Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Solo: Islands of the Heart [Xbox One].

Solo: Islands of the Heart is a simple, reflecting tale of love. You begin the game by choosing your gender (which can be male, female or non-binary), as well as your sexual orientation in the form of which partner you would select.

Levels are puzzle based and require you to navigate your way around each archipelago to a small lighthouse, which will then awaken the totem at the end. Totems will ask you a question about love, which you are encouraged to answer truthfully and from the heart. This inward look on yourself and your own feelings towards love is what takes place throughout the game as a story. It is far less narrative than it is reflective, and due to this could risk losing out on some of its target audience. Questions are posed to make you look inward, whilst the puzzles increase in their complexity to keep you from focusing too much on the questions themselves.

All throughout the game are ghostlike loops of your "loved one", whom you can slightly interact with in the form of sitting together on a bench (also getting them to reset the movable blocks if you need them to), rock on a swing together or drink from a water fountain with. Sometimes a small text bubble will appear from them, with a poignant message about love. These are cute little moments, and you'll find yourself actively looking out for wherever they might be.

The art-style itself is adorable, and the colours are so bright and poppy that the entire world looks lush and beautiful. It is enjoyable to wander through the Islands, and make friends with the various animals lurking around. There are dogs you can feed, seagulls you can photograph and hiding moles to chase after and pet. The sound design is well suited to the game, with a very relaxing, peaceful vibe to it.

Whilst playing I did run in to a few things that frustrated me slightly, mostly revolving around the blocks you have to move around to progress - and the camera angles often caused by doing so. A couple of times I had the blocks landing in awkward spots, and even with the use of the wand to locate them again, I still had a few issues where I would have to go reset the blocks entirely just to locate them all again. The wand definitely made things easier, as you can control this independently of your body, making awkward camera angles less of an issue.

Overall, that wasn't too much of a deal to make me dislike my time in Solo, and I definitely enjoyed the peaceful zen of playing this and just losing myself in the scenery, so I'd happily return to the game again for future playthroughs. If you like puzzle games, and ones you can just wander around in and figure out for yourself, then you'll enjoy this. If you need a prompt to tell you where to go and what to do next, you might find yourself irritated by the lack of direction - particularly as reloading a save puts you back to the start of an island, despite still recording all your progress, so it can be quite easy to lose track of where you need to be. Islands are small enough, and with differently designed areas, so this can help you to remember what areas you've completed. It's still an enjoyable time and very relaxing compared to most other games.

In the end, we decided to give Solo: Islands of the Heart the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10.

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

- V x

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Redeemer: Enhanced Edition [Xbox One].

Originally released back in 2017 for PC, Redeemer tells the story of Vasily; an elite operative once tasked with assassination and infiltration. After escaping the evil corporation you worked for and spending twenty years hidden in a monastery, the corporation is hot on your heels and out for blood. But that just might give you your shot at redemption.

The story is promising, shown mostly within the introductory cutscene, but feels like it isn't expanded on as much as it probably should have been throughout the rest of the game. The gameplay action itself is definitely the biggest part of Redeemer, and even without a super-strong story, holds up well. Combat feels smooth and fast-paced, and the variety of combos in addition to environmental kills available to you keeps things interesting. It is fun to play and whilst it can seem a little repetitive at times, I still genuinely enjoyed it.

Going for a top-down perspective works well for Redeemer and allows you to see the fighting better. It also allows the game to take full advantage of all the blood you'll see spray everywhere as you wipe out enemies. As mentioned previously, there are plenty of environmental kill options available to you - highlighted when near - as well as lots of different weapons to choose from. Melee weapons break after just a few hits (although this can be prolonged with certain upgrades) and ammo is in short supply. As weapons are picked up, previously held weapons will be dropped - and ammo doesn't carry over from one pistol to the next - so remembering locations of extra weaponry is always a good idea. Vasily can carry one melee weapon and one gun at a time, and these can range from knives and assault rifles to mutant arms and shotguns.

Yep... Mutant. Arms. Or more specifically, the arms that you've just brutally ripped from the mutants pestering you just moments before. It's definitely pretty satisfying to disarm (oh dear God, stop the puns) a mutant and then slap them around with their now lifeless limb.  With the limited durability of melee weapons and almost-out-of-ammo guns, more often than not you'll be using nothing but the power of Vasily's fists to eliminate the enemies. Even using fists feels remarkably good - after all, he's a pretty buff dude - and this can be improved upon by certain upgrades as you progress.

