Friday, 12 April 2019

Asylum Reviews; FAR: Lone Sails [Xbox One].

After playing tough and/or frustrating games like Sekiro and Outward endlessly for the past couple of weeks, Okomotive's FAR: Lone Sails offered a sweet, sweet refuge I couldn't be more grateful for. A side-scrolling puzzle-lite game, with no dialogue or enemies, FAR proved to be a simple, reflective journey.

You play a small nameless character in a desolate world, alone and mourning the loss of a loved one (whose grave you'll find yourself at as the game begins). The game's description being listed as: “FAR: Lone Sails” is a vehicle adventure game. The player needs to maintain and upgrade their unique vessel to traverse a dried-out sea." 

One of the devs has been posting on Reddit and was asked to pitch the game for everyone:

gamedevM: It's basically a journey you take. It's you and your rickety vehicle vs. the environment. You have to take care of your vehicle by collecting flotsam, burning it in the oven to generate fuel, set the sail when the wind is right, repair broken parts etc. You mainly travel, discover what happened in this place and overcome obstacles together by solving puzzles.

A perfect description, from one of the people who knows best. It truly is a wonderful, relaxing game, and can be completed from start to finish in under two hours. 

Shown above, you can see the different areas of your vehicle, including your energy tank, steam meter, and more. At the far left, marked with the number 2, is the fuel converter, where you'll place an item (such as boxes, tanks and even chairs and radios) and have it converted into fuel to keep your little land-ship running. You have to jump from area to area in order to keep your landship moving properly, from filling the tank, to pushing the big button to increase the speed, to releasing the steam valve when the pressure gets too high (which gives you a handy little speed boost too). Just to the right of the steam meter is a button that you boop with your head to brake - not doing so, and going too fast when approaching a wall with make you crash, and can lead to various parts of your vehicle to go on fire, and need repaired.

Different parts of the vehicle will get upgraded as you progress, such as gaining the sail to begin with, improved wheels and add-ons such as a vacuum to hoover up useful items for refueling. The vacuum is a great addition as refueling the tank is required frequently, however, even in the absence of the vacuum you can manage fine - simply needing to hit the brakes and manually collect the crates and such yourself. Having your sail raised can help further, as even without fuel the wind will propel you forward slowly but surely.

The game's score fits beautifully with not only the setting, but the often peaceful pace in which you journey across this abandoned world. Art style is beautiful, with muted tones with the occasional pop of colour for your fuel and the various buttons you'll need to use - making these stand out due to their importance.

As you travel, you come across various buildings and locations that provide a slight puzzle for you to solve in order to progress. These are simple enough, with the main requirements being to either hit a button or refuel something. It's a nice change of pace to prevent the game from solely taking place in the confines of your ship, albeit you'll find that to be a comfort - protecting you from the elements through harsh weather changes.

With FAR: Lone Sails being a fairly short game, the ability to 100% all of the achievements seemed to be a hopeful prospect, especially after completing the game and realising I only had two left to unlock. One of the two I had left was to reach 9001 on the distance counter. I'd reached something like 5000 on my first run (which is apparently surprising, as most people seem to have been around the 3500 mark), which I think was mostly down to replaying two stretches due to bugs: the first, causing me to be unable to pick up any items (after an item I was holding somehow pinged away from me), and the second caused me to become trapped after going through a hole in the ground earlier than I should have, and coming back up, preventing me from getting back down there when required! As the counter carries over on multiple playthroughs, replaying these sections boosted my counter up to 5000+ so I was excited to see I could complete the "It's Over 9000!" (DBZ reference highly appreciated in this household) achievement after just one more run...

However, the game crashed during the end credits and when I began my next run my counter had reset to 0.

The other achievement would have been awarded for completing the game in under 99 minutes, which I think I missed by a grand total of 5 minutes on my second playthrough - but after the distance counter resetting, I had already gotten quite frustrated about my achievement hunting plans. I almost, almost didn't bother playing it through to completion for the second time, knowing the 9001 achievement was already going to be out of reach, but I already wanted to replay that last stretch of the game, shown below.

