The Night Circus


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Rating: 4.1/5 (45 votes)
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joyeThe Night CircusMagic doesn't have to be the workaday, taken for granted thing it often becomes in games, a mere tool for a purpose, not really any different than a sword or a key. In the Night Circus, a game advertising the new book of the same title, players are encouraged to appreciate the wonder, the enchantment of a world where an illusionist's cloak becomes ravens and a dragon on a carousel just might be alive, all entwined with the lure of the circus. Made in a collaboration between the novelist Erin Morgenstern and Failbetter Games, the team behind the similarly text-based and Twitter/Facebook-linked Echo Bazaar, the Night Circus is a trip into the dazzling black, white, and red world of the rêveurs, those who follow after a mysterious circus which vanishes and reappears all over the world, and a brief tour of the possible stories lurking there.

Compared to Echo Bazaar, the game is much more streamlined. Because the game is paid for by Random House as an advertisement for the novel, there are no microtransactions or turn limits. The Night Circus is entirely played with a deck of cards, which has a limit of six cards at a time and which refills at a rate of one card per four minutes. Simply click on the deck to deal a bank of up to three cards, and click on those cards to make choices and explore the first performance.

You'll be given goals of things to find, and as you progress, you'll collect mementos, a fittingly ambiguous term as they can be either items or memories, things like a feather from an angel's wing or a chunk of iced gingerbread, but also sweet sorrows, shivers down your spine, and even profound joy. Occasionally mementos themselves can be used; if that's the case, they'll have a red border. You'll eventually find a card that will allow you to leave the first performance if you choose. At the time of this review, only two performances are available, but it appears that at least four will be available eventually.

The Night CircusYou must connect a Twitter or Facebook account in order to play the game at all, including one forced Tweet or status update. The only way to increase in rank is to invite people to join via your diary, and some choices can only be taken by those of a certain rank, so those who cannot entice roughly ten people to join via that link will be completely shut out of a certain amount of content. Since their goal is to increase exposure of the book the game is based on, it's an understandable decision, but they might have considered the ill-feeling it might cause in players who don't wish to spam their Twitter or Facebook friends with invitations to apps. Of course, if that's the case, you can always create a dummy account for either Twitter or Facebook solely for playing, just as many chose to do with Echo Bazaar. (Feel free to post your username in the comments if you're looking for friends!)

That major drawback aside, the world of the Night Circus is a place well worth exploring. The artwork is striking in its engraving-like simplicity, enlivened here and there with a touch of color. Yet fittingly for a book-inspired game, the true beauty is in the prose and the imagery that you create in your own imagination. By turns elegant, mystical, adorable, fantastic, ornate, and even delicious ("That popcorn needs eating more than any popcorn in all the histories of all the kingdoms of the earth."), it will pique your curiosity as effectively as it satisfies your craving for the most beautiful imagery of all: that which you see with your mind's eye.

Play the Night Circus

42 Comments

Hi, jay-folks... there are more and more games like this, requiring you to have a twitter or fakebook account to play.
How about inventing a tag for those? Just so that f-book refusers like me know to skip it at once ;)

[Sure, we can do that. I've added "socialnetworkauth" a generic term meaning the game requires social network authentication. -Jay]

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Me, too, neither -- not playing if I have to subject friends and family to it.

[Facebook and Twitter are used for authentication and for saving state. It's an alternative to having its own registration and account creation process. Since most people have a facebook or twitter account, these social networks are being used for authentication purposes because it's much easier to sign in with an existing account than to create a new one. You do not have to subject your friends and family to the game. -Jay]

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repairmanman Author Profile Page September 14, 2011 1:47 PM

I can't see the whole game screen when I view it on your website.

[Fixed. -Jay]

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Posting to Twitter is entirely optional. When you have the option to post something you can check just twitter, just the in-game diary/log, or both. I don't use Facebook for games, but that's just me.

I've, however, gotten stuck at a certain point, as I've only been able to play the first performance and I've seen cards requiring tickets to second, third, and fourth performances, which I can't seem to reach or acquire.

Also, there is one card, which if clicked, will give you another ticket to the first performance, but will discard all the cards you might have out. Not game ending, but if you were saving a card because it was less common and or special, that isn't a very nice discovery.

All in all, its a fun game, but unless there is more content coming, then I fear I've already reached the end, but without being able to 'finish' it.

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Hello. Although I come here nearly every day, I've never posted before using this account. In anticipation of this sort of annoying fb/game linkage, I set up a fake fb account a long time ago, and now I suppose this is as good a time as any to start using it. If anyone wishes to jump through this particular hoop for this or any other game, my facebook is Norma Telmayne.

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Bingo Little September 14, 2011 3:43 PM

I agree. I created a twitter account for situations like this. Feel free to spam it with whatever.
If you'd like me to join, my twitter handle is little_bingo.
Thanks.

