circus life

The Amazing American Circus Game Review

By Emily Fulton

The Amazing American Circus game is a video game about YOU inheriting your father’s Big Top circus. You then perform shows, compete in circus contests, capture bad guys, and do all the other interesting things you do in a virtual circus world. It’s awesome and fun and surprising and exciting. I think it definitely fills a void that has needed filling for a long time in the youth circus community. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed reviewing it!

Would I recommend this game to another youth circus artist: Yes! 100%!

My overall rating: 9/10

My age rating: 13 and up (because of mild language and other thematic elements not appropriate for children)

It took me a while to really master this game, but it was super fun once I got the hang of it! I am guessing it took me so long to figure it out because I don’t really play video games, but it would probably be easier to learn for those of you that do. I love being able to complete challenges and perform shows. It is also really fun to have my artists perform tricks in their shows that I can perform in my real-life shows. I had way too much fun writing and “researching” for this review! I am sure I will be wasting lots of time playing the Amazing American Circus this fall!

Nitty-Gritty “Boring” Technical Info:

The Amazing American Circus was developed jointly by Klabater Sa and Juggler Games and was just released on September 16th. It is available on Steam, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. I played the Steam version, so that is what my review is based on, but I know the other versions are very similar if not identical. It normally costs $19.99 to purchase, but they are running a 10% off sale on the Steam version right now. The sale continues until September 23, allowing you to buy it for only $17.99. You can also purchase the more expensive Ringmaster’s Edition of the game, or the Circus Symphony or Ringmaster’s Essentials for additional fees to add more fun goodies to your gameplay!

My Favorite Bits:

Honestly, my favorite part of the game was not actually the performing. What I liked best was hiring new artists and preparing food for them, and especially catching bandits! I especially enjoyed when I could hire an aerial hoop artist, just like me! This game is about way more than just performing, it is also about all of the other hard work that goes into putting a show on the road, and I absolutely love that they have included those aspects. And no, I am sure it is not actually this easy, or fun, to run a circus, but it is definitely fun to pretend 🙂

It is obvious that its creators spent countless hours pouring over all of the little details in this game, and it definitely shows! There are so many fun places to explore and activities to complete. In the few hours I have spent playing the game so far, I know I still have many, many more places to explore, and I can’t wait to explore them!

My Not-So-Favorite Bits:

Obviously, this is just a game, so lots of stuff happens here that would never happen in real life. Like I am definitely not planning to travel 100s of miles to catch a runaway gangster, but I will happily do it in this virtual world. Also, I have never encountered an audience as rowdy as the ones I have entertained in this game, but this is not real life! I think having to work really hard to impress the audience just adds to the experience.

I think this is just a me thing, but I found it difficult to figure out how to play the cards. I think I have figured it out now, though, so far so good!

Also, language is definitely something you should be aware of before you buy this game, but it was personally not a big problem for me. There are also some other thematic elements that are definitely not appropriate for children, but I personally feel that most teens would be fine with them. If you are at all concerned about any of this, I would definitely suggest talking to a parent or other trusted adult before purchasing.

Below is a quick overview of how the game works (with pictures!)

First, you get to design your character. I chose to keep it simple and use a picture of myself for the avatar and my name as my character’s name, but you could also be way more creative and name your character whatever you want!

Then you are taken to your first performance location. There are all different interesting places you can visit here, like the Recruitment Wagon (where you can hire new performers) and the Training Wagon (where you can “train,” or level up your artists), the Cookhouse Wagon (where you buy and prepare food for your circus troupe) and many more fun wagons and tents. Depending on the city, you can even have conversations with visitors which often result in fun challenges that, if completed, earn you rewards. When you are ready to start your performance, head into the Big Top to get the show started.

Now you design your show poster. You get to pick three artists to perform in each show, one or two “Misfits” (depending on the location), and a Finale act.

Then you have to take care of the “business” side of things by arranging for the show’s promotions (parades, posters, and advertisements) and revenue expectations. After that is taken care of, you are ready to really get started!

You start out with a few audience members standing up with full green bars below them. The goal is to make each green bar go to zero, effectively forcing the audience member to sit down. You complete this by playing cards to “impress” the audience, cards to keep the artists focused while they are performing, and other cards to perform specific tasks.