The game comes to a close with a satisfying yet sombre end. A melancholy end to a story that has no real story - no dialogue, no long drawn-out explanations for things, just whatever the game manifests as in your mind. The relationship between you and your landship draws to an end, and already the game makes you want to play again.

I'll definitely go back to FAR again, although I'm hoping that this time I won't have any issues with the distance counter resetting again. Aside from a couple of small bugs/glitches, the game ran smoothly and kept me totally transfixed. At the cheap, cheap price of £12.49 on Xbox, it's a no-brainer to give it a try, and I would recommend it to anyone.

In the end, we decided that FAR: Lone Sails deserves the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews; Outward [Xbox One].

Ninedots' Outward sees you play as a simple commoner who has inherited his family's debt, with just a short amount of time (a few days, in fact) given to pay it off. Straightaway, Outward shuns the traditional archetypes of RPG protagonists and gives the player the added bond of realism to the character, and with it the dread of how being nothing but a simple, boring ol' human may impact you.

Everything is a potential threat to your health in Outward. From the enemies to the harsh environments (and not wearing the proper attire), or even just eating rotten food, everything can play a part in your downfall. You need to plan your course of attack, or prepare for journeys to ensure you'll always have access to a food supply, in order to truly excel in this game. You're a breakable little human, and recognising this is the first thing you must do if you are to succeed. Running into fights unprepared definitely gives your enemies the upper hand, particularly in crowds. Being stealthy is usually the preferred - and safer - option, allowing for a little more advance planning and reducing the risk of being trapped and outnumbered. The game is far more survival-orientated than most other RPGs, and forgetting this will only make your journey more difficult and frustrating.

It's the first game in a while that we've been able to play properly via split-screen. With the increased focus on online gaming, and particularly online multiplayer (battle royales, anyone?), we've moved further and further from the classic days of couch co-op. What was once a staple of gaming has now been reduced to almost nothing, with most games opting to only include co-op gameplay via online rather than local split-screen; the days of chilling out with friends, huddling around the TV and delving into a story together is dying out.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm a panicky player. It really doesn't take much to startle me and have me lose all sense of how to actually play a game. I'll go from walking calmly to bouncing around in my seat and yelling obscenities at the screen. Having the ability to play local co-op means that my chances of dying unnecessarily are significantly reduced. Allan's support  allows me to be the usual overly-anxious player I am, with minimal risk. He can wipe out a large portion of enemies and fend off my attackers with ease whilst I run around like a headless chicken, something he deserves praise for as he doesn't always have the patience to deal with a co-op partner such as myself, haha. Another benefit to playing co-op is that in this game, the survival element takes you all the way to your sleep requirements. Sleeping not only replenishes your health and stamina, and despite being a necessity it can prove quite difficult due to leaving you open to attack. There are three activities that can be done during the night: Sleep, fairly self explanatory, Guard - reduces the risk of being attacked at night, and Repair - which deals with the damage done to your weapons and items. In two-player, one of you can guard the whole night to allow the other to rest up, or you can take it in shifts. This helps to negate some of the vulnerability that comes with being asleep, and gives co-op players a bit of a boost compared to their single-player counterparts.

A neat feature of Outward is your backpack. As with a lot of survival games, you can only carry a certain amount of stuff with you on your quest. Backpacks can help you increase this capacity, with better, larger backpacks further improving this. The larger and heavier your backpack however, the more your mobility is affected. Once again, you need to have your planning hat on to be able to decide what is truly going to make a difference for you on any particular leg of your journey. If you get caught out in a fight, you can drop your bag instantly, allowing your mobility to increase and improve your speed. You'll need to remember to collect the backpack afterwards though, otherwise all of those precious items that you've been gathering are as good as gone. It's something we haven't seen in many games, especially to ditch the extra weight on the fly like this, and is a nice little addition to the game that we'd love to see more of.

