Sunday, 16 December 2018

Asylum Reviews; Desert Child [Xbox One].

Created by Oscar Brittain, Desert Child is a racing RPG that is heavily inspired by his love of animes such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop and Redline, and this alone was enough to have us interested. You play as a broke young hoverbike racer, whose end goal is to move to Mars. With the cost set to rise shortly, you need to make money - fast - via whatever method you can, be that pizza deliveries, robberies or racing.

Police can and will seize any money you have on you if you are pulled over, so make sure to always deposit into a bank as there is nothing more frustrating than having a great deal saved up and then losing it all in one fell swoop. The more illegal activities you get up to, the more likely the police are to stop you, so this needs to be kept in mind too. Money is what everything revolves around - you need to save to move to Mars, but you also need to pay for food, as well as bills and repair costs for your bike whenever it needs fixed. This constant grind for money, paired with the relatively low number of varied activities to do for money means that things can feel stale and repetitive quite quickly.

The pixelated art style is gorgeous, with a really authentic retro feel - the colours are stunning and everything really pops. The lo-fi hip-hop soundtrack is awesome and we really enjoyed most of the tracks - even the cheesier ones that at times will have you chuckling away to the lyrics when they match up to what you're doing (such as when you're doing the pizza deliveries). It's really impressive to think that one single person has created every part of this game, from the art, music, game design and animation, everything has been lovingly crafted by Oscar himself. As well as his influence from anime, hip-hop has been a huge point of reference for the making of Desert Child, with a link to Oscar's own Spotify playlist available here.

Mostly everything follows the same race format, whether that be herding kangaroos, taking part in actual races, or any of a number of other activities. It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the style of activities on offer, and might have added another layer of RPG-ness to the game (as that side seems quite barebones).

Sadly, there's just not a whole lot of substance to the game itself, which is pretty disappointing as we were so excited by the initial premise. The beautiful aesthetic, as well as the cheap price point (only £9.59 on Xbox One) still make this a game we're happy to have tried out, and we'll definitely keep an eye out for any of Oscar Brittain's future releases, as we imagine that he'll only improve from here.

In the end, we decided to give Desert Child a 6.5/10.

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

- V x

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Asylum Reviews; Floor Kids [Xbox One].

Floor Kids is a new rhythm game that immediately caught my eye due to its gorgeous art style (by JonJon), awesome Kid Koala soundtrack and of course the fact that I am a sucker for rhythm based games. The idea of the game is to pull off cool breakdancing moves to gain a high score to unlock new characters and areas. Initially, it seems quite difficult but you quickly pick up the basics of how to bust out a sweet routine.

Dances consist of four different move types: Toprock, Downrock, Freezes and Power Moves. People in the crowd will sometimes call out for specific types of move, allowing you to gain a bonus for pulling it off. You've got to combine different moves, whilst tapping to the beat of the track, and not holding moves too long for fear of getting boring, or falling on your arse with a badly timed transition or Freeze move. With a bunch of different characters to choose from, each with their own style, you'll work your way through each one, aiming to achieve the best scores possible.

In order to gain the best scores, you need to successfully accomplish combos. The game will nudge you as to which combos should be done, with a list of moves being shown on screen, however it is whether or not you remember what these moves translate to, and how to actually do it, that is the deciding factor in how well you'll do on a track. At the end of each track, you will be awarded a rating, up to a total of five crowns. This is then shown in the Summary, awarding points as to how you did for your Base Score, and five sub-categories of bonuses: Funk, Flavor, Flow, Fire and Flyness.

Tapping RB (on Xbox) then gives you the full Breakdown of how this was made up, from each of the types of moves used (and skill multipliers gained), as well as how each bonus is awarded. Funk consists of your Beat Accuracy for the main track, as well as the two chorus sections, which are more like standard rhythm based games, where you need to time your taps with what is happening on screen (as opposed to being based purely on sound). Flavor is given from using each of the 16 moves available to you, and if you have achieved a hold, pose, taunt, etc. Flow is determined by the flow of your routine, and falling or stopping moving can affect this. Fire is based solely on requests from the crowd, and whether you managed to give the crowd what the wanted to see. Finally, Flyness comes from how many holds, hops, reversals and more that you executed, and duration bonuses from your Freeze and Power moves.

I kind of wish that the game was structured more like DDR, or almost any other rhythm based game, where lining up moves with target zones gains a hit, rather than it being totally freestyle aside from the two Breakdown sections on each track. Freestyling feels more frustrating to me, as there is a great deal more concentration required to remember how to achieve each combo, as well as making sure every move is used. I like a challenge in a rhythm based game, but one that comes from the rush of trying to keep up with what is on screen, rather than memory.

