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:

7/10

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

- V x

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Asylum Reviews; Shenmue [Xbox One]

I didn't want to post this under the Asylum Reviews tag since it's not really going to be a review, instead I just wanted to write down some thoughts and opinions of what I've just played, however over the course of writing all of this I've realised I've gone way more reviewer-y than intended - so an Asylum Review it shall be!


We got Shenmue I & II almost two weeks ago now, and I've so far completed the first one. Prior to the re-release, I'd never played either game at all, whereas Shenmue stands out as one of Allan's all time favourites from growing up - so much so that we've pledged $600.00 to the Kickstarter for Shenmue III. 

I know that this re-release isn't in any way a full remaster, so I wasn't expecting it to be shockingly modernised, but a few things definitely threw me off when I first started to play - one of the main ones being the voices. Dialogue in the game is naturally very reminiscent of games from that time period, with very defined statements being used repeatedly (Ryo saying "I see" for the 1000th time just about killed me), but this was to be expected. If you go back and play almost any other game released around the same time, there's a lot of similarities, but that's not what grabbed my attention the most, it was the muffled sound whenever someone speaks. It's like the voice actors were holding the top of the microphone as they spoke into it, or that we as listeners are covering our ears as they speak, completely warping the sound to the point that it's quite unnatural to hear. I must admit though, that after a few hours in the game I did grow used to this sound, although it still stands out when I play something else beforehand.


Background noise helps with this muffled voice acting too, as the noise of the streets and vehicles passing by or music blasting from Tom's hot dog truck disguises the sound slightly - which made it all the more obvious when I encountered a bug that rendered all background noise completely silent. I had no music playing, nor any environmental sounds - just the muffled voice acting whenever I interacted with another character (or was late coming home and triggered Ryo's "I should go home now" line). I don't know what causes this bug, and I don't know how to fix it. I tried various suggestions from Reddit, from other players suffering similar issues across all platforms. Nothing seemed to work, and then suddenly the sound was back. Such relief! It felt so weird to be running around Dobuita and not even hearing the occasional slap of Ryo's feet on concrete, so to hear that again was like music to my ears. I realised how all the little noises built up this living city, and it made me really appreciate it after having to sit through silence.

Whilst checking out Reddit for advice on how to solve my bug, I came across a wide variety of people with loads of different issues with the game, including a few game-breakers. A patch was released for PC (possibly on consoles now, too) which semi-resolved some issues, but this was still worrying info for me, at this point only half-way through the game. As of completing the game, I've only had one other issue (that I can think of) and that may not even be down to the game itself - but there's a high chance it is since I'm not having this happen with any other game... My account is not the main account on our Xbox, Allan's is the one set up to Auto Sign-In. When I log in as myself, and then open Shenmue, it's causing the screen to go black, and a jarring electronic buzz to occur (through the speakers, not from the Xbox itself), before the Xbox shuts itself off. The controller, as always happens when you turn the Xbox off from the button, keeps trying to connect for a bit before eventually turning off, but when I try to turn the Xbox back on (using the controller), the pairing between the two seems to be lost. I then would have to hard-reset the Xbox, then turn it back on again as normal - this time allowing myself to successfully sign in and boot up Shenmue. I don't know what could be causing that particular issue, and I dread to think the damage that it may be causing the Xbox since this is happening every time I play - but funnily enough, only on my account - not on the Auto Signed-In account that is Allan's.


Allan always talks about how Shenmue was his first foray into a video game where the world feels alive, and I did get a lot of those vibes whilst playing. The birds gathering together in the street and flying away when you run close by, the people walking all around just minding their own business, the moment Fuku-san walked into the house as I stood in the hallway, before grabbing what appeared to be a rake or broom, and walking back outside (this blew my mind a little, as not many games back then effectively pulled off characters entering and leaving certain areas), it feels like even if you weren't playing all of the characters would still just be going about their lives. The story kept me interested and coming back to play more, and I've completed it without feeling like it was too much effort. The fighting was fun and whilst some characters did take me by surprise, I had done enough training to not feel overly stressed out by any of the bigger fights.

I am now in the process of trying to rattle through the final couple of achievements I missed in order to not have to turn the game on from my account again, lest I cause the Xbox to explode or something. As someone with no nostalgic ties to the game, I did definitely enjoy it, but the bugs make me feel that now I've completed it (aside from the achievements I'm working on), I don't care if I never have to load up my Shenmue I save file ever again, which is a shame. I will however move on to Shenmue II in the hopes that the game will be less buggy, and that I might enjoy it even further.



In the end, we decided to give Shenmue the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Gie it a Go!*
*and by that we mean wait until the bugs are sorted!

Next stop, Hong Kong!

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

- V x

Monday, 20 August 2018

Asylum Reviews; Black Clover Season One, Part One [Bluray].


We recently received Black Clover Season One Part One to review (sadly it arrived whilst we were on holiday, hence the delay!), and were intrigued by what we'd see. We went into it with very little knowledge of what the show would entail (aside from a vague notion of "magic" but even at that we weren't entirely sure what to expect). It's got the classic anime building blocks making up its foundation: the underdog with nothing - that nobody expects anything from - succeeding, and showing you that anything is possible with hard work. So many animes follow this same (or very similar) formula, but they all do it in such a way that it doesn't feel repetitive or boring, and we were glad to see that Black Clover successfully achieves this, too.