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I'm not sure if it's just my computer, but the bottom of the game runs out of the frame here. can you fix it? thanks in advance!

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From the review above:

"The only way to increase in rank is to invite people to join via your diary, and some choices can only be taken by those of a certain rank, so those who cannot entice roughly ten people to join via that link will be completely shut out of a certain amount of content. Since their goal is to increase exposure of the book the game is based on, it's an understandable decision, but they might have considered the ill-feeling it might cause in players who don't wish to spam their Twitter or Facebook friends with invitations to apps."

Then in a response, you say "You do not have to subject your friends and family to the game."

Which is it?

[Both are true statements. You do not have to subject your friends and family to the game via Twitter or Facebook, you could just email (or post to a forum somewhere) the link to your diary instead. Still, even that is not necessary to simply play the game. -Jay]

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I found out that you go up in rank a little bit for every action that someone you've "enticed" takes, as well. So if you get two people hooked you can shoot up in rank faster than if you got ten people to play. I'm rank 5 already from just two people.

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merchantfan Author Profile Page September 14, 2011 9:53 PM

Hi, really enjoy the game. Has anyone actually gotten the second ticket yet? Is there a rhyme/reason to it? Also I don't mind Facebook tie-ins that much, especially when they're a good long-term rec like this without too much back and forth requesting.

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I just started the game, but this is an awful lot like Echo Bazaar...

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I like this site, and this game, but unfortunately I can't play the game here. it's too big! if anyone else runs into this problem, you can play it here

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Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the "red share button" from the Diary page, so I have no way to rise in rank. This is disappointing.

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I've been playing this for a while, haven't been able to get anyone else to join to raise my rank though. My twitter account doesn't have too many contacts and pretty much everyone was already playing it. The atmosphere is great, I gotta say, but it's a lame frustrating mechanic.

I'm told that your rank increases if people you invited play fairly frequently, so you can probably get by with one or two people if they're a regular to the game. My page is http://www.nightcircus.co.uk/Profile/Timony%20Cutwell if anyone feels like joining up via there and increasing my rank... we have to be twitter buddies first though. I only use the account for this game and Echo Bazaar.

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Oh, my Night Circus page doesn't have my twitter link. Well... that sucks. My account is #cyberasylum if anyone cares.

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Can't see the whole game either :( Looks like it'll be fun though.

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This makes me sad. -.-
I like that game very much, buuuuut... My twitter account is a fake, so I haven't got any connections.
I seem I can't play at all. I just got 3 cards, which all said "You must be on the 4th rank".
If anybody wants to join me, my name is MrsLaraSnape. On Twitter.

Now I'm going to cry myself to sleep. Goodnight.

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So I created a dummy Twitter account just so I can join both this game and Echo Bazaar. Twitter name is GreyMeta.

By the way,

Did anyone know how to get a Silver Bone or a Silver Daisy? I just need either of these two to get into the Brass Dragon.

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The graphic is nice enough to make me want to play the game, but I do not want to provide my facebook account. I thought it's them who want people to play their game, not the other way around. So they should make signing in with social networks optional.

I guess I won't be playing this game.

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You should try this! The evocative text and very limited gameplay makes it a great break from working at other tasks on the computer. I say "limited gameplay" because it takes 24 minutes for 6 cards to refresh, and then only a couple of minutes to play them... so unlike many games there is no danger you will get involved and find the whole morning gone!

Join me there if you'd like to try it. I am LunaLaPorte on twitter.

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The Logical Ghost Author Profile Page September 20, 2011 3:14 AM

Couple of tips in response to several people:

Tickets to other shows:

There are several ways to "leave" the show, the main way being to use the "quiet exhilaration" memento gained from any coffee card (tip: if you click the option to invite other friends but don't actually hit share afterward, you'll still get a quiet exhilaration). Once you "leave" the show, you will be "at the gates," at which point all opp cards become cards for different shows. If you have progressed far enough (I don't exactly know what this entails) then you will be given options to attend the second and third performances. You do NOT need a ticket in advance for these: you will get the ticket upon entering. Right now the fourth show is listed as "coming next week."

By the by, if you attend any show, leave, and re-attend the same show, you'll pick up a snazzy gift otherwise unobtainable. So, leaving the show is something you should do a few times.

A Follow-Up word on that, re: ElliotM - It sort of sucks when you find that out the first time, but I feel the game does give you fair warning as it says you are

leaving the show!

and, no matter how rare a card might seem, they do indeed come around again. And again.

Silver Bone/Silver Daisy for GreyMeta

You cannot receive the silver bone until you've received the pair of silver eyes. Silver eyes are received upon digging in the graveyard (it's an opp card, I forget the requirements). Once you have the bone, you can go through the dragon the first time to get the daisy for the second round.