That's purely a personal preference though, so I imagine a lot of other people would still have enjoyed this fresh change in the rhythm genre. Sadly, the game is disappointingly quick to finish, with everything being able to be completed in less than 4 hours (and that's with being leisurely about it!). It would have been nice to have a bit more meat to the core gameplay, although the addition of multiplayer battles will certainly increase the replayability a tad - but again, I think this would have further benefitted from at least some sections of traditional rhythm based gameplay (when are we going to get another good DDR style game!?)

In the end we decided to give Floor Kids the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10. Despite the short length, and the fact that Freestyle wouldn't typically be my first choice for rhythm games, I still really enjoyed Floor Kids and would recommend it to other rhythm lovers, especially as it's just so damn adorable looking!

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

- V x

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Asylum Reviews; Fallout 76 [Xbox One].

Bethesda’s latest offering in the Fallout series, Fallout 76, has veered down a new path into a scary new territory – a fully online multiplayer one. With the core mechanics of the previous Fallout games intact, the game feels much as you’d expect – but there’s something missing. The world feels vast, but empty. Where there were once NPCs floating around in various areas, there is nothing. Enemies still spawn, often in unsettlingly large numbers – coming across a group of ten or so Super Mutants within half an hour of starting was definitely a massive warning to turn around and go another way – but the lack of other characters to interact with leaves the world feeling more barren than you’d expect for a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Other players will be lurking around, living out their stories whilst you go on yours, an ever present reminder of their locations showing on your map, but aside from the ability to team up with them, or kill them, there’s no real benefit to their existence, unless you both want to go toe-to-toe. To prevent players from repeatedly hunting down and killing others who just want to be left alone, Bethesda has implemented a system which marks you for killing another player in cold blood and prevents you from being able to loot their body or gain XP for the kill. Upon respawn, you are able to hunt down your killer for revenge and bottlecaps without punishment - and other players are invited to do so too via the Bounty placed upon the character; however this deterrent has done little to stop some players from being a huge pain in the neck for everybody. Add to that, the fact that you can see player locations on the map (with their gamertag prominently displayed next to it), this gives griefers the ability to target sole players repeatedly. Luckily, we’ve only come across this issue a couple of times as the server you load into can only hold so many players at once, luckily reducing the likelihood of you ending up lumped in with a bunch of idiots at once. Sadly, this whole loading into a server issue comes with another problem – things you do within one server, such as taking over a workshop camp, will be lost forever once you quit the game as you are not tied to one single server for your entire playthrough.

Visually, Fallout 76 doesn’t look all that much different from Fallout 4, if a little bit less impressive, which is slightly worrying considering that Fallout 4 was released THREE YEARS AGO, and yet somehow still looks better. The lack of other characters to interact with probably emphasises this, as although Fallout’s NPCs have never looked fantastic themselves, they at least gave the environment more life and made the world a bit less… boring. The world, for the most part, feels like it is still in Beta, and that we are the few lucky sods that have been given a code – there’s not enough people around to populate the servers (albeit they can only hold around 20 odd people) and with the world being so wide and open, it’s rare that you’ll bump into anyone except at specific quest-related locations. 

The mission structure isn’t very engaging, and instead just gets you to go from one place to another, reading notes and listening to messages left by previous vault-dwellers to guide you on your way. It feels so empty and lackluster, and whilst we understand that a world recovering from a nuclear event would feel a lot less alive, there’s a distinct lack of struggle to survive than what you would expect for being so isolated. Everything just feels quite bland, and not what you want, or need, from a Fallout game. A couple of instances occur where things liven up for a bit, with missions requiring more involvement, but after these pass, you are straight back to ambling around from marker to marker. Timed quests can be a huge pain to complete when playing alone also, so joining up with some other players (or friends, if possible) might make things better for you in the long run, but there just doesn't seem to be enough to keep it fun at present. If you had a decent number of friends to strategize with, it would probably make the game at least a bit more enjoyable, but with nobody else in our friend group having bothered to get the game we have missed the chance to test this out directly.

An unsurprising fact for you all is that Fallout 76 is riddled with bugs. This is something that pretty much plagues all of Bethesda’s releases, and doesn’t seem to be improving as each release passes. One by one, bugs are eliminated, but it’s a slow process – and whilst not all bugs are game breaking, or frustrating, the ones that give you a little giggle when they occur, such as bodies flying into the distance after being shot, or glitching and getting stuck in the walls of buildings still impact the game negatively – after all, these are things that should have been ironed out in testing. Especially since we see these bugs arise in every new Bethesda release – you’d think they’d have sorted some of them out (or at least know how to identify them prior to launch). The framerate drops often, and people have apparently encountered issues where quests simply cannot be completed for one reason or another (although we personally haven’t come across that issue). It's not exactly what you want to be dealing with after shelling out on the game at release (especially after seeing it drop so quickly afterwards).