The story follows two young orphans, Yuno (voiced by Micah Solusod) and Asta (Dallas Reid) - taken in by the Priest at a church in a run-down village after finding them abandoned on his doorstep - as they grow up in a world where magic is commonplace. Both strive to become the Wizard King, but there's just one problem... Whilst Yuno is adept at utilizing his magic powers, Asta doesn't seem to have any at all.

Asta is just such a relatable character, which is why these underdog stories are so common, we see a lot of ourselves in these "types" of characters, and it allows us to believe - if even for a small while - that we can succeed too. His struggles with being magic-less, in a world where that is almost unheard of - and subsequently training his body's physical power to compensate for his lack of magical power, his wishing to become the Wizard King despite his lack of magic, and his competitiveness against Yuno, even though he knows Yuno's power far surpasses him. But on the day of the Grimoire Acceptance Ceremony - Asta receives one too, giving him access to a whopper of a sword that can block and deflect spells, as well as cut right through them.

To become the Wizard King, the boys must first undertake the Magic Knight's Entrance Exam, which takes place months after they receive their Grimoires, to see if they are skilled enough with their magic to qualify to join the ranks of the Magic Knights. There are many different groups within the Magic Knights, each with their own moral compasses and ways of going about things. It's interesting to see the way these groups are made up, and the characters among them. One of the Magic Knights, Magna - of the Black Bulls - had such a familiar voice, and we just couldn't quite place him. We realised he was voiced by the talented Ian Sinclair, and that instantly told us that the voice is the same (or at least, insanely similar) to Space Dandy - another of our favourite animes. There's a wide variety of talented voice actors amongst the cast, including Christopher R. Sabat (a household favourite of ours), Jill Harris, Colleen Clinkenbeard, J. Michael Tatum, Justin Briner, as well as the aforementioned voices of Asta and Yuno.

Season One Part One seems to focus more intently on Asta's story, and whilst we really enjoyed everything we got to see, we felt a little robbed of seeing the goings on from Yuno's side - although we're hoping that this might be the focus of Season One Part Two. Noelle, another newbie who goes to the same Magic Knights squad as Asta is an interesting, yet slightly irritating character. She has a lot of stuff going on in her life, in her head, etc. and as a result, tends to switch rapidly between being an absolute bitch, and having small glimmers of kindness shine through. It's an understandable state for her character to be in currently, especially given her past, however it really rubs us up the wrong way at times.

Overall, we were really happy with how Black Clover Season One Part One played out, and we're just really excited to see more. * Sidenote, when are animes going to stop with this whole S1 Part One thing... I hate waiting! *
In the end, we decided to give it a Collecting Asylum rating of:

Gie it a Go!

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

- V x

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Asylum Reviews; LEGO: The Incredibles [Xbox One].

SPOILER WARNING: This game, as expected, heavily relies on the story of both Incredibles movies - so if you've yet to see either and are concerned about spoilers, turn away now!




Recently we received LEGO: The Incredibles to review, and being huge fans of the previous LEGO releases (even reviewing a few of them before), we were super excited about this one. Sadly, we received it a few days before we'd seen the new movie, so had to delay starting to avoid spoilers - which brings me to my first point: If you have not yet seen Incredibles 2, you may want to wait a little to play the game so you can see the movie first. The game starts you off with the story of the second movie, and only after completion of that, do you unlock the story of the first movie. This was something that really quite annoyed me, purely for the complete lack of need - we would have been more than happy to play the two stories in chronological order.

So as I've explained, we start the game right where the first movie left off - which is where the second movie begins: The Underminer wreaking havoc, and The Incredibles needing to save the day. The game sticks to the same formula that Traveler's Tales have used for every other LEGO game - with the ability to switch between characters to utilise a wide variety of skills, completing puzzles, and working your way through the story as a team. As always, there are always a minimum of two LEGO characters in play at any one time, which means that some plot points from the movie have been altered to accommodate an additional character (for instance, scenes that mainly involved/focused on Elastigirl now have a second character to aid her in the tasks for the game). These altered parts usually have some additional humour injected into them, which is a nice touch as they tend to give us a wee chuckle.


Missions blend seamlessly into one another, but leaving you open to wandering off to do your own thing (prompting a "Leaving Mission Area" warning, to allow you to turn back if accidental), however some are so seamless you'll often not even realise you're beginning a new part of the mission until you're in too deep. This does encourage you to keep playing until you find a natural feeling break in the action, meaning that sometimes you'll check the time to see a few hours has passed!

Typical of the LEGO Series games, this game is a dream for completionists and achievement hunters everywhere. The achievements (and/or trophies) can all be attained fairly easily, with no real need for grinding. The unlockable Red Bricks give you the ability to add Stud Multipliers - a staple of the series - so even the ones that look impossible to someone unfamiliar with the LEGO games (such as collecting 1 billion studs) can be achieved before you've even completed the main storyline. The free play mission select also allows you to replay missions with characters of your choosing, giving you access to previously blocked off or out of reach areas, in order to collect the leftover minikits and bricks to tick off those achievements, too.


