It turns out that angsty teenage expression resulting from mind-numbing boredom does have a use beyond pissing off your parents (it’s what got me into writing about games, after all).
The months and—I dread—years that I spent pushing pre-made loops of electronic noise into formation, alongside the distorted screams I recorded with a $10 microphone in GarageBand, are the reason I haven’t made a single mistake in Circuits yet.
You don’t need a background in creating something-that-resembles-music to excel in Circuits; a patient ear should be enough. The puzzles are snippets of songs. First, you listen to the music and attempt to pick apart its many layers. Then you’re given the tools to further dissect it so you can pick out the right samples, then drag and drop them into place.
Even though your efforts are only replicating burps of electro, or the first soothing seconds of an ambient track, the taps and slides of the interface turns you into a cosmic DJ. Somehow, even though Circuits isn’t a creative tool (unless you’re deliberately going wrong, in which case, more power to you), it comes with the satisfaction of being able to say, “Yeah, I did that” upon playing back your small tune.
Unfortunately, you can’t scratch the record, but you can use a slider to wind it back and forth for easy repeat listening. That’s close enough. With a few taps you can also divide the track and listen to the individual instruments and the loops tied to each one.
The most clunky, but perhaps my favorite, of the tools involves holding your finger down on a circle (in which the loops are contained) and having a rotary dial sprout out from it, just as if a retro telephone. This is for telling a loop how many times you want it to repeat, and obtaining that number is the challenge that will probably have you straining your ear the most in Circuits.
Unless, that is, you’re like me and aren’t fond of auto-tuned voices that seem so corrosive against the delicate tinkle of a piano; then you may be straining your ear with pain. Luckily, that describes only one track in Circuits. The rest contain musical elements that are at least concordant enough to enjoy as a whole. Grouchy bass lines and all.