Release Date: May 22, 2018
Platforms: PC (Version Played)
Quarantine Circular sounds like a science-fiction writer’s fever dream when described. In a future where humans live alongside robots in relative harmony, a deadly plague is quickly wiping out humanity, so a small group of people are working on a cure to prevent their demise. Without warning, an alien creature drops out of the sky. What this alien wants, and whether it can be trusted is the central focus of the game’s story.
While this plot may sound absolutely bonkers at first glance, the game does a great job of easing the player into the story. The game is short, with my play-through lasting about two hours, and games of this length do often fall into the pitfall of giving too much information too quickly, leading to plotline chaos. This is not true of Quarantine Circular, as the game makes sure the player has exactly as much time as necessary to digest one piece of information before dropping the next plot bombshell. Everything made sense as the game progressed, and I played the entirety of the game in one sitting, eagerly anticipating the next big plot twist.
One slight word of warning that I wish to give out is that Quarantine Circular is set in the same universe of the other Bithell Games titles released so far, including Thomas Was Alone, and most recently, Subsurface Circular (which I’ve reviewed previously). None of these prior games are necessary to play in order to understand the events of Quarantine Circular, but fans of previous games will likely see some small references to prior games. I would personally recommend going back and playing Subsurface Circular first because, while the two stories are completely standalone, the world-building in the first game is well worth checking out and may increase the appreciation of this game’s narrative.
The gameplay in this game is similar to a visual novel. The player controls a character’s speech through conversations with others by choosing from a set of dialogue prompts. Dialogue options in this game are varied, ranging from bitter to sarcastic to downright goofy, allowing for the player to have a more tailor-made experience.
In addition to the dialogue options, there are a few puzzles in this game. For the most part, the puzzles are still dialogue options in the vein of a multiple-choice quiz, in which the player has to pick a specific option from a small group of choices in order to proceed with the story. The player may try again as many times as necessary, and there’s a generous hint system for those who really don’t want to be bothered with puzzle solving. Puzzles are quite simple in this game and shouldn’t stump players for the most part, but there is one late-game puzzle that is much nastier than the others and, admittedly, gave me an opportunity to test out that handy hint feature for myself. While I didn’t personally enjoy the puzzle elements of Quarantine Circular, given how lenient the game is with hints and how infrequently puzzles come up through the game, I wouldn’t neglect playing this game over concerns about puzzle difficulty or strength.
Finally, upon game completion, players will likely realize that there’s actually more than one ending to this game. Thankfully, Quarantine Circular comes prepared to help here, as the game has a life-saving chapter select that can be used to change the pivotal choices that control the various endings This feature is nice, but overall, going back to one scene and playing it three or more times in order to effectively change one dialogue option at the end of the chapter really had me wishing for a fast forward button that would bring me to new dialogue or pivotal choices, which is something this game seems to unfortunately lack. Still, since the game is short, the amount of narrative backtracking that needs to be done to get all of the endings is not significant.
This game is beautiful. Since there’s very little movement on the screen, and most of the game is just staring at character models in the periphery while focusing on the chat screen, a surprising amount of care was taken in order to get crisp character models. Sure, this game won’t stand up against today’s AAA titles, but it definitely looks better than it needs to in order to get the story across, and I appreciate the effort made here.
The dialogue box itself is simple, and makes good use of color contrasting to help keep track of who is talking. Overall, I still wish that I could speed up the other characters when they are responding, as I still read faster than the dialogue boxes could move at their maximum allotted speed, but the game still moved along quickly enough that this is a minor quip.
Similarly to many indie titles, there is music and it does its job well, but it isn’t a primary feature of the game. For the most part, the music acts as ambient background noise to just keep the player focused on the dialogue, similar to someone playing classical music in the background to focus on studying. The theme that plays during the opening credits for the game, however, is absolutely wonderful and really got me pumped up and ready to play.
Bithell Games is really on a roll these days, and they are quickly becoming one of my favorite game studios. Quarantine Circular is just another amazing outing from them, with a great plot, memorable characters, and a universe that feels well-developed. Overall, I can’t recommend this game enough to anyone who enjoys visual novels or strong science fiction stories. I look forward to seeing what this studio does in the future.
Personal Enjoyment: 8.5/10
Technical Review: 9/10
If you like this review, check out the others that I’ve written. Let me know in the comments if you’ll be picking this one up, or if you’ve played the game before!