 Voice acting is standard, with what seems like the vast majority of the lines being plucked straight from the respective movies. Additional lines to go along with the gameplay were recorded, but not using the original voice actors - sometimes this is quite apparent, and other times it's really hard to tell. This seems to be a fairly common thing for movie tie-in video games, and has always been something I can't quite decide how I feel about it. Sound design, in terms of explosions and environmental sounds seem to be done well, and the satisfying clicking of LEGO bricks snapping into place while doing builds is enjoyable, if a little repetitive.

Whilst exploring the world, there will be random Crime Waves, where a surge of crimes will pop up in a particular region of the map for you to clear out. These can usually be completed by doing two or three missions, and then defeating the villain for the Crime Wave, it then unlocks the icons of collectibles on the mini-map. My personal recommendation for when these Crime Waves appear, is to do them right away. When not in a mission, if you enter a district with an active Crime Wave, you'll trigger a Breaking News cutscene, showing what's currently going down in the region. If you then do not complete the Crime Wave, and come back to this region again later, the cutscene will trigger again... and they're unskippable.


You'll find a bunch of Family Builds available around the map, and Pixar-specific ones too, which allow you to build an item/place from a separate Pixar movie (they're all there!) and unlocks one of the characters. I really hope they branch out into other Pixar properties for their own games, but a lack of characters across each movie/abilities that they could work into the game may mean that this is the best we'll get when it comes to Pixar in LEGO games.

Overall, we both really enjoyed LEGO: The Incredibles, and aside from a few gripes about the backwards order of the storylines, etc. we were mostly really happy with the game. It's definitely one to pick up, especially if you're already a fan of the LEGO games, or The Incredibles (or Disney, in general!), however you may want to wait for it to drop in price a little, since it's pretty much predictable in terms of LEGO games.

In the end, we decided to give LEGO: The Incredibles the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Gie it a Go!

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

- V x

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Asylum Reviews; Mugsters [Xbox One].

In a world with robotic UFOs capturing and enslaving humans, you are humanity's last hope. Developed by Reinkout Games (the first from this studio) and published by Team 17 - we were instantly intrigued by the chaotic trailer first seen way back last year. There's very little in the way of story/plot, but that actually works in a game like this.


Each level has three objectives - a main objective (usually something along the lines of destroying a generator or reconnecting lines, etc.), plus one for saving the captured humans in the level, and one for the gems scattered throughout. The great thing is that each of these objectives can be done individually - there's no need to bust a gut trying to gather all of the gems, complete the main objective and then run around rescuing the captives before fleeing the island. You can simply do any bit (and not even complete that bit, even collecting a single gem will save upon escape from the island).

Most levels are straightforward enough that you'll manage everything in one sweep-through, however sometimes you'll just not have realised a gem has been dropped or a human killed as you fly off the island, so the ability to just jump back in and finish off that one little piece of the puzzle makes life so much easier. Completing all objectives unlocks a Time Trial for the level, which we dreaded at first as the obligatory Time Trial achievements are normally f*cking nigh on impossible, but luckily the only ones required of this are to set a time on each level, and then do one particular level under a certain time - plus, you don't even have to do the objectives again, you just need to get off the island!


Physics-based puzzle games are definitely a big hit for me, I enjoy the challenge of working out how to progress, and when they are as simplistic in their styling as Mugsters, that makes it all the better. The sandbox-y level design allows the creativity of completing a level your own way, adding to that the ability to jump in and out of a level and still having completed objectives ticked off just adds to the enjoyment (and takes away some of the frustration that an ill-timed death could otherwise cause).

Most things can be solved through explosions: you have explosive barrels, vehicles that explode, huge fuel tanks dotted around, waiting for a badly angled turn in a vehicle (or for you to cleverly lead the UFOs to their demise). The gameplay is entertaining, although the game is shorter than I'd have liked - but for the price (just £9.99 on the Xbox Store), it's still worth it. The art style is beautifully simple, yet detailed. It's so colourful and joyful to look at, that I almost don't realise how much I'm panicking from the sound of the giant UFOs hunting me down after spotting me. I've also had a sudden moment of realisation after mentioning sound just now - whilst the explosions and everything else going on around you makes noise, and is done really well (down to the footsteps of your character), there is no music in the game at all (aside from the main menu). Neither me or Allan realised this at all upon both of our playthroughs, and it didn't bother either of us at the time, but now I'm aware of the distinct lack of music - it's actually kind of annoying me, haha. We both feel that it would likely have added a lot to the levels, but hey - we're not the developers, maybe they tried music and realised it worked better without?


Mugsters is a wondrous little gem of a game and really captured our minds. The ending was a little plain, which was slightly disappointing after figuring out a code to actually access the ending, but overall we were still very impressed with the game as a whole.

In the end, we decided to give Mugsters the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Gie it a Go!

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

- V x

Monday, 23 July 2018

Asylum Reviews; Mothergunship [Xbox One].


If you're looking for a game with a little bit more creativity in your arsenal, then Mothergunship is the one for you! It's a bullet hell first-person shooter, with heavily (and we mean heavily!) customisable guns, and randomly generated levels. Developed by Grip Digital and Terrible Posture Games, it's a spiritual successor to the latter's earlier release: Tower of Guns. 