Whilst it may be possible that the game will improve over time, as Bethesda tries to implement new things to reinvigorate the quickly dying release, currently it just feels too lonely and just doesn't give us the same Fallout feeling we've grown to love. You'll occasionally come across interesting little set ups of a world left behind, giving a glimpse into the inner workings of life in West Virginia before the war, with the way that houses are set up, or teddy bears laid out to enact some grizzly scenes (a la watching some gnomes decapitate a skeleton), but even this makes you feel sad for what could have gone into the game, and what just fell by the wayside. In the end, we decided to give Fallout 76 the Collecting Asylum rating of 6.5/10.

Have you played Fallout 76 yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Asylum Reviews; Horizon Chase Turbo [Xbox One].

Horizon Chase Turbo is a fantastic return to old school arcade racers. It's been so long since I've played a racing game that, at its core, has been so fun and such a joy to play. HCT is a game that's easy to pick up when you first play it, there's intense learning curve and the cars whip round tracks like butter - there's usually a few hazards at the edge of tracks (such as arrows, trees or other signage) but for the most part they're fairly easy not to hit. And with local split-screen (for up to four players) being a welcome addition to the game, as so many racing games now turning to online only multiplayer (which just isn't the same), there's plenty of replayability to keep you coming back to defeat your friends when they're over.

There are four game modes to unlock and choose from, including the initial mode: World Tour, which sees you span twelve countries, starting in California, each with different terrains and settings throughout and giving you the ability to take part in Upgrade Races to unlock new upgrades for your vehicles. You gain XP through various things in each race, from collecting all of the tokens, to gathering extra fuel and of course, winning the race. Later, you'll also unlock Tournament (fairly self-explanatory), Endurance (a continuous race mode) and lastly Playground - the newest addition to the roster (to time with the launch of the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One versions of the game).

Playground offers time-limited tracks that encourage you to prepare for the unexpected. With five ever-changing tracks, with various modifiers such as Time Attack races, changing weather patterns and mirrored races, it's definitely a fun option to keep the game feeling new and fresh for longer. 
Visually, the game is beautiful. It strikes a nice balance between that cartoonish, retro style and a newer, more detailed design - and the bright colours make everything pop. The sound design is equally as fantastic, with a fun retro vibe to nod back to the good ol' days, but still fresh enough to not be boring and samey. 

Suitable for all the family, Horizon Chase Turbo is definitely a game we'd recommend that you pick up, especially since it's fairly cheap at the low price of £15.99 on Xbox One - and considering that it has managed to draw the wee man away from Fortnite on multiple occasions, that definitely counts as a success! The only downside is that there is no option for online multiplayer as well, which is a little frustrating as it would be fun to play against friends that live further away, but considering the inclusion of split-screen, I don't feel as bad about this!

In the end, we decided to give Horizon Chase Turbo the Collecting Asylum score of 8.5/10!

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

- V x

Friday, 30 November 2018

Asylum Reviews; Yuri!!! on Ice [DVD].

Always interested in a new anime to watch, we tried out Yuri!!! on Ice after we had it offered to us to review. With neither of us being fans of figure skating (we've never once been tempted to watch Dancing on Ice, or any other shows similar to that), and tending to mostly be interested in animes that have some sort of super-power or sci-fi element to them, we weren't sure what to expect... but boy are we glad we watched it.

From the moment the intro starts, you're mesmerised. It is beautiful to watch, and the intro music "History Maker" is really catchy and inspiring - "We'll make it happen, we'll turn it around, yes we were born to make history" - even when it feels like nothing is going right, and all is against you, the song gives a very uplifting, hopeful feeling, which is extremely fitting for the series from the get go.

The series follows the titular Yuri Katsuki, nearing the end of his career as a figure skater after an embarrassing failure, and his idol, legendary Russian professional figure skater Victor Nikiforov, who discovers Yuri after seeing a viral video of him performing one of his routines, and instantly takes a shine to him. This then leads to him becoming a coach and mentor for young Yuri as he tries his best to improve and become a skater just like Victor.

