All the greatest stories revolve around tragedy. Whether it’s a breakup, death, or war, it makes for an intriguing time. The Amazing American Circus is no different because death is where the story starts. A failing business and a son who doesn’t care, but from sorrow comes light and soon a phoenix rises from the flames.
Developed by Juggler Games and Klabater and published by the latter, this is a blend of tycoon, RPG, and deck-building titles. Set in a bygone era where entertainment is hard to come by, you are the son of the ringmaster for Jones Circus. Your father’s untimely passing forces you to take control of this decrepit Big Top and the performers it hires. You are forced to entertain wave after wave of people as your crew become stronger and the shows become larger.
A circus is exciting but The Amazing American Circus is anything, but!
Adults and children all agree that a circus is a wonderful theatrical stage. With death-defying tricks, exotic animals, and freaks of nature, the crowd are supposed to be amazed. Imagine my disappointment when The Amazing American Circus failed to capitalise on this notion. Yes, the ideas are fantastic in practice, and there is something wonderful about the setting and the blend of genres. Yet, this falls by the wayside when the challenge is negligible, and many mechanics counteract one another.
The central story sets up an intriguing endeavour. You are convinced to take on the rundown circus to win a grand prize of one hundred thousand dollars. To be successful, you must travel the country, wowing your audience, and hiring the best acts. You’ll manage your crew, level them up, feed them, and choose who must perform. It’s a fantastic blend of strategy and tactics that should entertain from the off. However, once I had my tactics set, I rarely changed approach, nor did I bother with any new acts.
Deck-building, teamwork, and plenty of long-winded battles.
The deck-building element will attract an array of gamers to try this unusual take of a well-trodden mechanic. You will combine your performers to whittle down the crowd’s boredom meter while building to the grand finale. You must choose whether to attack your foes or defend your team. You’ll use an array of performers, from jugglers to strongmen. Each has strengths and weaknesses and must be used wisely to tackle the crowd. Then there are the buffs and debuffs that come from the correct management of your team. It’s a hefty mix of elements that should create a mouth-watering experience. Yet, it doesn’t!
It isn’t helped by the lack of reward or desire to mix up performers. In theory, you can hire an eclectic blend of acts that bring fresh tactics with them. Nonetheless, this brought unnecessary risks and undesired challenges. The adage if it isn’t broken don’t fix it couldn’t be more relevant. This sadly makes the gameplay plateaus early on and you grind out victory during each long-winded battle.
The card battles should have been interesting tactical encounters. Yet, they quickly become drawn out experiences that fail to evolve. The constant back and forth of chucking balls or defending from jeers from the crowd soon became tedious. Having to deal with this across three acts became a chore, and I felt the excitement draining from my body. It was a shame, as theoretically it should have been great, but with no reward for taking risks, I lost interest very early.
The Amazing American Circus has a Monty Python quality, but with unnecessary clichés.
When a game is set in the 18th century, there is always the risk of outdated clichés rearing their ugly head. Sadly, The Amazing American Circus falls into this trap multiple times, notable in the depiction of Native Americans. The unnecessary stereotypes matched the era but could have been toned back with the same impact.
Other than this slight faux pas, you’ll witness a nice hand-drawn title that has an air of Monty Python. The crisp lines and sepia tones complement the wonderful character animations. The art style created a pleasant distraction from the tedium of much of the action and it captures the razzmatazz of circus life. It’s just disappointing that other elements suck the energy from it.
The audio combines a tasteful and colourful soundtrack with wooden acting. The lifeless delivery of the lines undermines a well thought out and nicely written script. I did, however, love the music and its jovial sound. It was era-specific and matched the theme. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to save this title from its shortcomings.
Micromanagement, a nice UI, and surprisingly good with a controller.
Combining deck-building, tycoon management, and RPG elements was always going to create a complex title. The Amazing American Circus is an information dump that takes some sifting through. But, once you understand the fundamentals, you’ll manage your circus-like a pro. Thanks to its excellent UI, you’ll fly through the micromanagement moments with ease. This is also helped by the well thought out and surprisingly easy-to-use controller layout.
For the right gamer, this offers an intriguing proposition! If you are willing to experiment with your troupe and take unnecessary risks, you’ll experience unique battles and more variety than I ever did. There is also a large achievement list that requires multiple playthroughs to complete. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people will be willing to experiment to get the most from this.
The Amazing American Circus is a bit of a damp squib.
I hate to be negative, yet I was left disappointed by The Amazing American Circus. Unlike its peers, there is no reward for mixing your team or taking a risk. This sadly undermines many of its fine qualities and turns you off almost immediately. If you combine this with the unnecessarily long battles, you experience something more arduous than fun. There is a player base for it, it simply won’t comprise me and I don’t recommend you to buy it. If you are interested, a copy can be purchased here! Wow the crowd, manage your performers and run the Amazing American Circus.