In Mothergunship, the aim is simple. Fight your way through the insane amount of bullets firing towards you, and stop the alien invasion, led by Mothergunship. The story is minimal, which is mostly to be expected in a game like this - let's face it, we're here for the guns, am I right? The ability to create these absolute masterpieces of crazy guns is something once buried within your imagination. Sure, you can customise guns in some other games, but nothing comapred to what we see here.


You start with a blank canvas, and a whole slew of possibilities. Do you want a shotgun, or a rocket launcher? Homing missiles, bouncing rounds, what about a whole bunch of extra barrels? The choices are there, but be warned - your recharge times will drastically increase the more barrels you add and the more insane your gun gets. It makes it impractical to use these hilariously over-sized guns, other than just to test them out. They just end up dominating your screen and leading you to your fate whilst you recharge, which in a sense is a clever way for the developers to draw that fine line between creating anything you want, and becoming so OP that the game is just a complete bore. You also need to re-create your weapons before each mission, which can be a little bit frustrating. You also need to make sure you have enough credits saved up for the shops within each dungeon if you want to buy extra upgrades or additional health. Later in the game, coins can also be used to buy rather expensively priced weapons from the Smuggler's Stop (which sometimes even allows you to buy back a weapon you've lost if you go to the Lost and Found section).

You also are able to carry two weapons, allowing you even more customisation for how you want to play - something small and precise in one hand, and something larger and more destructive in the other was our preferred option. You start off with just two empty fists, which pack a serious punch, but you need to be pretty close to actually deal damage. You are in a mech-suit which can be upgraded when you return to base and have gained enough experience. You can also gain extra jumps when working your way through the levels as enemies drop these jump upgrades. Starting with three, you can end up with as many as 40 continuous jumps making it a damn sight easier to traverse the rooms.


The gameplay is fast and frenzied, with you having to always be on the move to dodge the onslaught of bullets, whilst trying to wipe out all of the robotic monstrosities on screen. The choices you make in constructing your weapons can just as easily make or break your run as your actual skill in working your way through the levels. Dying will cause you to lose the precious gun parts that you worked so hard to get, giving you a much greater need for survival. There are Challenge Rooms that provide, as the name would suggest, a Challenge, which will reward you with various upgrades, etc. Usually these rooms will require you to survive for "x" amount of time, without using one of your weapons, or without taking any damage, or something along those lines. It's definitely worth it to enter the Challenge Rooms, as the rewards often far outweigh the risk of the room itself. Similarly, there are also Diceroll Rooms which offer up quite a good reward in return for taking the gamble of entering.

Graphics wise, it's nice and crisp, however pretty much everywhere looks the same and it feels very generic and samey to what we expect to see in games like this. Nothing really stood out visually for us, which was a little disappointing. There aren't a whole lot of variations within the enemies, and it can be quite boring to go up again countless of the same enemies. The bosses on the other hand are as fantastic as they are huge, and this really helps to change things up a bit. With sound, each type of weapon sounds great, and very distinct differences between them. The dialogue is funny and evokes a very tongue-in-cheek style: Mothergunship is definitely not a game that takes itself too seriously. The soundtrack is reminiscent of old school arcade shmups, but is often drowned out by the sound of gunfire.


It's often quite difficult to tell if you've been hit when in battle, and the little Loading rooms between the main rooms are very frustrating as it's not a fluid transition from one room to another (and these Loading rooms are glitchy and buggy as heck). The samey-ness of the levels, and repetitive enemy types just didn't give us enough variety to encourage us to keep coming back, despite both of us being avid fans of roguelike games.

In the end, we decided to give Mothergunship the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Meh... *shrugs* 

It wasn't the worst game we've ever played, not by a long shot, but it just wasn't enough to keep us interested at all, and ended up becoming a bit of a chore to play through. We'd have liked to have seen a lot more variety in enemy types to make things a bit less generic. 

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

- V x

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Asylum Reviews; Nidhogg 2 [Xbox One].


Nidhogg 2 is finally out on Xbox One, bringing us all of the gameplay we know and love from the original, but with a whole load of new tricks up its sleeve. And with two brand new, exclusive levels you've got even more reason to try it out if you haven't already. Some people felt that the first game was too basic: you went head to head with another player and using your fencing sword - otherwise known as a rapier, would battle it out very similarly to what we have on offer here. But with a single weapon, people felt it needed more. So that's what we got: you now begin each level (and after each death) with either your rapier, a broadsword, a dagger, or a bow and arrow, each with their own pros and cons. All can be tossed at your enemy, as an extra way of utilising them, but once you've tossed it, you then need to roll over another weapon otherwise you'll remain unarmed (and vulnerable) - but don't worry - you can always stomp the opponent to death if you have to!

First of all, we have Arcade Mode where the aim is to get to your side of the scrolling-screen the fastest when up against your enemy. You can fire arrows at them, stab them or chop them with your sword (or throw any of your weapons at them), in order to slow them down, allowing you to run past to advance further to your winning side. Or, you could just jump over them and force them to chase you! There are small boxes along the top of the screen that fill as you progress towards either your side, or the opponent's, where ultimately the winner will be gobbled up by the fabled Nidhogg, a huge grotesque worm. Playing the game alone is fun, but nothing extra special. Two-player is where it really shines.