23 year old Yuri is a very relatable character, in more than just the fact that this show is based entirely in reality - no fantasy powers or otherworldly locations here - but in that his battles with depression and anxiety, as well as sexuality and self-doubt just feel all too real. The relationship he has with Victor, going back and forward between loving him platonically, and romantically - and struggling with how to decide upon his feelings at first - feels genuine, and riddled with the expected confusion from a couple that at first don't quite know where they stand with each other. Their relationship blossoms, and leaves you feeling cheerful at how things are progressing with them, and how Yuri's confidence in himself grows as he learns to love himself - as he comes to terms with his emotions - instead of constantly feeling that he isn't worth it, and would never amount to anything. It's refreshing to see an anime have such a focus on the emotional aspect of things, at least in terms of mental health. With so many people now fighting their own battles against anxiety and depression, it's nice to have a kindred spirit in Yuri.

Watching each episode and seeing each challenge Yuri faces as he tries to progress and win medals in these tournaments never fails to keep me drawn in. I must admit, I did wonder at first how each episode would keep me interested when it would just be people competing at figure skating (as mentioned above, I'm not normally a fan) but there's so much more to YOI than just the figure skating, albeit that is the core premise of the show. Each tournament had you eager to see how Yuri's competitors would get on, and likewise, how Yuri would improve from his last appearance. It doesn't always go smoothly either, you regularly see competitors slip, fall and injure themselves in a variety of ways due to the difficult maneuvers they attempt, and Yuri isn't exempt from this - in fact, to begin with, he's probably one of the clumsiest of the lot (which further related to myself!). I thoroughly enjoyed watching the routines, and whilst I still don't think I'll take an interest in actual figure skating, I can certainly appreciate the beauty of the routines and the choreography that goes into them more having watched this.

The rest of the cast, whilst not as prominent as Yuri or Victor, is filled with characters with just as much life and emotion. From the cute, cheeky little triplets who are always up to mischief, to Yuri's rival - Victor's other mentee - 15 year old Yurio (also named Yuri, but nicknamed Yurio to differentiate), who is a little more rebellious than he is, and filled with teenage angst to boot, there's plenty of very recognisable behaviours and personalities filling out the series. Each of the voice actors behind the characters do a fantastic job also, from the hesitant Yuri and confident, alluring Victor, to stressed out mother Yuuko (who is run off her feet with the triplets).

Similarly to the intro, the end credits has a fantastic soundtrack with "You Only Live Once", another inspiring and enjoyable track - and one that gives me the feeling of those songs you hear at the end of a night out, when you've had a great time, but you're glad to be heading home to get some rest. The accompanying images are really well done and fit this too, with snapshots of moments and memories - giving a bit more insight into the characters and their lives. It's rare that I find a theme song (intro or outro) for an anime that I dislike, but it's not often that I enjoy both as much as I did with these.

Overall, I completely adored YOI, and would highly recommend it to others, particularly those who are a bit more open to less fantasy or action based animes, and ones more focused on character relationships and emotions.

In the end, we decided to give Yuri!!! on Ice the Collecting Asylum score of 9/10!

Have you watched Yuri!!! on Ice? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Asylum Reviews; The Surge - including The Good, The Bad and the Augmented DLC [Xbox One].

Deck13 Interactive's The Surge is a brutally punishing sci-fi action RPG, very similar in difficulty to the Soulsborne games. You play as Warren, a man, paralysed from the waist down, looking to join CREO - a company that deals in fancy new exo-skeletons that will restore his ability to walk. After entering the facility, you must select a suit based on your preferences for playing the game, before a cutscene shows how the suit is wired into your body. It's pretty grim to watch as the anaesthetic doesn't fully kick in and your character is awake throughout the agonising, torturous process.

There are two suit types you can choose from, the Lynx suit which is more agile and easier to dodge enemies with (but has a decreased health bar) or the Rhino suit with its increased health, but slower, clunkier movements. I plumped for the Rhino, as I figured that more health would work out best for me in the long run, but the reduced movement speed definitely impacted my play, as response times just didn't quite line up the way I'd hoped.

The difficulty is crazy from the get-go. Both myself and Allan struggled at first to get used to the controls, along with learning how to time attacks and dodges from the various enemies that can do you some serious damage if you're not prepared. Enemies vary from small drones that aren't too much hassle, to large spinning cranes that will completely destroy you before you even have a chance to react.

Level design is somewhere between boring and clever, with samey looking levels looping back round ad infinitum to the Medbays. It can become quite hard to navigate some areas of the map based on how similar everything looks, and with no map on the HUD to guide you, it can be super easy to end up wandering through the same area multiple times. Similar to Dark Souls with its bonfires; medbays totally refresh the area bringing defeated enemies back to life, meaning you have to make the decision of whether working your way back to replenish your health is going to be worth it, or if you should just push on in the hopes of another medbay appearing ahead. Medbays have multiples routes to get to, allowing shortcuts to form from later stages of the map to gain you access again without having to make your way through large numbers of enemies each time. We both definitely appreciated this approach, however the medbays (and the shortcuts) always seemed just a tad too far apart, increasing the punishing aspect of the game.

