top of page
  • Writer's pictureStormieDae

Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness Review | STEP RIGHT UP!!!

Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness Review by StormieDae


Release Date: 10/17/2023

Developer: Indiesruption

Publisher: Blowfish Studios

Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness puts your sanity to the test, challenging you to escape a labyrinth of nightmares and torment. Test your mind against a collection of puzzles, survival mechanics, and a really unnerving story that twists and turns in so many unexpected ways. Man, this was a truly an experience to play.

Vlad Circus Descent Into Madness is a chilling story of a 1920s self-proclaimed “freak” circus was burned to the ground. You follow the main character, a tormented Oliver Mills who played in the circus as "Lazy Ollie."

Before going any further into the review, mild trigger warning here: there is a lot of very uncomfortable subject matter in this game such as addiction, hallucinations and other mental and physical health issues. Please keep that in mind before playing in case you are sensitive to those types of subjects.

A screenshot from Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness featuring a photograph of the old circus cast.
Come one, come all to Vlad Circus! Step right up to this eerie pixel art adventure!

Ten years after Vlad Circus burned down, the old members of the circus decide to reunite in order to remake a cast portrait, but the fire has taken a toll on everyone's lives and you will hear their many tragic stories.

Keep in mind that this is the 1920’s so this group of people are self-proclaimed "freaks." You have a bearded lady, conjoined twins, a man with no legs- which really shocked me because now in 2023 you’d never think of a modern circus in this way.

It’s actually really uncomfortable to hear these characters talk about how their act is just existing to be humiliated and it made me feel awful for them. Oliver himself is a clown, but with some severe mental health issues. I should also point out that this game is pretty heavy in religious subject matter as well. If that's something that makes you uncomfortable its certainly worth mentioning that it's in the game quite a lot, but I found they made a really unique mechanic out of this, which I will explain in a moment.

A screenshot from Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness featuring two individuals riding a train with the train window in the background.
Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness is best enjoyed with headphones for full effect.

The dialog is really fantastic, and I personally loved the graphics. There's some really stunning pixel art here and the sound design is also really impressive. The developers did an awesome job of making the vibe overall really eerie and anxiety-inducing, I never knew what to expect and I made sure to play this with headphones as recommended. You'll hear whispers and screams in the background, there were moments where I was truly creeped out.

Getting into the game mechanics, Ollie is in the unfortunate circumstance where if he gets too stressed out, he begins hallucinating and will eventually pass out. So, you do need to manage his stress level as you go through this labyrinth of puzzles and survival actions. One of the ways you can bring his stress level down is by praying, which is basically the way you heal yourself in this game.

Like I said-- heavy on the religious topic, but I loved this because you were never short on a way to heal yourself. Instead, it becomes a matter of finding the right time to do the healing. There is also a tonic prescribed by your psychiatrist that you can drink to help with the hallucinations, but you can only carry one at a time so choosing the right time to use it could be life or death.

Ollie often writes in his journal to his late mother. I genuinely felt so badly for Ollie throughout this game. He's a kind soul that is really just trying to help everybody as much as he can even if he hurts him. His interactions with everybody and writing to his mom was really stabbing at my heart in all the best ways. Again, the way the developers told this story really is done so flawlessly.

There definitely is combat in this game that will increase as you get further in and the combat feels really good. I never felt that it was too difficult or too easy, and the same goes for the puzzles. What I loved about the puzzles are that, while some were very tricky, they were never unfair. When I was utterly befuddled, I could always figure it out if I just stepped away for a moment, which felt great and super rewarding.

Former members of the Vlad Circus reuniting over dinner in Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness
Travel back to the 1920s with the gorgeous visual style

As you probably have noticed I’m not really touching the story too much, which is completely intentional because I really believe that you need to go into this story blind. There are twists and turns and a lot of moments where you’ll just be completely shocked, and I would hate to ruin that for anyone. The story is not extremely long, lasting right around 10 to12 hours on the easier game mode.

I'm really excited to say that this is going to be my first game that I'm handing out the Golden Genie Lamp of Approval. There's really nothing bad I have to say about this game. The story is great, combat is fun, and puzzles are fair. The graphics are awesome, and the sound design is creepy as hell. If you love some good psychological horror, you've got to give this game a try. I really love that its unique as well in the sense of that it's not just your typical recolored possession story. It’s different than any other psychological horror game I've played in a really long time.

A depiction of Ollie and the bearded lady from Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness
Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness has a fantastic story that leaves a lasting impression.

The end shook me to the core and the story has stuck with me. I’m a huge horror game fan so I'm really familiar with the genre and impressed that it didn't play into some of the really overdone tropes that we see in my opinion too often. Overall as you can tell, I highly encourage giving this game a play. It’s absolutely worth your time and I am really happy I got to experience Vlad Circus Descend into Madness.


+ Great graphics and sound design

+ Awesome and disturbing story telling

+ Characters that you can sympathize with

+ Fun puzzles and combat


- Sensitive subject matter such as trauma, addiction, sickness and religion

Vlad Circus: Descend Into Madness earns the golden Genie Lamp of Approval for exceptional quality
Golden Genie Lamp of Approval recipient for exceptional quality!

12 views0 comments
bottom of page