Friday, 21 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Hunt: Showdown [Xbox One].

 Crytek's Hunt: Showdown is a title that managed to somehow fly under our radar, and we're annoyed that it took so long for us to discover it. Being massive fans of the supernatural, and all of the weird and wonderful creatures that that can encompass, we were then instantly sold on the idea of a game revolving around Hunters.

You play as one member of a group of Bounty Hunters in Louisiana trying to rid the swamps of the horrific creatures that lurk there. With each monster that you kill, you are rewarded and are able to purchase better weapons to improve your ability to take down the savage creatures plaguing the area. Even in death, you can progress - your character will be gone along with any gear you have collected however any experience gained will be carried over to your next Hunter via your Bloodline.

At the start of each match, up to five teams of two will have to set out and find clues in order to track down the monster. The realistic art-style and creepy atmospheric lighting really sets the tone and has you on edge, waiting for whatever creature could be lurking. The competitive PvPvE gameplay also adds a layer of intensity. After defeating the monster you're seeking out you will gain a bounty token, which ultimately paints a target on your back for all of the other Hunters in the game.

The multiplayer aspect is fantastic, and we really enjoyed how it played compared to a lot of other recent multiplayer games. "Battle Royale" seems to be the dominating force these days, so a game like this feels nice and refreshing, whilst satisfying the supernatural itch, too. Unfortunately, the wait times for a game can sometimes be quite lengthy, which is a little worrying as to how the game will cope further down the line, but we're hopeful that this is just an infrequent occurrence due to the game just recently coming out of Early Access.

A proper single player campaign would have been a welcomed inclusion to Hunt: Showdown, as a lot of the core gameplay elements could easily be fine-tuned and expanded upon to make a full campaign story. There's plenty of amazingly detailed creatures in the world to flesh out a story mode, and have individual hunts to track them down without the online requirement. In terms of supernatural creatures, there's sooo many more that they could utilise further down the line too, so that would have opened up a lot of opportunities for additional content.

Whilst I'd love for a single player add-on later on, I have really enjoyed my time playing Hunt: Showdown so far and will continue to play it for a good bit, as long as there's other people to play with. The visuals and sound design are fantastic and draw you right into the world, while the tension of the looming creatures keeps you right on the edge of your seat.

In the end, we decided to give Hunt: Showdown the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

Have you played Hunt yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Wide Ocean Big Jacket [Switch].

We're always on the lookout for simple, quick-to-play indie games to try out, and Turnfollow's Wide Ocean Big Jacket definitely ticked those boxes for us. It's a short story game comprised of twenty chapters, in which you can play as four different characters: Ben, Mord, Brad and Cloanne.

Ben and Mord are two young teens on a camping trip with Brad and Clo, Mord's Uncle and Aunt. The story follows their camping trip as they learn more about each other, and you can see the young couple's relationship grow, whilst simultaeneously watching the adult's relationship struggles.

The art style is very simplistic and the environments are small enough to not require too much hunting for any and all dialogue options. The game is very text heavy, with all communication written in text on screen. Despite this, it feels very natural rather than forced, and a lot of the humour shows through really well in the dialogue. Entertaining moments such as Mord trying to find a decent pee spot: in the wilderness of the bushes or in an actual toilet, and Brad's awkwardness as he tries to be a good Uncle.

Mord talks a lot, talks about her Aunt and Uncle's relationship, her own relationship with Ben and everything she is curious about, like sex, much to the shock of her Aunt Clo (who she chooses to confide in). This took us a little by surprise too, as we'd figured the game was likely to be very kid-friendly based on the appearance (I know, never judge a book game by the cover), but it was hilariously authentic anyway.

The thing about Wide Ocean Big Jacket is how real everything feels, for such  a simply styled game. The interactions between characters - either with each other, or strangers such as the "Mean Teens" and the anxiety that comes with intimidating or unfamiliar situations just feels very genuine. Mord learns to cartwheel whilst at the beach with Ben and albeit she falls over repeatedly, she improves and eventually pulls off a cartwheel. What we liked about this particular event was that she wasn't then perfectly cartwheeling all over, she still fell over sometimes - whilst Ben sat on the sidelines cheering her on regardless.

It's a strangely charming and heartfelt game, that left me wishing that I had memories of cute camping trips with family. I finished the game feeling hopeful of future titles in this style, and happy with my time spent with the game despite the couple of stuttery moments we encountered along the way. Clipping through the vehicle and getting stuck in certain areas was frustrating, but just a slight inconvenience as luckily they didn't impact the gameplay too much. One funny spelling error had me laughing away, in reference to having mashed potatoes and "pees", but again as this didn't take away from the overall experience, so I don't feel it impacted me too badly.