Playing up against a real-life opponent with some couch co-op is the best part of Nidhogg 2. Screaming in frustration as your friend takes you down repeatedly, making it look like child's play to win, meanwhile you can't even advance a single screen on your side. A single game can vary from being just a couple minutes in length, all the way up to the double digits. It's a frustrating, yet satisfying back and forth between the two players, as you try to one-up and out smart each other.

We got the wee man involved and he instantly fell in love with the game. The challenge of going up against someone in such a fast paced environment, and with such a simple premise to the game, he was hooked. It also has a lot more replayability as a co-op game, since you can continue to challenge other friends and family, whereas in Single Player it can be beaten in as little as an hour - leaving you no real need to ever go back aside for multiplayer.


There's also an even more chaotic Tournament mode, which allows up to eight players to face off. Cheats can also be utilised, adding another fun layer to the game - you can choose to set it to low gravity, or limit what weapons can be used or even add a timer to make it more of a panic to get to your side before the time is up.

And of course, I can't exactly review this without mentioning the graphics. Vastly different from the original Nidhogg, Nidhogg 2 ditches the simple pixel sprites from before for bulging lumps of brightly coloured flesh. The backgrounds and environments have taken a turn for the gross as well, with some people feeling disappointed in the new look. Frankly, we found the new look to be quite fitting with the humour of the game and feel that it wouldn't quite be the same without these disgustingly hilarious characters. The settings are varied and interesting to look at and the soundtrack is also fantastic, fitting really well with the game.


Overall we'd recommend people to check out Nidhogg 2, particularly if you're looking for a good couch co-op game for having friends over. We gave it the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

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

- V x

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Asylum Reviews; Agony [Xbox One].


A hellish survival-horror, Agony was developed by Madmind Studio and published by Playway after being funded via Kickstarter back in 2016. Fun fact - the Kickstarter campaign was started on Halloween, which is quite fitting given the tone of the game. The game raised a total of $182,642 (Canadian dollars), and had an original expected release date of March 2017, so at just over a year late, it ended up pretty par for the course in terms of Kickstarter games.

In Agony, you'll begin as a tormented soul down in the depths of Hell. You have no memories of your past, and you must find a way to survive. The only thing you remember is that hell is under the power of the Red Goddess, so you must find her to get freedom. Special powers allow you to control or possess weak-minded demons, which helps you to progress further in the game. There's also a lot of fetch quests plus puzzles, but these can often feel quite repetitive and used as filler to pad out the 9-10 hour game play time. 


Originally rated by the ESRB as Adults Only, the developers had to slightly tone down the gore of the game in order to grant it a Mature rating instead, to ensure that they would be able to fulfill their promises to backers of the Kickstarter campaign. A patch to restore the original version was discussed but caused further controversy, so it's still up in the air as of now.

Considering all of the gore and nudity throughout the game, I'm surprised to hear that this is it "toned down". The gore, whilst initially quite gruesome, felt tame by the end as there's just so much of it. All of the naked boobies, bodies completely ripped to shreds, rotting foetuses and full blown orgies also were not as unexpected as I felt they should have been, which took away some of the effect. These things were to create a sense of shock, and dare I say it - horror - when you come across them, but instead you're just completely desensitized to the inclusion of it all in the game, pretty quickly.


The environments are extremely well detailed, and you can tell that a lot of time and effort has gone into making each and every location look as creepy and hellish as possible. You can feel the pulsating blood coursing through all of the bodies and flesh making up the architecture. It's impressively done, but it is all done to such a high-level of creepiness that it does detract away from itself in a way.

Enemy design, in comparison, is quite tame and boring. Fairly bog standard quality enemies which was definitely quite a disappointment. You've got the whole of hell to play with, and come up with all of these crazy ideas, yet these are the enemies we're landed with? Enemies are pretty damn strong, most times killing us in just a few quick hits after spotting us - and believe me, it's easy to be spotted - which can completely kill all of your drive to play the game for a while as checkpoints are so few and far between (and crazily well-hidden) that a pointless death will often rob you of a good 30 minutes to an hour of work.


Once you're killed, you have a short amount of time available to find yourself a new body to possess in order to keep going, otherwise it's back to the last checkpoint for you. This info isn't clearly given to you as a player, meaning that without this knowledge, you're likely to succumb more than what would really be necessary.

Sound design really adds to the creepiness of the game, and the general atmosphere leaves you on edge and constantly tensing up in preparation for various jump scares that can catch you off guard. I feel that without the creepy noises and slight changes in music to determine when an enemy was near really caused an anxiety spike, and helped the game out a lot in terms of scariness - without actually being an overly scary game, per se.


Overall, we enjoyed Agony, but didn't find it as great as we'd hoped, so we decided to give it the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Eh... *shrug*

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

- V x

Friday, 15 June 2018

Asylum Reviews; Moonlighter [Xbox One].