Combat is difficult and oftentimes slow and clunky. You will die a lot to begin with, and that's okay to some extent as you learn the ropes. The variety of ways you "respawn" can make things more intriguing, but having this happen over and over definitely becomes a huge drag. Things do eventually improve a bit, with the increase in skill and better weapons making things a little less frustrating, but you'll still find yourself cursing out the slow, floaty movements and non-connecting attacks. Playing in co-op definitely helps out with this as you aren't as defenseless with a friend there to help you out, but the slowness is still noticeable. Utilising magic is far more interesting and breaks up some of the monotony of fighting. Learning runes and taking time to learn their combinations for specific spells is a sure-fire way to improve the gameplay for yourself as the battles become a bit more flowing and fun. Remembering the combinations can be a bit of a challenge but overall this feels more rewarding, and as we'd imagine real magic would feel due to learning through a fair bit of trial and error.

Visually, Outward is a bit of a confusing mixed bag. Some things look fantastic, and other things look pretty bland and low quality. The settings are frequently stunning, and show a great amount of detail, but sometimes things just look a bit off. The creatures are varied and interesting, and have some truly impressive designs, but fighting them can end up feeling like a chore. Travelling across the vast world is similarly chore-like. With no fast travel system, or even a quicker method, getting from one place to the other can take what feels like forever and while this is something the devs have done intentionally, it doesn't make it feel any less boring. The soundtrack/score is fantastic, and fits the whole theme and style of Outward well - it's definitely one of the best parts of the game.

Overall, Outward was an okay experience. It took quite a lot to get into it, and when we finally did, the jankiness was still enough to put us off a bit. There's been talk of quite a lot of bugs, which luckily we didn't run in to too many of, but the devs are still working hard to fix these so hopefully there will be other tweaks here and there that will improve the other issues we have with the game.

In the end, we decided to give Outward the Collecting Asylum rating of 6.5/10.

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

- V x

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Asylum Reviews; Metro Exodus [Xbox One].

With its beautiful yet haunting opening cinematic, travelling through the dingy tunnels of the Moscow Metro, seeing the horrors hidden underneath the surface, we were excited to see what else Artyom's story had to offer. 

Developed by 4A Games and published by Deep Silver, Metro Exodus has a slightly different take from previous titles in the series. Set two years after Last Light, we follow Artyom on his journey across Russia, abandoning the dark and terrifying underground caverns, in search of a new hope.

Travelling across Russia aboard the Aurora, we get to see an ever changing landscape, affected by the transitioning seasons: from snow covered urban areas, to lush, sprawling forests. It's a far cry from the Metro games we've known previously. And whilst it feels very different, it's for all the right reasons.

At each stop on your quest along the Trans-Siberian railway, you'll get off and explore these vast open-world areas. The surface poses no threat, with clean air filling Artyom's lungs (and being a welcomed change from the toxic Moscow air), but underneath the surface you'll find yourself reaching for your gasmask again. To fully explore these subterranean pockets, you'll need to be stocked up on filters. Up on the surface, there are locations and items to find and whilst the threat isn't quite as constant, enemies will still hunt you down and make things more tense and panic inducing (especially if you're me - well known for being a shitebag with games!).

Ensuring that you move as stealthily as possible is key to survival in Metro. Decreasing the chances of being surrounded with limited ammo is definitely your safest bet. Careful planning of your shots can be the deciding factor as to whether you live or die. The scarcity of ammo combined with my usual "fire blindly and hope for the best" method of dealing with scary situations in games is 100% not the way to go about things here.

Day/night cycles impact the enemies around you, and can make things easier and harder for you in different ways. Night time allows the cover of darkness to assist you in dealing with enemies, but equally makes them harder to scope out and can aid them in hunting you down too. During the daytime, there will be less monsters to deal with but visibility of them (and you) is at an optimum.

The game is absolutely stunning. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best looking Metro game by far. The locations are jaw-dropping, and even in amongst the horror and decay, there is beauty. The level of design and attention to detail that has gone into this game is phenomenal. The lighting alone is really special, from flickering and damaged lights upping the creep factor, to gorgeous sunlight basking you in its glory.