In the end, we decided to give Wide Ocean Big Jacket the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

Have you played WOBJ yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Friday, 31 January 2020

Asylum Reviews: Blackmoor 2: The Traitor King [Switch].

Four Fats' Blackmoor 2: The Traitor King takes place three years after the events of Blackmoor: Duberry's Quest. If you missed the original, fear not, as the game's introduction will bring you up to speed. You, and a group of heroes are tasked with clearing all locations of any enemies. It's not too deep, after all this was originally a mobile game, but it works brilliantly on Switch.

You can play alone, or with up to three friends online co-op in the main story mode. There is also a PVP mode as well as a dungeon building mode where you can create all manner of dungeons to unleash upon the world. The simple structuring of the game makes it easy to dive right in, and the game modes on offer give a great deal of choice to people who like to to switch things up a bit.

There's a bunch of different playable characters to choose from, with further options available to unlock as you play. The combat styles between characters changes, and they have differing choices of weapons and abilities. It's fun to work your way through each character and find your favourite.  

Art style is great, with diverse, interesting character designs. Some environments look a little off, but for the most part everything looks really well done. The style is very reminiscent of The Behemoth's Battleblock Theater or Massive Monster's The Adventure Pals and it really works well with this type of game. Sound design was very strong, with a few fantastic tracks that really stood out.

There's plenty to do in Blackmoor 2, with tonnes of side-quests, unlockables and as previously mentioned there's always the dungeon building mode to keep you coming back for more. Quest types are varied, and the enemies have distinct fighting styles so you can improve how you take them down as you learn.

We had a lot of fun with Blackmoor 2, but we'd definitely recommend it most when playing with friends. There's a fairly harsh difficulty curve that makes it feel like the game was developed with the co-op aspect predominantly in mind. Some bosses felt nigh on impossible to take down alone, but became much more manageable with a friend, so if that's the deciding factor in you jumping in, bear that in mind. However, at just £3.99 on Nintendo Switch, it's definitely well worth the price.

In the end, we decided to give Blackmoor 2: The Traitor King the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

Have you played it yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Demons with Shotguns [Xbox One].

Mindshaft Games' Demon with Shotguns is a fun couch-multiplayer arena game, where you and up to three friends can compete - or work together - for souls in nine different game modes. With six playable characters: Demon, Deceiver, Death, Preacher, Nun and Angel, you can fight across 40 different arenas, so there's plenty of variety here to keep things fresh.

Done in a simple pixel-art style, the game was originally released back in 2016 on Steam but has finally made its way to consoles. Online multiplayer probably would have been a good addition to the newest version, but it appears local-only is the way it'll stay. Multiplayer is definitely the core element of Demons with Shotguns, but it can be played alone in its "End of Times" mode, which is just as well, since it's not everyday you can get a decent group together to play when you're -sob- getting older and have kids.

Rounds are fast and frantic, easily lasting just a few minutes each. The controls are responsive, if a little floaty, but jumping around the screen feels good. It manages to avoid feeling boring or drawn-out like some other arena games, as the levels are over almost as quickly as they begin, allowing a lot of variety in who wins each round as things change so much.

Ammunition is limited, which means you have to think carefully before you waste it all. An ammo box is available, so planning out your attack to conserve enough to get you there is a wise choice. On the occasion where I'd waste all my bullets, I'd be cursing myself as I tried to fight my way there whilst feeling very vulnerable.

Pick-ups change the gameplay enough to keep things exciting too, with Tarot Cards affecting all players either positively or negatively at once, with various effects being available like Angel Wings, Super Speed and Damage Multipliers on the positive side, and Sands of Time (which slows down the whole level) or Possessed (which makes you fire constantly in the direction you're facing) on the negative. These add a level of hilarity very reminiscent of our days playing IDARB, and laughing our asses off at simply being unable to control ourselves until the Hashbombs - as they're known in IDARB - wear off.

Priced at £10.74 on the Xbox Store, it's a cheap-enough game for what it entails, and if you're looking for some multiplayer-arena type games to play while friends are over, this might just go down a treat. Its simple aesthetic is visually appealing without being too bland, and the original soundtrack by VHS Glitch worked well.

In the end we decided to give Demons with Shotguns the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

Have you played Demons with Shotguns yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Monday, 27 January 2020

Asylum Reviews: Valfaris [Xbox One].

Steel Mantis’ Valfaris is a surprisingly difficult platformer with a lot to offer. Their previous game, Slain: Back from Hell was well received, so we were excited to play their latest title. Set in space to a heavy metal soundtrack, it gives off a lot of DOOM vibes. Long ago, Valfaris vanished without a trace, and has now mysteriously reappeared in the orbit of a dying sun. You play as Therion, who has come to save his home of Valfaris, and figure out why it has returned filled with evil and darkness.

