Monday, 14 September 2020

Asylum Reviews: Party Hard 2 [Xbox One].

After really enjoying the first Party Hard, I was desperate for more. And when PH2 was released in 2018 I was so excited, but it wasn’t meant to be (RIP laptop). Thankfully, Pinokl Games answered my prayers and brought Party Hard 2 to Xbox One just last week, so I could finally dive in. A little bit more story has been given for this game, showing the monotony of PHK’s life - filled with his daily routine of work, coming home, paying bills, and sleeping before he starts the cycle again. But with noisy partygoers keeping him up at night, it doesn’t take long till the killing starts.

You play as one of four playable characters as you work your way through each of the locations in your mission to kill. Each of the four killers: Party Hard Killer, Wannabe, Kao Tech and Shawn O’Panda, have different abilities and weapons allowing for additional replayability as levels are ticked off under each character individually. During my first run I stuck to playing as the Party Hard Killer, for old times’ sake, but I had a lot of fun trying out each of the others and how best to take advantage of their skills.

 Instead of just having the aim of killing everyone in a level as we did in the first game, we now have Objectives. Mission Objectives give you different aims such as killing specific targets. Successfully pulling off these objectives will allow you to complete a level, but optional hidden objectives can net you extra points. Challenges are also available, further increasing the experience you gain in each of the playstyles shown at the end of each level.

Each task increases your experience in the following areas: Stealth, Criminal, Anarchy or Mystic. Offloading a corpse in a dumpster will increase Stealth, whereas achieving a combo by killing a whole bunch of partygoers with an explosion can grant you Anarchy points. Having points in each of these available play style categories will allow you to unlock characters as well as grant you some additional items that you can utilise in your play through. Items will be found scattered around a level, much like in the first game, and these can be used to kill in all manner of ways. Purple boxes will sometimes show up with extra items, tying in with the points you’ve gained, to allow you more creativity in your mission.

New to Party Hard 2 is the ability to combine items - this way you can craft molotovs to cause even more havoc than the singular booze and gasoline items would have. Sometimes waiting for particular items to appear in the purple boxes will land you a huge payoff due to the ability to craft, so you’ll find yourself doing a lot of weighing up the pros and cons as you try to work through a level. Being careful about escape routes and not letting people spot you in action is another thing to keep in mind, as cops can be fairly suspicious and are an absolute nightmare to escape from at times - your knife won’t really do much against them, so being able to jump through a shortcut to get away from them could be the deciding factor in your survival.

As well as the addition of crafting we now have Boss Battles too, which require a fair bit of trial and error to get through. These are a really interesting extra to the game, as it makes things a little different from the standard levels (which mostly follow a similar process).

The graphics have evolved into a 3D style, whilst still retaining the pixel art from the first game. It’s a very interesting look and works well with the gameplay. Much like the original, the soundtrack is fantastic, with a variety of tracks as you progress. 

At £16.74 on the Xbox Store, Party Hard 2 is well worth the price, especially if you go for the Collector’s Edition bundle at £19.99 which also gets you access to the Alien Butt Form DLC - normally priced at £5.79 outwith the CE bundle. This super fun DLC adds new playable characters, maps and abilities with a totally bizarre twist. 

In the end, we decided to give Party Hard 2 the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

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

- V x

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Asylum Reviews: Paradise Killer [Switch].

UK-based indie games developer Kaizen Game Works launched Paradise Killer, an open-world crime investigation game just over a week ago on September 4th. We were lucky enough to receive a review code from them the day before launch and I have played it almost non-stop since (with the exception of work, and our daughter hogging the Switch for a bit!).

Paradise Island is run by The Syndicate, an elite group dedicated to pleasing the Gods. Each time an island is tainted by the demonic forces that they desperately try to repel, it is destroyed and a new Island Sequence is generated. The top Council members have been murdered, and Island 24 has been set for destruction - but before everyone can move to “Perfect 25”, the crime must be solved. You play as Lady Love Dies, a detective that has been in exile since the 13th island sequence (after an unfortunate mishap with a God led to demonic corruption), brought back for her superior investigation skills.

Henry Division, a Citizen of the island, is being held in the Desolation Cell under suspicion of the murders. It’s up to you to interview everyone on the island and scour for any clues to get to the bottom of what really happened to the Council members. Starting off, I already had suspicions of who I thought was the guilty party but this quickly changes (and changes repeatedly) the more you uncover. At any time, you may return to Judge to make your decision whether you have found all the information or not. I was in two minds about making a snapshot decision, as I liked the idea of just going for my original gut instinct but was worried that this would somehow ruin the story for my “full” play through.