Sound design is fantastic, and really gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end as it sets the tone and level of dread. Listening out for slight noises to try and figure out if an enemy is nearby, or to determine if there are loads more coming your way, left me genuinely worried a few times and resorting to my panic-pause and wait for the sheer terror to subside before getting back to it.

Overall, Metro Exodus was a thoroughly enjoyable game to play and we'd highly recommend anyone to check it out. In the end, we gave it the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Asylum Reviews; The Walking Vegetables: Radical Edition [Xbox One]

Developed by Finnish-based studio Still Running and published by Merge Games, The Walking Vegetables: Radical! Edition is a fun yet frantic twin-stick shooter, with heavy roguelike elements. As with most games in this vein, you start with a simple weapon, and are able to gain new more powerful weapons and upgraded skills as you blast your way through the incoming zombie veg hordes.

With the task of wiping out the infestation of rotting, walking veg set before you, you go off on your quest. A variety of different vegetables - and fruit, which frustrated me, haha - will stumble towards you, with increasing speed and numbers to take you down. As you make your way through them, you'll eventually come to a boss after which, upon defeat, you'll breathe a heavy sigh of relief and wipe the sweat from your now sodden controller.

Boss fights are difficult, which isn't unusual for this type of game, but these bosses truly just soak up the bullets and act like its nothing. They spawn countless projectiles which hugely limit the safe space for you to run around, and leave you panicking - blindly shooting and hoping for the best. The ability to play two-player certainly helps in these situations, as can allow for double the damage on the boss, however it can sometimes leave you a little confused due to everything going on on-screen.

As is usual with roguelike games, death means death. So whether you're playing alone or with a friend, if one of you bites the dust, that's it. If in two-player, the surviving player will continue on until they meet their untimely fate and the permadeath gods strike them down.

When enemies are defeated, gold coins are dropped which can be spent in the in-game shop on new weapons, health items, etc. Similarly all around the map are environmental objects and boxes which can be destroyed to give a chance to gain keys (which can be used to unlock certain buildings) and chests which can give you access to nice shiny new weapons. Bonus Dimensions can sometimes spawn, which gives you a small horde-based arena which will net you an achievement for surviving 20 waves.

The art style is gorgeous, and the bright colours work really well. The neon-ness of everything gives me total '80s vibes, which I love, but the frequent flashing of the mania on screen can often leave you with a bit of a headache. Stages are a little repetitive and samey, so a bit more variation here wouldn't have gone amiss. Controls are responsive, and the default buttons feel well thought out and instinctual. Sound design is great, and the game has a fitting '80s feel with the music.

For all of the game's positives however, it does feel like something is missing. We can't quite place our fingers on it, but the game just falls short a little bit, as it doesn't quite live up to similar games that have been released previously.

 Overall, we were still very pleased with The Walking Vegetables: Radical! Edition, especially given its low price point of just £10.74 on the UK Xbox Store. If you're a fan of twin-stick shooters, and like a challenge, then you should definitely give it a go.

We decided to give The Walking Vegetables the CollectingAsylum rating of 7/10.

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

- V x

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Entries to the Asylum; Monday 28th January 2019 - Sunday 3rd February 2019 [Week 5].

Tuesday 29th January 2019

- Philip K. Dick on Film [Book].
- Crimson Peak Limited Edition [Blu-ray].

Wednesday 30th January 2019

- Bloody New Year w/ Slipcover [Blu-ray].
- Uninvited w/ Slipcover [Blu-ray].
- There's Nothing Out There w/ Slipcover [Blu-ray].
- Splatter University w/ Slipcover [Blu-ray].
- A Climax of Blue Power [Blu-ray].

Friday 1st February 2019

- Hackers w/ Slipcover [Blu-ray].

Saturday 2nd February 2019

- Kill la Kill Part 3 Collector's Edition w/ Storage Box [Blu-ray].
- Rampage Steelbook [Blu-ray].