Gameplay feels intense, with hordes of enemies coming after you, leaving you feeling particularly vulnerable. Controls felt decent, aside from some slight floatiness whilst jumping, and an occasional stuttering frame rate which left you open to attack when you least expect it. You start off with simple weaponry, and can unlock better and more powerful weapons as time goes on. You also have a shield to defend yourself against enemy attack, but sadly you are unable to move whilst using the shield so it can lead to some easy mistakes being made.

You can also collect souls which will enable you to upgrade your weaponry. Four souls can be taken to a checkpoint for these upgrades, which brings me to my next point: Checkpoints! These can be skipped to increase your rewards later, but at least for me, they were unavoidable. Missing a checkpoint was just a guaranteed death for me, as I'd quickly end up overwhelmed by enemies without the safety net of a recent checkpoint to spur me on.

Art style is interesting and retro, with lots of bright colour and detail. Despite being a modern game, it follows the old style way of building up a scene with different layers to almost fake a 3D-style. Everything looks great, with lighting adding to the atmosphere. The sound design is what really elevates things, as the heavy metal music really adds to the situations and amps you up for the fight.

Enemy designs are varied, with each behaving in their own way. Learning their patterns is the best course of action, and allows you to utilize skills you’ve picked up along the way.

 Weapon choices are great as each have their own cool designs and differences between them. Some weapons are more efficient against bosses, whereas some might be best against a room with tonnes of enemies in it. I liked how they all had unusual and interesting names as well, such as Hellwraith, Embryon and Skysplitter.

Figuring out which weapons work best against certain enemy types and what ones fit your playstyle best requires a little trial and error, but adds another layer to what Valfaris has to offer.

At just £20.99 on Xbox Store, it's a decently priced game for what it includes. And if you're a fan of these kind of games, and a fan of heavy metal music, then you'll be in your element here. The framerate drops were a bother, but didn't happen often enough to leave me frustrated terribly by them.

In the end, we decided to give Valfaris the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10.

Have you played Valfaris yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Asylum Reviews: Pathologic 2 [Xbox One].

Ice-Pick Lodge's Pathologic 2 is a narrative driven game set in a bleak rural town during a plague outbreak. It is a full-scale reimagining of the original game, by building on top of the premise of the original but adding so much more to it. You play as Artemy Burakh, a surgeon brought in after the local healer's death, and you have just 12 days to do what you can to help.

Early on you'll find yourself confused, walking around talking to NPCs to try to find out what's going on. Choices you make, whether making them consciously or by simply running out of time for particular tasks, will have an affect on things. With only 12 days, there's no way to save everyone, so it's up to you to prioritise and figure out the best course of action. Gameplay like this is usually always a big pull for me. It gets me hooked trying to get to the bottom of things, and the limited time nature has the stress and adrenaline going as I desperately try to beat the clock.

Combat is basic and slow which can leave you feeling vulnerable during fights, particularly if a few people gang up on you at once. Weapons help to shift the odds in your favour, but ammo is scarce and melee weapons are damaged with use. You have a reputation throughout all of the districts of Town-on-Gorkhon, and helping citizens will increase your standing amongst the locals. Of course, failing to do things on time, or fighting/killing people will affect your reputation too, often leading to citizens of a particular area attacking you on sight if it gets too low.

I came across frequent frame-rate drops on Xbox One whilst playing, which was often frustrating as it would lead to me taking avoidable damage. If you can manage to avoid large groups of enemies, this helps with the frame-rate a little, but for all this is designed to be a difficult game filled with frustration, that wasn't part of it. You need to plan ahead for most things, such as ensuring you have enough clean water and access to food and a bed, as your own survival is just as integral to the game as figuring everything else out. So avoiding groups of enemies just became another part of my planning, where able.

Character designs are varied and interesting, and interacting with them allow you to see them close up and in greater detail. Conversations will allow you to discover new information, such as tasks to complete or areas of interest. Certain types of character have different purposes too, with the creepy bird-faced people giving advice and info, to big lumpy Ferrymen that can transport you via boat for the price of some 'fingernails'.

The art design in general, whilst interesting in its grim appearance, suffered a few times from a clash between detailed characters and plain, almost textureless backgrounds that would finally pop in afterwards. Sound design was eerie and left me feeling deeply unsettled at times, which adds to the bleak atmosphere and total helplessness.

I enjoyed my time with Pathologic 2, but I think you've really got to be into this kind of game to fall in love with it. The stress might be too much for some people, but if you like a good challenge when playing a game, then this just might be for you.