I decided to just go for the full investigation off the bat, hunting down every single clue and interviewing every suspect until there was nothing left to ask and raising our Hang Out options to Max Level. Dotted all around the island are small “mysteries”, including Blood Crystals (the island’s currency), clues and bottles of Whisky that initiate small flash-forwards of Island Sequence 25 - two unknown people drinking in a bar and lamenting over what happened on 24. I refrained from spending my Blood Crystals too much to begin with, as these are required to purchase drinks from the Vending Machines located around the island - which it states will unlock an additional upgrade for Starlight, your laptop device that can help to unlock secret areas.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to be quite so protective of my Crystals. As time went on, and I’d bought every drink available and had used all of the Blood Letting Shrines and Foot Baths, I realised I still had plenty of Crystals left. Those were two things I’d initially put off: Blood Letting seemed like it was a trick to get my blood to somehow have me involved - definitely overthinking on that one, and the Foot Baths seemed like an optional extra, but for 5 Blood Crystals!? Pfft. No chance. Until I tried one and unlocked the ability to meditate, which gives mysteries a small glowing heart temporarily to help you track them down, and I kicked myself for waiting so long! Even by the end of my play through, I had 33 Blood Crystals left over, so you definitely don’t need to ration them too much if you’re planning on hunting them all down anyway.

The mysteries that unravelled kept me thoroughly interested, and the more I found out the more I wanted to keep digging. New information would frequently mean more lines of questioning for many of the suspects, and this would often lead to my suspicion flip-flopping between multiple characters at once. A little blue demon known as Shinji can be found all around the island, giving tidbits of information at times and just talking complete sh*t at others. All of the characters have diverse personalities and it’s really interesting getting to know each of them (even if some of them totally rub you up the wrong way). I even successfully bedded two of the suspects, so let’s just say I’m not the most professional of detectives out there...

The art style is gorgeous and the sound design is fantastically done, with a brilliant soundtrack done by Barry “Epoch” Topping, a fellow Scot - and voice of the character Doctor Doom Jazz. There are a whole bunch of tracks to be found around the island, which gives you more variety in what you’ll listen to, but I genuinely don’t think I came across a single one I wasn’t keen on. If a Vinyl Soundtrack gets released for this, I’ll definitely be down for a copy!

I took sooo many screenshots whilst playing Paradise Killer - the colours are beautiful and there’s just so much that felt worthy of a quick screenshot. The island, created by the Architect Carmelina is filled with massive sprawling architecture with hidden areas and secrets to uncover. A lot of things may be hidden behind locked fences, but jumping over and, once you unlock your Air Dash, dashing does the job to allow you to finagle your way into new clues.

Once I’d found every clue - no more little hearts visible after meditating - and exhausted the interviewing options of the suspects, it was time to make my decision. There are a few different things up for decision at trial, and your decision(s) are final. Whomever you deem guilty will be executed, so you need to be sure with your choices. In the end, I convicted five suspects and sentenced four of them to immediate execution (with one of the five already having died prior to the trial). I feel confident in my choices, especially as due to the overwhelming amounts of evidence I had, different suspects were all confessing and dragging others down with them in court. Such a fine thing to see!

I am genuinely gutted that I have now completed Paradise Killer, as I had such a great time with it. I was absolutely hooked from beginning to end, and can’t wait to see what Kaizen Game Works does next. Any more games like Paradise Killer and I will be a happy bunny.

In the end we decided to give Paradise Killer the Collecting Asylum rating of 9/10.

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

- V x

Thanks to EvolvePR for the Paradise Killer Switch Review Code!

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Asylum Reviews: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 [Xbox One].

As avid fans of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series growing up, we were super excited when it was announced that not only the first game was getting a remaster, but the second game too. Released as a combined title, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 has a lot to live up to - but can it do it? Let’s find out!

It’s been too long since we last played a good skateboarding game. Growing up as a massive fan of shows like Jackass and Viva la Bam, skateboarding was always one of those sports that I’d had an interest in, but every time I tried it out I just couldn’t get to grips with it. I’d try to skate in my back garden, which was basically just a series of broken and uneven slabs, and I’d be on my arse every time. I even begged my parents to buy me a small grind rail that I’d enthusiastically circled in the Argos catalogue, in the hopes that I’d magically gain the power to grind before I could even do the simplest of tricks.

