It seems that everyone is trying to capture lightning in a mobile bottle these days. With the overwhelming success of games like Angry Birds, Jetpack Joyride and Cut the Rope, it’s no surprise that bigger names are getting into the mix with simple, easy to play, hard to put down games.

The latest comes from Atari and harks back to the days of the Atari 2600, though the inspiration and this latest iOS iteration don’t share much beyond aesthetic. The original Circus released in arcades in 1977 before being ported to Atari’s home console in 1980 as Circus Atari was a Breakout style game.  This version is a Doodle Jump clone that leans heavily on in-app purchases.

After your clown is rocketed from a cannon, you’ll need to bounce off balloons to propel yourself higher. Barrels that seem ripped right from Donkey Kong Country can rocket you higher and obstacles like breakable poker chips will hinder your progress. Controls are handled purely through tilting your device, and I found it easier to control things on my iPhone than my iPad. You’ll start with five nets that will get you back in the action should you fall. Unfortunately, if you jump into the game before visiting the store, nothing really tells you that the nets are limited across all plays (rather than replenished with each new attempt). The game makes every effort to get you to expend them quickly, largely because they can then sell you more.

Welcome to the Net Shop. We sell nets!

You can’t earn more nets through play, but you can purchase them, along with new clowns, using coins you collect during each play. With the prices in the store, though, you’re likely going to be at it a while in order to even purchase a single net at 500 coins. Of course, you can cash in via in-app purchases and grab yourself bundles of coins. Usually, I don’t have a problem with this, but given the cost of items, the push toward spending more money, beyond the $.99 app purchase, is heavy.

The worst part is that the gameplay is derivative. Doodle Jump did it better without the heavy handed approach. Circus Atari’s game play isn’t bad, it’s just been done before.

Stealing Donkey Kong's barrels doesn't seem wise.

This seems like a cash in on nostalgia without any real endeavor to innovate beyond figuring out ways to monetize the game play. The visuals and music are both whimsical, with a bigtop theme, but also get old quickly. Unfortunately, even with a recent patch, the load times are still long and the game stutters a bit even on my brand new iPad. Were it free, I could easily recommend giving it a try, but both charging for the app and an emphasis on in-app purchases make it hard to suggest to all but the most die-hard endless runner fans.


Here’s the Rundown:

+ Game play is familiar and solid…
– … but purely derivative
– Too much focus on in-app purchases
– Long load times
– No explanation of nets outside of seeing them for sale in the store


1 (RIP) to 4 are varying degrees of a bad game. A 1 (RIP) being a game you would actually pay money to not play, and a 4 is something that just barely fails to be mediocre.

Circus Atari was developed and published by Atari. It was released on May 17, 2012 for $0.99 on the iOS App Store. A review code was provided by the publisher to RipTen.