Abilities can be unlocked and upgraded by finding and collecting Manuscripts hidden throughout the levels. These can give you boosts in things such as combat damage or how many moves in a combo. Other unlocks can be gained through the experience given as the game progresses. These can not only improve using weapons, but your fists (and feet), too.

Unfortunately, Redeemer is plagued with a lot of slowdown, even on Xbox One X. Frame rate drops happened enough to be a bother, and laggy movements whilst doing finishers sometimes pushed me into normally-inaccessible areas of the map. I definitely still enjoyed my time playing Redeemer, but felt slightly annoyed by the fact that the Enhanced Edition, as it's so titled, still suffers these issues, years after the original release.

In the end, we decided to give Redeemer: Enhanced Edition the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10.

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

- V x

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Tetsumo Party [Xbox One].

Developed by Monster Couch during a Game Jam, Tetsumo Party is a nice straightforward party game where you change your character's stance to fit through gaps in a fast moving bamboo wall racing towards you. Or rather, it's a straightforward concept, but put into practise it's far more challenging than you'd expect. Each limb is controlled by a separate button (the triggers and bumpers on Xbox), with a few different levels of movement on each.

There's not a whole lot of depth to this game, as it purely just involves you doing the same thing repeatedly, getting faster as you go. Poses are easy enough to understand, but tapping furiously to switch to the correct positioning can easily mess you up; one too many taps often leaves you not enough time to loop back around before the bamboo wall hits.

Playing Tetsumo Party with friends, particularly if you've had a drink, seems to be the best way to play. It's super fast-paced and with simple enough controls that you still can't quite master, playing head to head with friends seems to make the formula work better. It doesn't take much to learn how to control your character, but getting the timing (and number!) of taps right just seems to be a struggle for everyone. This works well in the context of the game as you frantically try to reposition your sumo, often having just one leg or arm out of place - sending you right back to the beginning.

There's a variety of unlockable characters, ranging from ninjas to mummies and pharaohs. Each character has their own optional objectives to unlock, shown at the top right of the Character Select screen as you scroll through your choices. These add a little more thought into things and while it tries to keep things fresh by adding these in, for the most part the game grows tiring fast.

The visuals are simple and blocky in their design. Everything has a very minimalistic vibe and whilst this can sometimes be quite pretty to look at throughout the course of the levels, it often feels quite drab and boring too. Sound design is poor, with almost no music aside from the main menu theme and irritating loops of voice lines. Again, if you're drunk at a party with music on, laughing with friends, these things probably won't be as much of a bother but it's still not enough to make me forgive the poor sound choices.

The humour itself falls flat too, which is something we'd really hoped would help to elevate the game a tad. Silly, drunk fun games like this need a bit of humour to prop them up, it helps to gloss over some of the flaws if a game is funny enough or prods fun at itself, but here it just felt like that was missing. It's a cheap game at less than a fiver on Xbox, so if you're looking to take a risk on a new party game then it might be an option for you, but I wouldn't get your hopes up too high for it to have you hooked.

Overall there just wasn't enough that we liked whilst playing, and while it satisfied for a short game with friends, it quickly became boring and left us not wanting to load it up again. In the end, we decided to give Tetsumo Party the Collecting Asylum rating of 3/10.

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

- V x

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Lethal League Blaze [Xbox One].

We're always on the lookout for fun, competitive local multiplayer games that we can go head to head in. Even moreso if it's a game that has 4-player support, where we can let the kids join in too. Lethal League Blaze, from the fantastic minds at Team Reptile, delivers.

The art style is gorgeous and funky, and absolutely everything on screen pops with beautiful vivid colours. Character design is varied and interesting, with a wide array of playable characters that you can choose from. Some of the characters stood out to us more than others, but mostly you'll find its personal preference who you'll veer towards. Luckily, with both kids wanting to pick the same character every now and then, you can have alternate colour patterns and unlockable costumes to distinguish. Characters play differently to each other, so perfecting how to play can be quite difficult.

The story mode itself was quite weak when compared to everything else, but still enjoyable. The story, which focuses on a Lethal League squad competing in what is now classed as an illegal sport, feels rushed and shoehorned in. 