And so came Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater - somewhere I could actually enjoy skateboarding, without hurting myself every 2.4 seconds. I played these games non-stop - admittedly it was mostly THPS3 I played obsessively, before moving onto Underground on my Gameboy Advance SP during the long drive to my grandparents’ house each morning before school. That feeling of joy when you successfully pull off a jump that you never thought you’d manage? I never thought I’d get that feeling in a skateboarding game again - but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 has done it.

The graphics have been completely overhauled - making the world still feel recognisable, but real. The streets no longer look like those toy carpets you had as a kid that you would drive your Hot Wheels cars around - they are fully fledged streets with fantastic, realistic lighting and it just looks amazing. Sound design has been done really well too, with all of the grinding and flipping noises hitting just right, and with an absolutely addictive soundtrack like in the good ol’ days.

The soundtrack used is very reminiscent of the originals, with plenty of the OG soundtrack still being available, but expanded with a number of new tracks that still retain that THPS feel. It’s actually hard to believe some of the newer tracks aren’t from the old soundtrack, as they just fit so well. You can choose songs to play from the menu, as well as remove tracks if there are any that don’t quite float your boat.

Available at the fantastic price of £39.99 this bundle contains both games for the same price as you’d often pay for a single AAA title, and for an extra tenner you get some unique retro outfits for Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen, ‘The Ripper’ skater from Powell-Peralta®  as well as unique retro content to use in the Create-a-Skater mode.

It’s a fantastic release whether you’re new to the franchise or not. Everything feels great and with such a fantastic soundtrack to play along to, it’s easy to sink hours into without even realising. Fans of the originals shouldn’t be worried about playing for fear of this ruining their childhood - this certainly is worthy of the name.

In the end, we decided to give Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 the Collecting Asylum rating of 9/10.

Have you played THPS1+2 yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thank you to Activision for the THPS1+2 Xbox One Review Code!

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Asylum Art: Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time.

Allan has been doing a lot of drawing on the iPad Pro recently, using Procreate. After completing Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time on Xbox, he felt that he just had to do some sort of artwork to commemorate it. 

Samurai Jack is a family-favourite in the Asylum: we recently watched through all five seasons with the kids, prior to the release of the game and were heavily anticipating the game coming out.

Naturally, there were some worries - as with many licensed titles, but thankfully Battle Through Time has been worthy of the Samurai Jack name :)

Here is the artwork Allan has done, including a non-glowy version, and a colour variant option too! You can find more of his artwork on Instagram, as well as Twitter if you want to give him a follow over there!

If there’s any other things you’d like to see him draw, let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Asylum Reviews: Windbound [Xbox One].

In Windbound, the latest game from 5 Lives Studios, you play as Kara - a warrior separated from her tribe due to the harsh, stormy seas (and what is lurking beneath the surface). You wake up on a small island, with nothing to guide you. Chop some grass, gather some rocks and try to craft useful tools and weapons in order to help you on your journey.

Things seem fairly peaceful at first, small creatures pottering around as you collect stuff for your inventory; crafting a row-boat to move to another island. But you see, Windbound is a survival game - so things aren’t quite as simple as they seem. You must keep your energy up by regularly eating - whilst being aware that any food you collect will eventually rot - you must also be cautious of the wildlife roaming the islands, as even the small and unassuming can knock a fair chunk off of your health bar. 

When you first start the game, you are given two options to choose between: the standard Survival style mode, or the Storyteller mode - which removes the extreme survival elements (such as being booted back to the start of the game upon death, with no items) to enable you to just enjoy the story if that’s more your thing. I am crap at survival style games. I really enjoy them, but I am easily distracted. I will quite happily wander around and explore, blissfully unaware that my health bar is depleting until it’s too late - so I went down the Storyteller route, whilst Allan battled against the Survivalist option.

A rogue-like action adventure, Windbound keeps you on your toes with its difficulty as a Survivor, but this is something that the game wants you to experience. Survivalist is considered to be the core gameplay option, allowing you to experience the harsh climates and the stresses of trying to survive when stranded alone. Weapons deteriorate, just like food, so being aware of this is also important. Frustratingly, my rock sling was almost broken, but would still allow me to wind up a new shot before breaking upon use - leading to no rock being fired. And with no other slings in my inventory I was now an open target, with nothing available to be crafted either. 

