Lately it seems as though a number of mobile games are beginning to migrate up to the PS Vita. Some of these games make the transition very well while others fail miserably. The latest game to make the jump across platforms is Ring Run Circus by the developers at Kalio. This small but charming game that gets it right. Guiding circus performers through a seemingly endless series of rings has never been so fun.
The premise of Ring Run Circus is fairly straight forward. Each of the 50 stages presents you with a series of rings that your character will endlessly be spinning around. You have to switch between riding on the inside of the ring or the outside. This allows you to switch between different rings, avoid obstacles, and pickup the collectibles placed in each level. The goal is to locate a key and bring it to the locked door. Once that’s done, you’ve completed the level.
As with most good games, it starts off simple but layers of complexity are gradually added as you progress. Nina is the first character you play who uses roller skates to make it around the ring. She also has the ability to dive over obstacles. Then you get to play as Ned, a unicycle riding mustache man who can smack-down anyone who gets in his way. Finally you get to play as old-man Nelson who uses his cane to manipulate the layout of the rings. Each character’s unique abilities need to be harnessed at just the right time to successfully complete each level.
And if that isn’t enough, as things progress, you’ll need to swap between characters in the middle of the level to keep things moving. Suddenly you find yourself having to use Ned to knock out a bear so it won’t trigger the ring of fire before you switch to Nelson who shifts the rings so you can reach the key before getting teleported across the map by the magician and then you need to turn into Nina so you can leap over the bumpers and get to the locked door. Meanwhile, there’s a monkey in a hat chasing you down trying to knock the key out of your hands. It’s crazy. But a wonderfully fun crazy. Even at it’s most frustrating I always found it to be a great time.
One of the main reasons Ring Run Circus feels better on the Vita than on phones is the superior controls. You don’t need to mess with the touchscreen on the Vita and instead you use the shoulder buttons to move your character (though you still can use the screen if you’re so inclined). By default, the circus performer will always ride along the inside of the ring. Pressing the Left Shoulder button moves them to the outside, and releasing it brings them back in. The Right Shoulder button activates your special move. Or you can use any direction on the D-pad to move in and out of rings while the face buttons will allow you to jump, slap, or hook. Regardless of which method you choose, the controls are quick and accurate.
One of the aspects I most enjoyed about the game was its art style. Yes, it’s simple but when you take the character animations and mix it in with dizzying array of moving rings the result is a beautiful work of art. This is a time when the beauty is found in the simplicity of its look, and that really clicked with me.
On the audio front, there isn’t a lot going on but you do get a circus inspired soundtrack that will make you think of the man on the flying trapeze as you dance to the melodies of a good old fashioned calliope. OK, so maybe you won’t dance and perhaps it’s not as magical as I’ve made it out to be in my mind, but it’s cute/fun music that adds to the circus motif of the game. You also get treated with brief and witty quips from each of the characters which can be amusing the first few times you hear them. They can get old after awhile however, and there are only so many times you can hear Ned complain about the smell of burning mustache before you just turn the volume down and play in silence.
The one major gripe I have with Ring Run Circus is the length. It’s not a meaty game and while some of the levels can be rather challenging, most can be completed in just a couple of minutes. In fact, quite a few only take a few seconds to get through once you know what you’re doing. The goal is to then get a faster time and work your way up the rankings on the leader board. Though, I’ve had some problems with the leader boards and not having my scores get uploaded.
The minor gripe I have is that the load screens seem excessively long for a game that appears so simple.
Ring Run Circus isn’t a big game, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable one. It had my mind spinning in circles as I found a way to navigate Nine, Ned, and Nelson across this spirally maze of hoops filled with tricks and puzzles. It took me by surprise on how much I enjoyed playing it. My only hesitation in fully endorsing it is that at the moment its price seems a bit steep for what it is. But if it goes on sale I highly recommend taking a close look at this game and giving it a try.