Improve Your Memory With Circles

I don’t spend a lot of time playing video games now, but when I do, it’s usually for short spurts on my iPad or iPhone (tell me you’ve never heard that one before). My favourite games on iOS are really simple and highly addictive (Letterpress, Hundreds and Rayman: Jungle Run, if you have to ask).

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a new simple and highly addictive game for both iPhone and iPad called Circles. It’s a memory-based game that tests both your physical and mental reflexes, and your scores (along with your short-term memory) can only improve while you play. Not only that, but like Letterpress, it uses Game Center for its multiplayer experience. Intrigued? Read on to find out whether or not Circles is a game worth investing in.

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The Concept

Circles is all about (surprise, surprise!) tapping circles. My sister watched me play and noted that the game is essentially a remix of Simon: multiple circles on the screen light up and hit a musical tone. Each circle is a different colour and hits a different note. The game lights up circles in a pattern, and you’ll have to tap the circles in the same pattern you just saw.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

And it gets more complicated as time goes on. This will go on for well over a dozen rounds, and each round adds another step to the pattern. The rounds are called levels, and there are sixteen levels in a section. Each section becomes more complex.

The first section is relatively easy: there are only two circles on the screen. The second section has three circles, and the third has four. The game goes on like this. There are eight sections, and the last three throw twists in it that will really have you going absolutely mental. (I don’t want to spoil them; getting there and finding out what they are yourself is half the fun.)

It's going to get much more complicated.

It’s going to get much more complicated.

There are some twists to this formula, though. A practice mode lets you really dig into the technique of the game and “work the loops,” as it were. Playing through real rounds of the game earns you in-game coins that lets you buy weapons for multiplayer, and the weapons keep the games interesting.

Speaking of Multiplayer

Circles‘ multiplayer functions similarly to Letterpress: It uses Game Center as a way to send out invites to player and notify them of their turn. It also comes with the same pitfall, which is simply that you have no control over over when the other person makes their move.

Once your opponent plays you, the avatar matches their Game Center avatar.

Once your opponent plays you, the avatar matches their Game Center avatar.

The multiplayer is otherwise similar to the single player experience, with the addition of useable weapons. You can use Lightning to speed up your opponent’s pattern, Twirl to spin your opponent’s circles around or Blackout to remove the circles’ colours and sounds (if you’re really capable of being that merciless).

You can buy these weapons for in-app coins, which come naturally by playing the game. In-app coins are also purchasable via an in-app purchase, but the IAP is never obtrusive and always easy to ignore. (I’m actually kind of glad it’s there in this case, because you never know when you might need to beat a friend. Or, you know, your mother.)

Weapons are purchasable with in-game credits or with real money.

Weapons are purchasable with in-game credits or with real money.

The weapons do two things: first of all, they keep the game from ever feeling mundane. When they make their appearance in single player, it’s both a reward for dedication and a fresh challenge. In multiplayer, they help create a sense of mayhem and constant surprise. It also helps differentiate from games like Simon, although fans of that game will note Circles is a little more fun and interesting than it ever was to begin with.

Talking About Design

It’s worth discussing the (very) flat design of Circles. It’s beautiful, not because it’s flat, but because the design gets out of the way. Everything is against a black with extremely readable, floating white text. Actually, it’s again worth comparing to Letterpress. Both extol the same virtues of flat design.

The colour of the circles stands out nicely, and you can choose in the settings to turn off the music or the sounds (I’d advise turning off in-game music, but I’d leave the sound effects on). The game uses iCloud saving so that you haven’t missed a beat between devices, which is a smart move for people who are playing this on an iPhone and an iPad.

From a design perspective, this game is very, very simple.

From a design perspective, this game is very, very simple.

There is a section in the Settings called How To Play, and this is the only part of the app that I found a little poor. The game isn’t hard to pick up by any means, but it’s always nice to get a playable walkthrough demo. In Circles, you’re greeted with three walls of text that explain the nuances of the game. They’re well-written, but the font is small, even on my taller iPhone 5. I always think about font sizes within the context of the elderly, and I can’t imagine that age category having an easy time making out the text here. It’s the only bummer in an other wise simple and, dare I say, beautiful app.

Circles: Running Rings Around Your Opponents

I love Circles. It’s another intriguing puzzler of sorts, but it’s also a great little brainteaser. It’s got a fun multiplayer and an addictive single player. I’m not too sure what other good things I could say about it. It’s not only cheap entertainment from the App Store, but Snowman will be donating a portion of every sale to fund Alzheimer’s research and support programs. So not only are you having fun, but you’re helping advance scientific research. I highly recommend Circles, and you know what that means: I hope I’ll be playing against you in Multiplayer sometime soon.


Summary

Circles is a great twist on the classic Simon game with a really cool multiplayer mode. Worth the download for anybody who likes addictive puzzlers.

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