Vicious Cycles

by Simon Mark

Episode 1 of Vicious Cycles
Time Travel

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Number of Reviews: 4
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
C'Mon n' Ride It, April 7, 2023
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

Vicious Cycles does an excellent job of utilizing a time loop mechanic while struggling to deliver a story that makes the puzzles worthwhile.

Awakening in a subway station, you have about 25 moves to prevent a terrorist attack that blows up a passing train. There are only six "rooms" you can access, some being on the train itself. Nearly every puzzle that brings you closer to your goal requires learning by dying. Not because you learn information via death, but rather you are required to pursue objectives that will take up the full 25 moves. Each success here is quite satisfying, as information learned is generally easy to apply on your next cycle. One puzzle involving a gas mask does not feel intuitive, but otherwise there's nothing terribly frustrating.

Unfortunately, the story is not delivered quite as smoothly. Backstory is more or less dumped in between cycles. While you are given prompts during each info dump, you have no agency to do anything interesting. During the final flashback, you are suddenly given agency to make a change to the past. While the story is interesting, no character has time to grow on you and it was presented too haphazardly to land with me on an emotional level.

My favorite part of the game happens in the background. In one of the train compartments, there is a girl and her younger brother on their way to school, and he really really doesn't want to go. Listening to their conversation is fun, but you can engage the boy and learn more about his relationship and home life. You learn nothing that helps you but it humanizes the world and provides ample motivation to keep going.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys time loops.