Sunday 3rd February 2019

- Tenchi Muyo OVA Collection [Blu-ray].
- Opera Limited Edition [Blu-ray].

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but I was a little preoccupied towards the end of Week 5. We got engaged! So understandably things fell a little by the wayside here!

But back onto it now :)

What new things did you get this week? 
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Entries to the Asylum; Monday 21st January 2019 - Sunday 27th January 2019 [Week 4].

Another quiet week in the Asylum. It being January is to blame for that - every year, without fail, January feels longer and longer and longer. And right when you think January is over and payday is near... You realise it's a day later than you thought!

Sunday 27th January 2019

- J.T Studio X Kuro Empty Man [GID Version].
- Waterworld Limited Edition [Blu-ray].

Really glad to have gotten my hands on Empty Man, as it's such a gorgeous piece. Likewise, I'm happy I picked up Waterworks. Trying desperately to not miss any Arrow releases, so if you notice any missing from the Asylum, please feel free to give me a nudge!

What new things have you received this week?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Asylum Reviews; FutureGrind [Switch].

Within minutes of installing FutureGrind, I was hooked. The repetitiveness of being so determined to nail a track and bag some high scores is equally infuriating and thrilling. The aim of the game is to complete tracks and fulfill the tasks set out before you. You might have to perform a particular trick, whilst also managing to survive the track (often easier said than done) or touch a certain number of coloured rails. 

The art style is beautiful, with bright neon rails taking the forefront of the scene. Positioned high in the sky, this removes the need for much else going on in the background aside from a nice landscape, and it works really well with the aesthetic of the game. Sound-design is also very fitting with the music syncing up well to the movements you'll do to pull off each trick or move from rail to rail. 

Colour zones, which recolour your vehicles wheels are signified by a large bar of colour surrounding a rail, and having a wheel go through this aligns it to that colour. This means that the wheel can then only touch rails of a matching colour - unless you go through another colour zone to reset it. This adds an exciting layer of challenge to the tracks, as it can be quite difficult to decide when is best to colour wheels, and if you should go for just one or take the risk and go for both, in the hopes that another zone will come up to change this again if necessary.

There are a few different variations of vehicle, ranging from the Tron-reminiscent bikes, to weird flip-floppy bikes with one huge wheel and a tiny one pendulum-swinging above or below it. Learning how best to utilise the bikes, and how to pull off different tricks with them, be it flips or varying grinds on the rails.

There's a story going on in the background involving corporations who are looking to sign you to pull off stunts on their tracks, and some kind of nefarious plot going on between them (with some tracks being blocked out initially with warnings of "Illegal system access detected" and "Unauthorized user account terminated" coming up when you try to enter them. Whilst it's nice that a story was added, the tracks themselves - and the challenges within - are enough for me to not pay too much attention to the story, instead clicking furiously to load through the typed dialogue to let me into the next level.

There's a fantastic addition of a Colour Blind mode, which allows the rail/wheel colours to be selected to help aid play for people who have trouble differentiating particular colours. This is a great bit of forethought into accessibility from the developers, and something I wish more devs would take into consideration in reference to differing abilities. Similarly, there is also an option within the game to turn on Assist Mode, which modifies the game rules to allow easier play. The devs are aware of how challenging the game can be, so have given this as an option to allow people of all abilities to be able to cope with the difficulty. The only thing that this switches off whilst active is the ability to save high scores, which is a fair trade off for greater accessibility.

As frustrating as it is satisfying, FutureGrind really delivers something special. If you're a fan of games like Trials, and enjoy a challenge then this is the game for you. While I wasn't particularly enamoured by the story, mostly due to my own impatience of wanting to get right into the next level, I feel this didn't negatively impact the game much, as it would have been perfectly fine even without the story in place.

In the end, we decided to give FutureGrind the CollectingAsylum rating of 8/10.

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews; FAR: Lone Sails [Xbox One].

After playing tough and/or frustrating games like Sekiro and Outward endlessly for the past couple of weeks, Okomotive's FAR: ...