The basic premise of Moonlighter is fairly straightforward. You work your way through dungeons, killing monsters and gaining loot. This loot is then either sold through your shop, or used to upgrade your stuff. The pixel-art style immediately appealed to us, as well as the rogue-lite gameplay. Everything is colourful, and a joy to look at. You play as Will, an "adventurous shopkeeper" who runs his own business in the small village of Rynoka. Five ancient gates that were discovered nearby each lead to different worlds. You must interact with the villagers to determine what stuff they'd like to buy, so that you know what to hunt for in these realms, to stock your shop.

These five "dungeons" (with three levels each) must be completed in a set order, so you might be worried that you'll blast through all of Moonlighter pretty quickly, but no, its rogue-lite play style means that each time you enter a gate, the layout and enemies are completely randomised, giving you tonnes of replayability as well as unlimited access to potentially new, rare items to sell to the villagers of Rynoka, or use to craft new items and equipment.


Making your way through these dungeons can be quite a challenge: the combat isn't the smoothest. You have only two types of moves, as well as the ability to dodge and whilst the animation of an attack is still in play, you are unable to change direction quickly which can often leave you open for attack. Movement, at least on Xbox, is tied to the left analog stick, and attacking with the A button. We both felt that utilising the style of twin-stick shooters would have vastly improved the combat.

Entering the final gate, which is locked by four keys (hidden behind each of the other gates) is Will's ultimate goal to becoming a hero. Will's grandfather hopes that restoring your late father's shop will breathe life back into it, and the village, so searching for all of the finest loot helps serve his goal too.


Keeping your shop stocked, and frantically running back and forth to adjust item prices to keep customers happy was surprisingly quite an enjoyable experience. It gave far more weight to the shopkeep side of things, instead of focusing mainly on the dungeon crawling.

As you bring more customers to the area, it will begin to thrive. New businesses will open and the village of Rynoka will start to boom. Customers will flock in the moment you open your shop each day, before perusing your stock and alerting you to their opinions on stock and pricing. You are able to upgrade your store to be able to hold more items for sale, encourage people to buy, etc. 


Enemies are not too varied, and feel very similar to each other, aside from a different colour. The bosses on the other hand are well designed, with far more variety and clear amount of time spent on their appearance. The score is very fitting for the game, with nostalgic, calming tunes. It's reminiscent of early Nintendo games, and I really loved the way the music tied in.

As well as the wide variety of loot you can collect whilst making your way through the dungeons, you may also come across cursed items. These items will show a small arrow, pointing in the direction of which item will be affected, meaning that some careful consideration is required when placing items in your bag.


Another thing we really liked was the ability to bring in employees to your shop, allowing them to manage the shop on your behalf. You can also accept quests from NPCs for items that they are looking for, in order to specifically track down particular loot when taking on enemies behind each gate.

Items gained from enemies, such as cores from the Golems can be sold at your shop for a high price, but not permanently. The customers are smart, and will quickly lose interest in certain items if they have no use/serve no purpose for them, so deciding when to call it quits from a dungeon based on the loot you've gained so far can be a guessing game sometimes.


Aside from a few niggles here and there, we really enjoyed Moonlighter, so we decided to give it the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

This was teetering on the edge of being a Gie it a Go! rating, however it just clinched that higher rating, and at just £16.74 on the Xbox Store, there's no excuse not to try it out.

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

- V x

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Asylum Reviews; ONRUSH [Xbox One].


ONRUSH is like no other racing game you'll play this year. It's more vehicular combat than racing, but still has those chase your enemies to the finish moments of games typical of the genre. Teams of players take each other out in an aim to gain the most points during the race, and that defines the winner. No first to cross the finish line here.

Four game modes give players the choice to play as they like. Overdrive allows teams to score points by boosting - and to gain boost, you must take out enemy vehicles and performs tricks, whichever team reaches the target score first, wins. Countdown has you racing against the timer to hit checkpoints - and these checkpoints boost time. Once one team hits zero on their timer, the other team wins the point. Switch gives each player three lives and they must take each other out. With each death, you will respawn with a better, more powerful vehicle in order to give you a little bit of an edge, right up until you're wiped out completely. Finally, we have Lockdown which is "King-of-the-Hill" style, where teams must chase a zone along the track, remaining within the glowing area in order to gain points. Each game mode is really fun, and a Ranked mode is "coming soon" so this gives people incentive to keep coming back.


We encountered an odd bug whilst playing - although it looks like some other people online did, too - where loading into the main menu (even to begin with) would nil out the sound. The only fix we came across was to play with headphones plugged in, as nothing else seemed to work. You don't realise how much you rely on sound in games until you suddenly don't have it, so we'd have been even more gutted if there was no workaround at all. The sound, when it works, is glorious, with the crunching of vehicles annihilating each other, and the soundtrack is really fitting - especially when using your boost and doing tricks and flips along the track.

When playing, your team is easily identifiable as being all of the blue vehicles, with your enemies being orange. There are other white-outlined ones too, known as Fodder, that are AI vehicles you can take out in order to increase your boost. As well as your boost, you have a Rush meter. This is like a super-charged boost, that makes you all the more powerful when blasting round the tracks. The smashed up vehicles look great too, and seeing the million bits shatter everywhere after a particularly well-timed takedown is done perfectly.


