In Quarantine Circular, a plague is ravaging humanity, destroying cities and pushing our existence to the brink. As extinction looms, a mysterious creature from the stars appears, their motives unclear. It’s up to you to navigate the situation and hopefully save humanity.
Quarantine Circular is created by Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell as a successor to last year’s robot detective game Subsurface Circular. Subsurface was a noir thriller about a robot “geo-locked” in a train car while trying to solve a crime. Quarantine Circular broadens the scope a bit, asking the player to control numerous characters, including the admiral of a medical ship and the aforementioned alien. The alien, Gabriel, is being held in a small zone on the ship’s helipad. Almost all of the story takes place within this single location. The player guides characters through conversations to progress the plot, learn Gabriel’s mission, and eventually make world-changing decisions.
Quarantine branches out far more than its predecessor, with decisions from the start of the game having a big impact on the finale. Who befriends who, whether or not Gabriel remains restrained, if a character stands their ground or moves out of someone’s way—all of these things have an effect on the game’s final outcome. There’s a fair bit of replayability here, with numerous endings and different scene configurations depending on which characters come and go.
Quarantine Circular feels inspired by very specific issues: the onslaught of global warming, the possibility of a new world-wide epidemic, the growing suspicion individuals toss at those they deem different. But even as Quarantine Circular is concerned with these anxieties, crafting a future where they’ve reached a boiling point, the game is also very hopeful. There’s a solution here. If the player focuses, they can find a happy ending.
If Quarantine Circular has a weakness, it comes from clumsy puzzles. Subsurface Circular could create unique reasons for dialog puzzles—learning religious rituals to trick a bot into confessing information, angering a robot so that the partner they are mentally linked to also gets angry and divulges key details. Quarantine Circular struggles to fit puzzles in naturally. Sometimes that means deciphering an arbitrary keyword to unlock data protection protocols. Other times it means playing a word puzzle with Gabriel. The tasks are brainteasing enough but they feel wedged into the story simply for the sake of giving the player challenges to beat.
It only takes about two hours to play through Quarantine Circular, but every scene captured my attention. The characters are likable, and I found myself caught up in Gabriel’s mystery. Directing the story and forging bonds between characters is fun thanks to snappy dialog and clear motivations wrapped in a good science fiction story.