The most recent expansion: The Good, The Bad and The Augmented, adds a short Wild West themed section that can be accessed early on in the game if playing New Game Plus, or slightly later if still on your first playthrough. As well as this, it adds lots more weapons, armour and implants for you to utilise. It ditches the open world aspect of the core game, and instead is done in a more episodic style, with stages unlocking in threes (to a total of nine) as you progress through the story of the main game. To complete each one, you must survive throughout two stages before you come up against the boss. There's not a whole lot of difficulty to these once you've got the hang of playing the main game, but having to stay alive through the two mini-levels before the main boss can prove frustrating, as you can easily fail through stupid, simple mistakes - not unlike in the core game! Each episode can also be done with modifiers, such as faster movement, or switching health re-generation off entirely - this can add a little bit more challenge to the play, but when you're already struggling (like we were!), this is something you'll likely avoid, ha.

If you are fortunate enough to have some Lucky Coins, which are found within the levels preceding the boss, when you die - then you will be given the opportunity to retry the boss battle (saving you the hassle of slogging through the two prior stages again). As much as we liked the Wild West theme, there just wasn't enough going on with this DLC to keep us interested, and the repeated deaths between this and the core game just had us a bit fed up by the end. If you're a glutton for punishment though, and love Soulsborne style games, then you'll probably find far more enjoyment in The Surge (and its expansions) than we have. Objectively, it's still a worthwhile add-on for fans of the genre (and particularly those who enjoyed The Surge, itself), just not one that we were all that enamoured with.

In the end, we decided to give The Surge: The Good, The Bad and the Augmented a Collecting Asylum score of 5.5/10, with the main game gaining an extra half-point (giving it a 6/10). As I've mentioned, we can see the reasons why people will enjoy the game, it just wasn't one that we wanted to go back to often due to its highly frustrating difficulty, but if that's your thing - then you'll definitely enjoy it more than we did.

Have you played The Surge, or its DLC expansions?
What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Asylum Reviews; Ninjin: Clash of Carrots [Xbox One].

Developed by Pocket Trap and published by Modus Games, Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is a fun little anime-inspired beat 'em up game with an adorable pixel art style, and plenty of action. Set in feudal Japan, you play as either the titular rabbit, Ninjin, or a fox named Akai (both with fantastic martial arts skills to boot!) on your quest to save the day after the evil Shogun Moe has stolen all of the carrots.  

There are a wide variety of weapons and items to collect - over 150 in fact, which can be purchased from the Corgi Store using the carrots you collect along the way. Special rainbow carrots (which are far less in number) can be used to purchase special weapons, masks or other customization items from the Shady Shop. You can customise your character to better defeat your foes, choosing the best arrangement of masks, swords, projectiles and more. Weapons have stats to show you how powerful they are, versus how much stamina you will use to utilise them. Projectiles' abilities can vary, with some ricocheting off of enemies to damage others, and some (like the Kunai) shooting straight through them, allowing you to take out multiple targets in one shot. 

The gameplay is fast-paced and super fun, you'll be dodging around the screen as you try to slash your way through all of the enemies, and if you choose - you can play in 2-player couch co-op (or online!) to add another layer of fun. Bosses are unfortunately not very memorable, but still add a little bit more challenge to the levels, and you can replay each level to gain the elusive S-rank for them all (turning all of the level icons orange in the process). Sound design is well done, with a retro style soundtrack that really fits the tone and theme of the game.

There are two modes of play: Story Mode, which as you'd expect is interesting and allows you to meet a wide range of characters and work your way through the story as you try to retrieve all of the stolen carrots, and there's another mode called "Oni TV Show" which is a horde-mode style of play, where you will fight waves of enemies for rare rewards. Both modes can be played alone or with a friend, which makes it all the better.

Available for £8.99 on Xbox One, or £11.99 Playstation 4, Switch and Steam, we'd recommend you check it out if you like beat 'em ups (and are partial to collecting all of the weapons!). The levels are a little repetitive and samey, but if you can look past that you'll still have a great time.

In the end, we decided to give Ninjin: Clash of Carrots the Collecting Asylum rating of:


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

- V x

Asylum Reviews; Desert Child [Xbox One].

Created by Oscar Brittain, Desert Child is a racing RPG that is heavily inspired by his love of animes such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop and ...