As well as being a fantastic online experience, ONRUSH also has a Single Player mode which enables you to play against AI vehicles, to work your way through the Superstar Career to win the ONRUSH Founder's Trophy. Couch co-op would have been a great addition, as smashing apart the opposition with your buddy would be so much fun.

There are eight different vehicle classe, each with their own abilities, which is good as it allows you ample time to totally get to grips with each one - instead of being a seemingly limitless amount that you'll never perfect. You can customise your vehicles, as well as your character with skins gained from Loot Boxes earned through levelling up (in both Single player and Multiplayer). You can also customise your tombstone, which other players can smash through once you die in order to gain extra boost.


In the end we gave ONRUSH the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

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

- V x

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Microsoft Predictions [E3 2018].

As with the EA Predictions post, I have left it right until the last minute to post out E3 predictions for Microsoft. This is purely down to thinking we have plenty of time, but with kids, who did we think we were kidding? We have precisely zero time haha. Anyway, we're really excited for what Microsoft may bring tonight.

Halo.
- We need to see some more Halo. If they can hit us with a trailer as epic and emotional as the Halo 3 "Believe" trailer, we'll be sold.

Fable.
- With Lionhead gone, the fate of Fable is still fairly up in the air. We really hope to see another instalment in the core games line.

Indies.
- Microsoft usually has a good line up of Indies shown and this year should be no exception. The next Ori game should be shown and no doubt many others will have a small glimpse teased to us all.

Gears of War.
- Expecting another Gears of War game, probably with a fairly soon release date.

Crackdown 3.
- More will be shown on Crackdown 3, gameplay, possibly a live demo.

Forza.
- Of course we will get some more Forza. It's been a staple of many of the past years.

What are you expecting/hoping for?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Asylum Reviews; Aragami: Shadow Edition [Xbox One].


Despite already owning Aragami on PS4, we'd never gotten around to properly playing through it due to simply having too many games to get through at once. It reminds us of the old Tenchu games, and really interested us due to it's beautiful Japanese art-style. With the release of Aragami: Shadow Edition, encapsulating the main game as well as the Nightfall expansion, for the first time on Xbox One, it was the perfect reason for us to finally dig in.

The game is mainly designed to be played as stealthily as possible, with enemies, the Kaiho, having the ability to one-hit kill you with the Light from their swords. They can also throw this Light from a distance, which can sometimes take you by surprise. When an enemy spots you, you can quickly try to kill them before they alert others in the area, however Aragami is sometimes pretty slow and stuttery in his movement when in an enemy's sight. Other times you can quickly kill multiple enemies in a row before they can react, but that's not as often. 


You can kill enemies in a variety of ways, including Stealth Kills, Aerial Kills, and utilising your upgraded skills to take out multiple enemies at once with the Shinen ability - pulling nearby enemies into a black hole, simultaenously killing them and hiding their bodies with ease. Frustratingly, other enemies who are within sight of this black hole engulfing their friends will completely ignore it, oblivious to the fact that their friends are now gone. In order to gain upgrades, you must obtain Skill Points, which you get from collectable Scrolls hidden around the chapters.

Upgraded abilities take away some of the impossibility of your plan of attack, wiping out Archers with the Kunai ability, and distracting a group of guards with Sakkaku (which creates a shadow decoy) and of course, my most commonly used ability: Banmoku, which reveals the location of nearby enemies (and once upgraded, will have them marked with a detection meter, which changes colour depending on if they are suspicious or not). Taking enemies out one by one whilst never being spotted feels great, although an enemy counter of some sort would have been a fantastic addition as finishing a level only to not be awarded the Oni medal is super frustrating when you thought you'd wiped out every last enemy. 


As with all games, and stealth games in particular: I'm a panicker. I get quite badly agitated after my first death, and will then fail repeatedly in a short time due to trying to rush. Each chapter can go on for quite a long time, and the checkpoints can be quite spread out, so if a silly mistake kills you/gets you spotted, going back to the last checkpoint can be quite a way back. 

I liked to explore the maps to make sure I'd gotten all of the enemies as you get medals for completing: Oni for killing all enemies, Kami for no kills, and Yurei for never being detected. This means you'll need to play every level at least twice in order to get all of the medals. Whilst exploring on one of the chapters: Mausoleum of the Fallen, I came across a glitch which allowed me to bypass a door and end up outside of the map. I could run for miles through trees, and work my way around some of the exterior of the castle, but the only way back in was through a slightly open portcullis that I could aim my shadow leap through. This however advanced me a little on the map, meaning I then had to backtrack a bit to ensure all of the enemies had been wiped out.


Enemies are not very varied, being either Light soldiers roaming the map waiting to get you with their sword, or archers, aside from the "Boss" type characters. They don't have much in the way of individuality between them, so I would have liked to see a little bit more variation in their character design, but this is a common thing with games on the cheaper end of the scale (and even some big-budget ones) so it's not something that bothered me too much whilst playing.

The story, while not too extravagant, did keep me interested and wanting to know what exactly was my purpose as an Aragami. You are summoned by the astral projection of Yamiko, a girl held captive by the Kaiho, in order to help free her by collecting her talismans. Memories and flashbacks are experienced by Aragami as the story goes on, and makes you wonder if there's more to your summoning than first thought. Sound design is fantastic too, with fitting music throughout. Enemies are fairly silent in their movements however, which could have been doing with being a little louder in order to add an extra layer for keeping track of nearby guards.