Windbound is very clearly inspired by games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - the artistic style, as well as a lot of gameplay mechanics feel straight from the world of Zelda. Everything looks fantastic, and the world definitely had us interested. The more you explore around the islands available, the more you’ll find, and this helps to try and keep things fresh. Different islands can have different crafting materials, as there are five environment-types available and these determine what can be found and what fauna will populate the island. Sadly, whilst there are animals on the islands, there seem to be no NPCs available for you to talk to which makes the world feel very empty. 

The sound design utilised in Windbound is incredible, with gorgeous piano melodies that work really well with the world. Sometimes though, you’ll hear certain noises that sound like they’ve come straight from BOTW, like when picking up items, etc. And this can sometimes be a little odd as, even though the game is inspired, you’d think they’d want to differentiate themselves from it. The tunes that play as you go out across the open seas are really enjoyable and make being out on your boat feel oddly relaxing - until you get caught at a particularly windy area.

There’s a lot of repetition whilst playing through the story of Windbound, as each of the chapters require you to locate three Nautilus towers that you have to climb and activate before you can open a portal to the next chapter. And then you do that over again. The world seems vast and exciting when you first begin playing, but the repetition quickly makes you realise that it’s actually a lot smaller than you first thought - and if not smaller, then certainly less dense than I’d have hoped. It can become quite a chore to do the same routine multiple times over whilst trying to make it to the end of the game, so having a bit more variety in tasks would have been a massive improvement. Even having NPCs available to speak to and be given tasks by would have added a lot more life and variety to the mix, and is something that I can't quite understand the lack of. 

Ensuring you always have ample food and weaponry is something of a priority as you travel from island to island. On my first run, the first island I woke up in had some small boar-like creatures that would drop meat when killed, as well as a few berry bushes. But as I travelled to the next island, already low on health due to running out of food, I realised I would need to stock up again - only to find that the only enemies on the next island were a few massive ones that my poor sling did nothing to (and I had no suitable items to make better weaponry) and two more tiny boars that barely filled Kara’s belly. Particularly if you're on a Survivalist run, as losing all progress multiple chapters into the game is heartbreaking, and due to the hard slog of getting that far in the first place can leave you feeling put off from trying again. 

Released yesterday on Xbox One at the price of £24.99, it’s not too expensive for what it includes, and is an interesting game to play if you like exploration based titles. Combat isn’t really anything special and left us feeling a little deflated, as not much emphasis is put on it. There seems to be so much potential for Windbound, and I can only hope that they have plans further down the line to tweak things and expand upon certain areas.

On first glance, Windbound seems right up our alley, but with not much variation in gameplay and a very slow progression it left us feeling like a lot of opportunities were missed. Variation in enemies as the story progresses suggested to something deeper, and seeing these different enemy types was definitely interesting, as they grow bigger and more threatening as you go. You need to defeat different enemies for various resources, but this becomes a bit of a vicious circle as many will defeat you with ease, tossing you right back to the beginning again to start the story over.  And there’s only so many times you can do that without wanting to pull your own hair out.

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

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

- V x

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Asylum Reviews: Boomerang Fu [Xbox One].

Co-op party games are always something of a hit in our house: we have a lot of fun with them, and they’re usually straightforward enough that the kids can both join in without feeling like they are totally outmatched when playing against us at free-for-all. Boomerang Fu is a recent release that caught our eye due to the adorable characters and interesting visuals. You play as one of twelve available food-and-drink-based options, ranging from avocado to sushi, to a jittery cup of coffee, each wielding a boomerang in order to give their enemies the chop.

The team over at Cranky Watermelon had us intrigued by what they had to offer with Boomerang Fu - on one hand we were very excited by the idea, but on the other we were saying to ourselves “another fruity game?” as there seems to have been quite a lot of those in recent months. But even though this initially seemed like a downside, the cute characters are actually a huge draw as not only are they appealing but it actually makes some sense as a boomerang slices cleanly through Mr. Banana and shatters little Coffee Bro, names they’ve become known as in the Asylum.

As well as being playable as a multiplayer game, you can also play on your own with the help of some bots that can be tailored in their difficulty. Other options available allow you to change the type of game you play from free-for-all to team based, or to make it a battle over the Golden Boomerang. Rounds are generally fast, with a lot of frantic action going on on-screen. It’s a perfect game for parties, and causes a lot of laughter as unexpected deaths occur due to environmental changes - and simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eva has accidentally killed me (her own teammate!) in more rounds than you’d think possible, simply by flicking a lever and causing me to be flattened by moving blocks. Having rounds feel so unpredictable is great, as it really ups the challenge, whilst also keeping it as anybody’s game so a win really feels special.

