Review: The Amazing American Circus
I’ve currently put almost 35 hours into Slay the Spire and have discovered that I have an affinity for deck-building games. So I was very interested when kindly offered the chance to review The Amazing American Circus.
Apart from using cards to “battle”, there are many differences between Spire and Circus, so many in fact that I initially got very confused when attempting to figure out the finer points of the game mechanics.
The tutorial guided me through the basics, but when the hand holding stopped I must admit to getting a bit flustered (and intimidated) by the different screens and options before me.
However, like most times when jumping between games of a similar genre, the unique parts of each one soon become second nature. A 3 word review of this game would be “stick with it“.
The basic premise of the game is that you have been bequeathed a run down circus in late 19th century America and must travel around the USA employing more acts and impressing your audiences. Yes, rather than trying to kill an enemy ALA Spire, in this you use your cards to impress audience members and satisfy them enough that their “boredom meter” goes to zero and they stop throwing things at you. Some are of course harder to please than others and take different tactics (read that as “circus tricks”) to impress.
To go into the full gamut of nuances of this game would take a very long review, however the main points are:
You never have more than 3 “acts” to impress any audience, and each act adds up to 5 cards into your deck and each has their own particular cards. The cards are primarily either “impress” or “ignore” (attack or block) and also include special abilities too which can be used to build up enough points to use a “finale” where a speciality act will appear and impress the remaining audience enough to complete that particular show.
Outside of the “battle” sequences you are faced with a multi-screen resource management game to master too, which includes (but not limited to) making sure your acts have enough food to travel around the USA or else they will get weaker, hiring and firing staff, promoting the show, deciding where to travel to next (all the while uncovering new places to visit), upgrading your circus, training your acts (AKA levelling them up), managing your decks, and much more.
As you can see from the above, there is a lot to get confused over, not helped by a tutorial that is sadly lacking in explain everything in a way that you feel comfortable with, but also in some of the in-game terminology that is not explained at all and leaves you guessing what the hell it means for a long time, discovering it only through trial and error as you play through.
Losing half of the health of my acts after each round was a shock too! But that encouraged more thoughtful play and better tactical decisions when it came to playing my cards…of which each act plays out the actions of every card in an unstoppable animation that can become tiresome after a while (jugglers juggle balls, strongmen lift weights etc).
I like The Great American Circus. I don’t love it (yet), but I feel that I’ve still got a lot to discover within its mechanics that will tip it over into the same regard I have for Spire. There’s certainly a lot of ways to approach not only the battles (sorry…shows), but also the many different resource options available to you as you play through the campaign and try to raise your lowly group of travelling people into the titular Amazing American Circus.
Overall it is an enjoyable, yet also at times frustrating, experience that gives back more satisfaction the more time you spend with it.
As I said near the beginning…”stick with it“.
The Amazing American Circus (Standard Edition) is available here:
● Steam – The Amazing American Circus on Steam
● Nintendo Switch – The Amazing American Circus for Nintendo Switch
● PlayStation – The Amazing American Circus (playstation.com)
Review by Dave from an Xbox code kindly supplied by The Game Marketer.