The contrast between light and dark is done really well, which it should be considering how important the shadows are to your character. You fleet from shadow to shadow to work your way through the map - staying in the light too long will drain your "Essence" and make you more noticeable to enemies, so sticking to the darker areas makes all the difference.  It's also an interesting situation to have to enemy side be that of "Light" and you, the good guy being dark, which isn't very common. The art is gorgeous, and I really enjoy looking at all of the locations throughout the game: the Japanese architecture, and the beautiful backdrops.

The newly added Nightfall expansion is no different, still absolutely gorgeous and adds an extra four chapters to the Aragami story. These take place directly prior to the events of the main game, and fill in some of the gaps. There are two new playable characters, Hyo and Shinobu with all new Powers, who are searching for the Alchemist. You can also choose between playing single-player or online co-op, which is a fantastic addition, and adds a fun new element to the game.

In the end, we decided to give Aragami: Shadow Edition the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Get it Bought!

Have you played Aragami: Shadow Edition? What did you think about it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Saturday, 9 June 2018

EA Predictions [E3 2018].

With less than five minutes to go until EA's E3 2018 Press Conference, we thought now would be as good a time as any to give a little run-down of what we're expecting (and/or hoping) to see.

Battlefield V.
- Already announced, EA will obviously be going into more detail with Battlefield V.

Definitely more Star Wars.
- EA has already killed Visceral Games, so open-world Star Wars games are left hanging. Battlefront II suffered some poorer reviews in the beginning, and EA have been trying to right those wrongs, but something new and fresh may just be what we're needing from EA with Star Wars.

Anthem.
- Due to launch in 2019, Anthem was officially announced at last year's E3. We expect there will be more information, as well as a decent amount of gameplay. Bioware have been hit with some negative press recently due to the Tweets of two employees (although I think one has now been terminated?) mocking the death of John "TotalBiscuit" Bain. Despite the comments being strictly denounced as not being the views of Bioware as a whole, a lot of angry fans called for boycotts of Anthem. I'm sure they will be looking to gain some public support after this.

EA Sports Line up.
- We know what to expect here. Even with the addition of things like story mode in FIFA, this section always plays out fairly similarly each year. FIFA, NFL, Madden, these will all get a significant portion of the conference.

Indies
- Really hope to see more from EA in terms of Indie games. Unravel was a favourite of ours, and we'd love to see something else that gets such a positive reaction.

What are you expecting of EA's Press Conference? 
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Asylum Reviews; Riddled Corpses EX [Xbox One].


Being fans of the twin-stick shooter genre, Riddled Corpses EX looked like a fun new challenge to try out. It doesn't look all that different from the millions of other twin-sticks we've grown to know and love, but we were interested nonetheless. It's made in the style of 8/16 bit arcade games, so looks as you'd expect a post-apocalyptic zombie land to look. Both the story and the appearance are fairly generic, so we would have liked to see a little more originality, but it still satisfies that shmup/bullet hell itch.

There are six characters to choose from, each with their own stats, abilities and guns, that you can upgrade as you go along with the gold you get through your runs. Three gameplay modes: Arcade, Story and Survival, mean that you have a lot of replayability - definitely a big pull for the genre. All three modes are challenging, and definitely stand the test of being difficult enough to make it a fun challenge, but not so difficult that it becomes too frustrating to play.


Story Mode is where you play through chapter after chapter, very standard. Arcade Mode is similar, but as you would in an Arcade, dying takes you right back to the start. And Survival is just an endless stream of enemies. The chiptune music is an ear-pleasing trip down nostalgia lane, and you can switch to the Classic soundtrack if you were a fan of the 2015 release.

Different variations of gold scatter around the screen as enemies are mown down - larger pieces of gold (such as big piles of gold and ornate golden heads) of course reap higher reward - so be sure to pick up as much as you can, prioritising those. Lifesavings pick ups like dynamite that will blow up every enemy on screen, health packs to recover some health (a must have when precariously weaving in and out of projectiles while near death) and small clocks to slow time right down to allow you to readjust and take out enemies with ease are all essential in order to survive a run. In Arcade Mode there will occasionally be an icon that appears on screen pinging around quickly, and nabbing that will also get you a character/weapon upgrade. 


Quite often during battles, there would be so many projectiles coming from a boss, it would seem impossible to fit through any of the miniscule gaps. You'd take a sharp intake of breath with each pass through, unsure if this would be the time you'd get to meet your maker. The playable characters don't quite stand out enough against everything that's going on, so it's quite easy to get lost in the chaos.

Also available in the game is couch co-op which is always a bonus nowadays - we just don't see it as much as we'd like to. This makes for a fun addition if you've got friends over. Our son is also a huge fan of the genre and he appreciates the assistance from Dad, too!


Priced at just £8.63 on the Xbox Store (going back up to £9.59 in 4 days time), it's a cheap little game to keep you entertained for a while. In the end, we decided to give Riddled Corpses EX the Collecting Asylum rating of:

Gie it a Go!

Have you played Riddled Corpses EX? What did you think about it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

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 wit...