Different power-ups can be picked up during each round, and these add brilliant effects to both your boomerang and the round in general. Some of these might affect how your boomerang works, such as leaving a trail of ice or setting foliage on fire, sometimes even causing multiple boomerangs to be tossed or explode on impact. Some power-ups give you assistance in the form of a disguise (which transforms you into a random piece of set-decoration when you stay still) or a shield, and sometimes the whole round will change into a Battle Royale style mode, with a decreasing area of play being available - leading to death for all who remain outside the square. This all adds even more hectic-ness and hilarity as everyone squeals their way out of the path of projectiles only to be affected by the impending explosion or being suddenly out of bounds.

At £12.49 on the Xbox Store, it’s not the absolute cheapest of party games we’ve played of late, but for a still relatively cheap price, you definitely get a whole lot of enjoyment out of this title. There’s plenty of replayability, and whilst there’s only a few different game modes available the rounds are just so fast-paced and fun that it doesn’t feel like it’s overly missing anything.

We’ve had a great time playing Boomerang Fu and can see it being a regular one to play with the kids as they are absolutely obsessed with it, and we can’t say we blame them! It is just so addictive to play “just another round” and the gorgeous art style and funky soundtrack really help to keep you interested.

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

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

- V x

Monday, 3 August 2020

Asylum Reviews: Mr. Massagy: Mayo Edition [Xbox One].

Definitely one of the most weird-and-wonderful games - wait, no scratch that - one of the most bizarre games we’ve played recently is Mr. Massagy: Mayo Edition. Combining two games in one package for the low price of £4.19 on the Xbox Store, you’ll get Mr. Massagy, as well as My Name is Mayo.

Mr. Massagy is a dating sim game, where you play as a character called Johnny who will receive massages from various potential admirers. Taking them out on dates and successfully winning them over will award you with stars, which will unlock one of two massage modes that will cause your controller to vibrate. These vibration segments (which can be exited, or returned to, at any time) are for you to ahem massage yourself using the controller, and serve no other real purpose to the game other than to, y’know, get your Mr. Massagy on.

The game is actually surprisingly funny, and has a lot of self-awareness about itself. The dialogue options on dates are hilarious, and can often take unexpected turns requiring you to retry a date to get a better outcome. When we first saw it listed on Xbox, we were highly intrigued by it due to the absurdness of the title - and we were chuffed that the humour extends beyond there.

Once you’ve unlocked all potential dates and maxed them all out, there’s not a lot of replayability aside from going back to check out other dialogue options, but most of these will likely have been attempted at one point or another during your play through. The game is an easy 1000 Gamerscore, so if that’s your kinda thing, then that might draw you in, too.

Different dates will find you meeting up with all manner of sorts, from a few different women, all the way through to a sock puppet and a werewolf. These add further hilarity to the already bonkers plot (if you can even really call it that). The art style is pretty decent, with a cartoon-y appearance which matches the overall tone well. One of the last dates we went on was with none other than a jar of Mayo, which leads us in nicely to the other game in this bundle...

My Name is Mayo.

MNIM is a simple clicker game where literally all you have to do is click. You control a floating hand that has to repeatedly tap the jar of Mayo in the centre of the screen to wiggle the lid off and get points, as well as unlock achievements. You can unlock various skins for your Mayo and can deck it out however you please to help cheer you up as your fingers cramp up from the constant clicking.

Achievements will pop periodically throughout your time clicking, most of them seeming to be at every 2000 increase, so imagine our disappointment at no It’s Over 9000! Achievement for reaching 9001 clicks. For the price and the comedy value, it’s a decent purchase - but if you’re worried about what people will think of you if they walk in on you playing this, then maaaaybe steer clear, haha.

In the end, we decided to give Mr. Massagy: Mayo Edition the Collecting Asylum rating of 6/10. 

Have you played Mr. Massagy: Mayo Edition yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thanks to Green Lava Studios for the Mr. Massagy: Mayo Edition Xbox One review code!

Asylum Reviews: Party Hard 2 [Xbox One].

After really enjoying the first Party Hard, I was desperate for more. And when PH2 was released in 2018 I was so excited, but it wasn’t...