It's fast paced and very different to most sports-style games, so suits the multiplayer aspect well. Online multiplayer is an option too, which really opens up the replayability. Aside from multiplayer and Story Mode, there's also an arcade mode which sees you go up against character after character. We found that often this would feel quite easy and laidback up until you go head to head with yourself - then things get a tad more tricky. For the most part though, things seem to be almost too easy. Settings can be customised to your preference, giving you the option of ramping up the difficulty. This is a well thought out feature that allows some decent practise.

Special moves add another layer to things, with every character having their own to mix things up, as you watch the ball fly faster and faster, with only the last person to touch it having immunity. It can be a wild, frenzied mess when the ball is going so fast, but this just enhances the fun and laughter, especially with four players. The sheer speed of things ensures that things stay fair, as the unpredictability gives everyone a chance.

In the end we decided to give Lethal League Blaze the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Monday, 29 July 2019

Asylum Reviews: Super Mutant Alien Assault [Switch].

Originally released in 2016, Cybernate's Super Mutant Alien Assault has now made its way to Nintendo Switch. It suits being on this platform, as this is definitely a game that fits with that pick up and play anywhere mindset. There are three galaxies with four levels in each, culminating in a boss fight on the final level of each galaxy. Between the fact that it's so easy to just play for a bit when you find yourself with a bit of spare time, and everything taking place within a single screen (no side-scrolling here folks!), SMAA truly feels like it was meant to be played on Switch.

There's not much in the way of a story. I mean, there is, but it's pretty much just a case of go out there and kill every alien you see. The game is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes as you have to replenish weapons and bombs, whilst ensuring to not trap yourself in a corner (leading to inevitable damage). As you progress through the levels you can smash open boxes for upgrades - such as double jumps - or new weapons.

Each level can have differing objectives, which helps to keep things from being quite as repetitive. Sometimes your goal is to just clear all aliens from a level, and other times you will be repairing generators. The low overall number of levels means that the entire game can be completed pretty quickly, but the replayability still stands for a fun time with friends.

Local co-op is a nice touch, as too many games stray away from that nowadays - but unlike couch co-op in The Binding of Isaac, etc. if one of you dies, you both have to start again *sad trombone*. Again, the portability of the Switch comes into play nicely here, as you can play two player by having a joy-con each with the screen in between you. It's not always the most comfortable or best way to play, but if you're gonna be on a flight or don't have much else in the way of access to a TV screen, it does just fine.

The music fits well and is actually surprisingly catchy, and the art style is really brights and everything pops on screen. Clean lines add an extra layer of definition to what normally can be quite a faded or blurry appearance with pixel-art (not that that's a bad thing!) so it really makes everything stand out well.

In the end, we decided to give Super Mutant Alien Assault the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10. The cheap price point (just £7.99) makes it a no-brainer to give this a try.

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

- V x

Friday, 19 July 2019

Asylum Reviews: Streets of Rogue [Xbox One].

Developed by Matt Dabrowski and published by TinyBuild, Streets of Rogue is just the kind of roguelite I've been waiting for. Definitely not quite as panic inducing as the likes of The Binding of Isaac, this game allows you to be a little more meticulous in how you go about things. 

Missions can be completed in a bunch of different ways, and certain characters may have an edge over others in particular levels. 

There's a decent selection of characters with various Abilities and Traits, as well as different items to begin a run with. Extra characters can be unlocked by successfully completing the unlock requirements, which can be anything from completing a specific level or freeing a captive within a level, to making it through an entire level without alerting or killing anyone.

Basic customisation of the characters gives you a little bit of input towards how you want to look, from changing hairstyle and colour, to choosing whether or not you like the bearded look and picking a skin colour. When selecting a character, you'll notice that each one has a "Big Quest" that they have as an additional objective. These are specific to each character type and usually add a little more difficulty to completing a run. It's an optional quest but it's definitely one I'd recommend going for as the XP boost each level is pretty good if you achieve that level's requirement.

Pressing Y (on Xbox) brings up the map, with a nice little breakdown of the level's missions as well as the Big Quest details. Points of interest are marked on the map with their symbols from chests to be unlocked, a yellow M for a mission-giver (optional missions to gain Chicken Nuggets, the game's currency for buying extra stuff for the item pool and new traits, etc).and of course the colour coded arrows for the main objectives. There's not a whole lot of depth to the story itself, but the over-arching Big Quests for each character and having to change up your playstyle depending on the character class you choose kept me thoroughly interested.

