbinding, and reminiscent of every LSD fantasy ever represented in cinema. Unfortunately, the graphics aren’t easy on the eyes- when you complete a stage, the screen zooms in and out very suddenly, resulting in lots of block colours moving across the screen in a way that I can only describe as ‘migraine-inducing.’ After I’d played enough of the game for it to start affecting me, I just started shutting my eyes as I jumped into the final circle, to spare them from the torturous zoom. The soundtrack is confident and really helps to enhance the trippy atmosphere. The electronic style matches the retro visuals to a tee. It openly embraces tension, which helped to invest me in the game- I felt driven to keep moving quickly, even though sometimes, I’d actually have been better off taking it slow. The music pushing me forward really added to the experience of playing the game. You do end up listening to the same pieces of music for long periods of time- the same track is used for all 10 stages of each of the five levels (with the exception of the boss fight at the end,) but the music never got repetitive or annoying, and this serves as a testament to the skill of the composer. However, I did occasionally find the transition between some of the pieces to be a little jarring. The level select music and the music used in part one are a good example of this. The easy-going level select music tries to highlight the change of intensity as you move into a stage (you’re in the menu, relax, vs you’re in a stage, panic.) For me, they went a little too far with the easy-going vibe in the menu screen, as it just felt a little out of place, which is a real shame. Luckily, you don’t spend too much time on that menu screen, so it didn’t hold the game back too much. As I’ve admitted earlier, I am someone who gets frustrated very easily. But in spite of that, when I succeed in Circa Infinity, I get so much pleasure that the rewards actually outweigh all the frustrations it causes. This game is a torturous, cruel abomination- and for that, I love it. If you’re the kind of gamer who likes a challenge, then this is definitely the game for you; if you’re masochistic enough to decide you want to get a perfect score on every level (a feat I can’t even imagine achieving) then you’ll definitely get plenty of mileage out of this title. But if you’re the kind of person who’d rather take it easy, then don’t bother with this game. Seriously, you’ll only be hurting yourself.