I'm personally still hunting for the following, wondering if anyone has found:

the tiny fossil egg and the myriad-color box. Also I'm wondering if anyone has managed to "finish" one of the notebook quests yet. I refuse to give up all the Interests in Clockwork and others I've saved until it resolves. ^_^

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The Logical Ghost Author Profile Page September 20, 2011 3:30 AM

Ah, clarification on second and third performances, after reading through the twitter: apparently there is nothing you need to do, apart from

somehow making the sun rise, either from opp cards or using a quiet exhilaration.

The performances are being released roughly weekly, and they are currently working on #4 now.

So, to recap, HOW TO GET TICKETS TO THE SECOND AND THIRD SHOWS:

1. Make the sun rise. Do this either by using the appropriate opp card, or by clicking on a "quiet exhilaration" memento, gained from using the coffee-related opp cards.
2. When you confirm that you are using this card/memento, you WILL clear the "board" of any opp cards you may have drawn. You will now be at "the gates."
3. Any opp card you draw will be an entrance to one of the performances.
4. Click on a performance you have not yet attended to gain a ticket to that performance.
5. Click on a performance you have attended already to gain a new memento. Each performance has ONE of these "souvenir" mementos, so returning again will only gain you another of the same.

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Wow, it seems that my twitter account got hacked the day I played this game, and I don't think I've used it for anything else for quite a while before or afterwards. Good thing I only use twitter to enter contests and stuff.

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For The Logical Ghost:

The Tiny Fossil Egg is received when you sit toward the back at the Illusionist's show, I believe. I still haven't found the Myriad-Colors Box or the Glass of Champagne.

I did finally finish one of the "Interest in" quests. I played the "Interest in Love" quest until I had 57 tokens for it, then gave up and started the "Interest in Clockwork" line. I finished that in about 2 days! I'm trying "An Interest in Magic" now.

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I started playing this game at the recommendation of a FB friend, and it's been quite fun, so far. I love the writing. I'm definitely planning on purchasing the book that inspired the game after my next paycheck.

I am looking to increase my reveur rank, however, to have access to the choices that require more standing, so if anyone new is thinking about joining: http://nightcircus.co.uk/Profile/Kaisa

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OhQuiteLovely Author Profile Page October 2, 2011 1:05 PM

The Logical Ghost,

You can get the myriad-colors box by completing the blue butterfly quest. Upon collecting at least 12 butterflies, a card will come up letting you return the butterflies to the red-headed girl and receive the box from her. I still haven't gotten the glass of champagne.


I still haven't finished my "Interest In" storyline for some reason.

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In order to get the myriad colors box,

you also need to be reveur level 4. Only then will you actually be able to complete the butterfly collection quest, no matter how many butterflies you've managed to collect.

Actually, a lot of things seem to open up with Reveur Level 4. Being level 3 was a cap on what I could do for a long time, and finally getting past that has broken the logjam. I even finally finished all the "Interest in" quests!

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http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nightcircus.co.uk%2Fprofile%2FJess&h=lAQDy2Hpu add me :) Reeeeeeally need to increase my rank to 6 x

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thehaikubandit October 28, 2011 7:37 PM

Looking for people to invite, if you are interested, I am @the_haikubandit.
Thanks :)

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I really like this game. My mom recently bought the book without ever playing this game, and reading the book adds a whole new layer to it.

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Currently on Rank 3 after weeks of playing. If you want to add me, I'm @nyxy_pyxy on Twitter. :3

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I have more than 12 "An Interest In Love"s but I don't know what to do in order to complete the storyline. Does anyone know?

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Love this game! I completed two out of three interests (magic and clockwork) but the third, love, still evades me. Anyone know how to finish that?

Sorry for the shameless plug, but if anyone wants to join and can do so through my profile, that'd be great. I need a higher reveur rank.

http://www.nightcircus.co.uk/profile/Silikat_EB

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Finally won An Interest in Love. Every time you have the choice to go off with the intriguing lady/gentleman, say yes. AFter you have a certain number of stolen kisses (can't remember how many), you'll get this one.

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Anonymous December 2, 2011 2:33 PM

Does anybody know how to get

the black glass monocle

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Hi all...I just started playing this and desperately need some friends for it. Please add me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/corpsegoddess and send an invite--just put "circus" in the invite so I'll know it's you.

I can't seem to find a way to add people directly from the Night Circus links you've posted... =(

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I've read the book, and that was incredible. So I have very high hopes for this! If anyone is interested, I'm theunlikelyone.

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Hi there! I'm just looking for people to add so i can up my rank :)
my name on there is CatPatronus
Thanks in advance :)

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Looking for people to invite ma as I'm going crackers going round in circles going nowhere
Please add me on fb and send an invite
http://www.facebook.com/sara.pryor.75

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witsserver Author Profile Page December 2, 2012 10:21 PM

http://www.nightcircus.co.uk/Profile/Show/49178
Please invite me... I beg you!

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Hello, i need some helps please. If i want to integrate the online game through a website which i am working to make, can you guide me please? Thanks and looking forward for your reply. Regards

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