Black Circle: A Carol Reed Mystery


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   MDNA Games

Publisher:    Merscom

Released:  December 2009

PC Requirements:   Win 98, XP, Vista, Pentium or Windows 7; Pentium 1000 or higher, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB video card, 800 MB free hard drive space.




by Rushes


It’s been the rainiest summer that the Swedish city of Norrköping has endured in 26 years, but the sun finally sprouts forth relieved at the beginning of this, the sixth Carol Reed adventure by developers MDNA Games.

Carol’s neighbour Oscar is concerned over the strange disappearance of a man whom he sees slumped against the side of a dilapidated building along the route of his daily walk by the railway bridge. As a retired doctor, Oscar feels sure the man was already dead, so what could have happened to the body during the few minutes that Oscar was away seeking help?

Carol’s investigations reveal a sinister cult with bizarre rites of passage and a series of macabre murders.


Leisurely strolling the streets, parks and grassy banks of Norrköping has always been a delight of this adventure series. Rummaging and poking through other folks’ houses and apartments is a guilty pleasure; admiring the décor and ogling the bookshelves and refrigerator contents - such joys uninhibited. Wait, what - we’re here to solve a mystery too? Well, alright then, if we must! It’s just that these glorious colour photograph screens we navigate around and which form Carol’s game world are all so much fun to explore. Black Circle plays in first person point and click, with no panning.

For the most part Carol undertakes a solitary investigation. There are various characters with whom she interacts, but dialogue is fairly brief and does not hold up the all-important business of sleuthing. Subtitles are there if the player should want or need them. The background music is simple and not unpleasant, although I did find myself turning its volume down after a short period to play in relative quiet. Relaxing ambient sounds of birdsong, babbling streams, and the quiet dripping of broken water pipes in the deserted foundry all add pleasingly to the atmosphere.

The puzzles are mostly inventory based, but with a couple being of the “open the locked box but oops there’s no keyhole” variety. There are no mazes or sliders, no sound or timed puzzles. There is a sequence which I thought initially to be timed, but upon replaying and deliberately dawdling found there to be no pressure to race for the correct response. There are no fiendishly difficult conundrums, and the game plays very logically and smoothly throughout.

Old friends make a return, albeit briefly and with varying involvement with the story. Jonas the gardener reappears in his new vocation as Norrköping’s tour guide for the curious travelling adventure gamer. Meanwhile, Stina has a new job at a bakery and seems very proud of her pretzels. My favourite, the eccentric multi-tattooed Janitor, is working at the train repair depot where his duties consist of brushing a small patch of grass until it begs for mercy, and mislaying various personal possessions which are critical to the game’s progression and therefore simply have to be found Now. Yes, Now - so hop to it, Ms. Reed, or no pretzels for you.

For the eagle-eyed reference seeker - be sure to check out the tube of toothpaste in the bathroom at Milly’s apartment.


Black Circle is packed full of features that make life easier for the novice gamer and which are useful also for the more experienced adventurer. There is an optional tutorial at the beginning of the game, and an excellent hints function via the notebook at the top left of the screen. You will see a list of Carol’s current objectives appear on the notebook’s left page: just click on any objective for a set of hints to appear on the opposite page.

If you’re anything like me and despair at games which carry a restricted number of save slots (necessary overwriting = unnecessarily annoying), you’ll be pleased that Black Circle has not only ample slots but also an auto-save upon exit. Dialogue can be fast-clicked through, and can be replayed if necessary. 


Faults, there are but a couple. The characters are often voiced by other actors, as confirmed in the game’s ending credits. For the older characters particularly, the voices do not match well. The voice work by the native English speakers among the cast, Carol included, shows very little inflection or emotion, even in situations of anger or danger. Not a major problem but something of a mood breaker in an otherwise immersive game.


The game installed without any difficulties and played flawlessly from start to finish.

If you’ve played and enjoyed the previous installments in this series then you should love Black Circle. If you haven’t played the previous installments but are drawn to the idea of contemplative wandering and solitary exploration of varied and interesting environs hooked to an intriguing storyline - then you should still love it.

Grade:  A-

Black Circle: A Carol Reed Mystery is an Independent production of MDNA games, and can be purchased at the game's website here.

December, 2009

design copyright© 2009 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index