In the end, we felt that Pathologic 2 deserved the Collecting Asylum rating of 6/10.

Have you played Pathologic 2? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Asylum Reviews: Cold Silence [Xbox One].

Cold Silence, by developer Half-Face Games, was initially conjured up as a result of a Game Jam with the prompt "White Silence". In it you play as a mountain climber, Hughes, who has gotten lost in the blinding snow. The game guides you to begin with, directing you through the snowy peaks and caves to find equipment to aid you in your quest to survive: better boots to allow you to jump higher/further, a radio for communication (and other stuff which we'll touch on shortly), a shotgun to blast through brick walls - a little odd, but okay - and more.

When we first downloaded the game, we had a little bit of trouble getting it to function. It appears to act more like an app on Xbox One by asking for permissions before you play. This weirded us out a little as I don't really remember this happening with any other titles, but once done we were able to access the game without further issue. I'm not sure if this was caused by accessing the game prior to release, but again, I've done this with many other titles and not run into this issue. Thankfully, nothing else seems to have gone wrong since. 

The very simple art style works magnificently within the context of the game. The harsh white backdrop of the snow covered environment obscures your vision just enough to cause mild difficulty, and the platforming is made just a bit more challenging due to the surfaces all blending in with one another. For the most part only two colours are used, white and a blueish grey tone for outlines, but every now and then you'll either die or come across blood, and the bright red stands out so well against the dazzling white snow. There are a number of different difficulty levels which change the level of health you start with. The hardest option can only be played as a single run, whereas every other difficulty has chapter select options 

Once you are out of the main tutorial phase, much of the gameplay is left up to yourself to figure out. There is a lot of trial and error required when playing Cold Silence, as you learn where to go in certain routes to get from one place to another quickly, and then to improve and get better and faster at your movements. There are a lot of traps dotted throughout such as spikes, falling icicles and weird shadowy figures that when first discovered didn't seem all that threatening since the mysterious voice conceals you from them to guide you past. After you've had it explained to you that you must not come in contact with these shadow-people, you'll soon be chased down by the most terrifying pixel-man you've ever come across. They move with such speed and ferocity that the limited vision you have can send you into a full blown panic, often to your own detriment.

As mentioned above you find a radio early on in the game, which isn't only for the benefit of communication: it can be used to create weird block textures over the transmitter posts for a short period of time, allowing you to gain access to other areas - including some that require a bit of backtracking. The blocks don't stick around for long so you have to have semi-decent timing in order to make your way upwards or across large gaps without falling back down - usually into spikes or the abyss below. Your radio also offers another surprising benefit: tapping x, which activates the blocks, can also destroy the shadow-people that you'll find chasing you at multiple points in the game. It took me longer to realise this than I'd like to admit. Luckily for me there's achievements for dying so often, since it's pretty much a given that you're gonna die a lot. There are also achievements for dying in different ways: I think my record was six death related achievements in the space of around 10 minutes.

There are a total of 60 achievements which seems insane for such a small game, however a whole bunch of these are for 0 Gamerscore each. Frustratingly, these 0 Gamerscore achievements are for a lot of secret achievements, which weirdly enough are for defeating bosses. The reason for this is that when the game was first released on Steam it was made up of five chapters and had no bosses - therefore the game can be completed without ever defeating, or even coming across the bosses. Bosses are also quite difficult to figure out, one in particular: Daughter, had me almost ripping out my hair. To even unlock her, you are required to find three sweets before blasting a door and going through. Nothing I could do would harm her, let alone kill her. Dropping bombs, using the radio shockwave... nothing. Spoiler alert Until I realised that the spikes at the very bottom of the hole aren't meant for you, but her!

The addictive nature of the game means that I keep going back for more. With each attempt, I get ever so slightly better. Backtracking and looking for other routes is enjoyable, as is trying to find all of the items that are hidden around, such as the trees. I had played a long time before I even came across my first tree, and it happened purely by chance. For such a small game, there's a lot to keep you busy, and at the super low price of £4.19 on the Xbox Store, it's definitely worth giving a go if you like this style of game.

Overall, I've had a lot of fun with Cold Silence and it makes me excited to see what Half-Face Games do next. Allan liked the game, but didn't get as addicted to it as I did - the repetitive nature combined with the frequent struggle to find where to go next really wound him up more than it did to me - evidently I have more patience, ha - but he did like what he played.

In the end, we decided to give Cold Silence the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

Have you played it yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Hunt: Showdown [Xbox One].

   Crytek's Hunt: Showdown is a title that managed to somehow fly under our radar, and we're annoyed that it took so long for u...