As always, I love the pixel art style, and the soundtrack is catchy and really suits the style of game. By far, my favourite thing included in the game is the variety of status effects that can be activated throughout levels that have this mutator applied. As shown below, going Giant is amazing and allows you to just obliterate anything in your path - but be warned, it won't last long before you get another effect (and that could be something bad like being weak!). This added a fun layer to the game and kept things feeling fresh throughout.

In the end, we decided to give Streets of Rogue the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Asylum Reviews: Car Mechanic Simulator [Xbox One].

Now let me preface this with the fact that I know very little about cars. That's actually what got me interested in Car Mechanic Simulator in the first place. Allan is currently learning to drive and hoping to pass his test and get a cheap car by the end of the year (fingers crossed!) so I figured... what better way to learn some basics - and not-so-basics - about the inner workings of a car than through one of our favourite mediums?

The game begins with an optional Tutorial - of course I did it! - that explains a bit more about the workshop and what functions different tools have, as well as giving you the freedom to tinker about with the cars in your garage before taking one of them out on the Test Track. Tidbits of information are given to advise you on how the game works. Certain areas of the engine can only be access from underneath, so it states this when hovering over these areas to keep you right. Tools can be moved around the workshop to get them near to the car you're currently working on, and things like the Interior Detailing can be used to spruce up the seating without buying a full fresh set.

My dumb brain didn't think about the fact that post-tutorial I would likely lose these cars, so there I was happy as Larry, upgrading and customising the car to my ideal look after ripping the entire thing apart and pretty much building it from the ground up again. Sent the car in for a nice new colour finish - a pearlescent pinky-purple hue - and then took her out for a spin. And then the actual game began and my car was gone for good.

A few other things didn't compute in my brain at first, such as the car lifter - I couldn't get this to work at all, and instead would lift the car the tiniest bit off the ground and then I couldn't get it to go any further. Same with the oil change, I could not for the life of my figure out how to change the oil in the car, and with this being the only thing stopping me when it was time to go on to the Test Track I was raging. Drove myself mad trying to squeeze the camera up to the engine as close as I could to see if I was missing anything. I knew where the oil tray was, but no oil change cap. And then I finally discovered it and felt like the biggest idiot in the world as it was staring me right in the face the whole time.

I liked the basic premise of the gameplay, taking orders of what people need done to their cars and trying to get that done as fast as possible to earn money for your own little garage. Games like this speak well to me, such as Overcooked or a million and one other games where you have to do things in a certain order to fulfill a task. The driving moments of the game where you test out vehicles was the weakest part of the gameplay, as the mechanics just didn't feel tight enough and had that early-generation floatiness. I definitely preferred to just stick to repairing the vehicles rather than driving them.

The cost of materials and parts used for repairs, as well as the amount of time taken to complete a job determines how much you will profit. Each job (and tasks within the job) allows you to earn experience to level up and unlock skill points that can be used to do various helpful things like speeding up processes. Sometimes when a job comes in, it'll tell you exactly what the problem is - just replace all the tyres and brake pads, easy! - and other times it'll just say that there's an odd noise coming from... somewhere. The more jobs you do, the better of an idea you end up having as to what the problem could be, which felt quite good as I felt like I was genuinely learning some useful life skills. Whether or not that actually works when diagnosing a real car's issues is another thing to be seen.

Graphics wise, things felt like they were going for a fairly realistic approach, but sometimes it felt quite boring and dull to look at. I could always go for a more stylised look, but in a game where you're simulating a Car Mechanic, it does what it had to do! Audio, whilst not absolutely terrible wasn't great. You have a choice of stations to listen to on your radio but they're all very meh. Probably better off just muting the audio and putting Spotify on!

There's a lot of gameplay to be had, with unlimited randomly-generated jobs coming in for you to complete. 48 different car types with over 1000 parts that you can chop and change as you like. It was definitely taken by surprise with CMS, and felt educated whilst I was enjoying completing tasks. If you don't like completing tasks quickly and hate the repetitiveness of things like this, then probably stay away. But if you enjoy cars, and like tinkering with them and learning more about them, then this game will likely be right up your alley.

In the end, we decided to give Car Mechanic Simulator the Collecting Asylum rating of 6/10.

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Solo: Islands of the Heart [Xbox One].

Solo: Islands of the Heart is a simple, reflecting tale of love. You begin the game by choosing your gender (which can be male, female ...