When no audience members are left standing, you have completed a successful show! Then you get to collect the revenue earned from the show and add that to your overall balance that you can use to buy food, supplies, and other necessary items.

You can have dialogue with visitors, Uncle Jack, or other interesting people you meet!

This is the Cookhouse Wagon, where you buy and prepare food for your performers! You can make fancy dishes like Apple Bread or simpler meals like Red Bean Stew.

You can check the “journal” for quests for you to complete, tutorials about how to play the game, information about your audience members, and more!

You travel from city to city and complete fun quests along the way…

…And even capture bandits and gangsters!

You can learn more about the game and purchase on their website, here: https://www.theamazingamericancircus.com/

Enjoy playing!

Interview with AYCO Board Member Jens Larson

By Lyra Gross

“When given the choice to join the circus, I automatically took the opportunity.”
-Jens Larson, circus performer

Jens Larson is a circus coach and AYCO board member. He performed in the circus from 1981 – 2000, taught math for 14 years, and then decided to return to circus as a coach. He has been teaching circus ever since. He specializes in hand balancing and aerial rings, but is also always willing to try new forms of circus arts. I was lucky enough to be able to interview him and hear about all his amazing experiences as a circus artist. Here are a few of the questions that led to some incredibly inspiring stories.

What is one of the craziest things you’ve done or witnessed as a circus artist?

I’d say maybe the easiest one to describe is Roman riding on two Percheron horses through Cortlandt Park in the Bronx! Roman riding is standing astride two horses that are bridled together, and Percheron are a type of draft horse so they’re really big and easy to stand on, but also very imposing and quite noticeable when going by women with strollers! Now, of course, the people most likely knew the Big Apple Circus was in town, so they probably put two and two together, but we were not right next to the tent either, so that also added to the peculiarities of the situation. 

Have you ever made an act that you felt emotionally connected to?

Well, when I joined my first circus I got to see Dali Jacobs perform on the rings. When I watched her I was thinking, “that’s a beautiful act.” But I was in men’s gymnastics at the time and they did the rings totally different. So I decided to create a whole different act. It took every, every last bit of energy out of me each time I did it. It was my own creation, and it was scary, because I was swinging very high in the air. But the effort it took made it even more meaningful.

Have you ever had an act with animals in the circus?

I helped out with some of the animal acts, and I helped get the animals ready for shows at times. I also substituted in Circus Flora as a patron who was served things by an elephant. I had to be sure that I wasn’t too goofy, though, when I performed the act. If I was, I would lose control over the elephant, which could be really dangerous. I also at one point had to introduce a bear act and move props around during the act!  I also remember one time I was getting this horse all bridled up and ready, and then just as I was supposed to bring the horse out it ran in the complete opposite direction! So as the curtain drew back to present the horse the audience just saw me chasing after the horse out the back.

What is your favorite act that you got to do in the circus?

The chair balancing act with my wife was my favorite act. It allowed me to do my full on hand balancing skills, but it was also part of a comedy act, and just worked really nicely. My wife got to be my assistant because she was also really funny. It was a fun act to do because we got to be a little goofy, and I still got to show off my hand balancing skills.

Do you have any hobbies outside of the circus?

Well, before I started Phoenix Youth Circus Arts I got back into juggling . . . as a hobby. There was a local juggling club that met in the park and I would just show up with them and juggle for fun.

How do you motivate / push yourself in Circus?

I guess it is just part of my personality that I always want to get better. Doing the same old thing isn’t as much fun, so I am always pushing myself and asking myself what I could do to get better.

Do you have any advice for a circus performer like me?

Shoot for the very best training available. There is a constant balance between having kids explore many different acts, because versatility is always valued in the circus. But also not spreading yourself too thin so you don’t hurt yourself. It’s also good to have a backup plan if you end up not being able to perform as you get older or are out due to injury. 

I had so much fun interviewing Jens Larson and hearing about all his amazing stories! He shows us that really anything is possible if you have the determination and bravery. He  inspires us to live a bold and fearless life!