Thursday, 27 December 2018

Asylum Reviews: Override: Mech City Brawl [Xbox One].

Created by Modus Games and The Balance Inc., Override: Mech City Brawl is, as the title suggests, a game about big mechs fighting. We sure do love some mecha and/or kaiju related media, so we were desperate to play this prior to release. (Sidenote: apologies for how long this review has taken to post, it was written weeks ago and was accidentally left as a draft! Oops!) With twelve gigantic mechs to choose from, each with their own skills and fighting styles, there's plenty to discover whilst playing. Mechs can be customized and accessorized within the Garage, giving you the freedom to style your mech however you like, and we always love the ability to unlock skins and other cosmetic items, as opposed to them always being tied to microtransactions. The different mechs are all wonderfully designed, with Vintage - a retro computer looking mech - being the one I think is the most adorable - although I didn't find it to be the best in battle.

The basic controls are very straightforward, with each button controlling a different limb of your mech, allowing for easy precision of where you want your hits to land. A meter shows the temperature gauge of your mech, so you must always be sure not to spam the buttons too much, otherwise you'll overheat and leave yourself open to attack whilst you cool down and recover. Additional parts and weapons will drop occasionally for you to pick up and utilise, giving you extra methods of fighting as well as a new type of assault. Sometimes the fighting would feel quite clunky and awkward, however this was more noticeable on some mechs than others - so could be more down to their playstyles and individual design than an inherent design flaw.

The arenas are nicely designed, with them being modelled off of real world locations such as Egypt and Tokyo, but the actual implementation of the cities' buildings is not as great as I'd have hoped. Mechs seem to turn buildings to dust with very little effort, and entire cities will collapse by you simply walking all over. The buildings don't seem to have a lot of ability to take damage and resist it, which is a little disappointing - it would have been good to feel more of an impact when crushing the city - maybe even administering a Game Mode where doing as little damage to the city as possible could be an objective (or a deciding factor in whether you succeed or not).

Completing arenas gives you research points which can be used to further upgrade your mech, adding another layer of customisation to your character. You can choose how to spend these, giving you a great deal of control in how you'd like your mech to function and what skills they can improve upon. The game itself is gorgeous, with bright colours and crisp animations, and well done sound design to tie it all together.

The game includes both local and online co-op, as well as Versus modes and the main campaign, which is great to see. It adds a little more diversity into how you can play, and increases the longevity of the title. You can also play as a party of four, each controlling a separate part of the mech - this can be a little odd at first, but truly encourages teamwork. The multiplayer modes are definitely the biggest and best part of Override, and seem to be where the game really shines. The main story campaign just feels too repetitive for the most part, although still enjoyable, but the multiplayer keeps things fresh and interesting for much longer.

Sadly, the game is plagued by frequent frame rate issues, and the occasional glitch or two - the glitches tend to be avoidable once you see what triggers them, but the frame rate drops are definitely pretty frustrating, and can make the game less enjoyable to play. It wasn't a huge issue, but when it cropped up it did impact things and left me feeling quite bummed out over it.

In the end we decided to give Override: Mech City Brawl a 7/10. It has a few flaws, but for the most part, it is still a fun time that we'll come back to.

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

- V x

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Asylum Reviews: Bendy and the Ink Machine [Xbox One].

Anyone that knows me, knows that I can't handle scary games very well. In fact, the game doesn't even need to be outright scary for my anxiety levels to go through the roof - just add a tense atmosphere and boom, you got me. I've been known in the past to just tap out from games altogether due to this, as the level of tenseness and panic within me far outweighs the need to play the game. Bendy and the Ink Machine has achieved what many other games have not - having me riddled with anxiety but still desperate to go on.

The art style, very Steamboat Willie-esque, early Mickey Mouse era stuff, is gorgeous, and translates the creep-factor well. Black ink oozes from surfaces and creates a great contrast, and the sepia tone further adds to this. Everything has a very authentic old-school animation feel, and the sinister undertones of what is happening at the studio juxtaposes well with the cartoonish style.

You play as Henry, a retired animator who has been asked to revisit his old workplace, Joey Drew Studios, and in doing so comes across nightmare-ish ink creatures that have sprung to life. Each creature type is satisfyingly creepy, from Lost Ones and Searchers, to the Projectionist and the dread-inducing Ink Demon.  Even the cardboard cut-out Bendys that are dotted around the studio often catch you off guard as you whip round corners, leaving you questioning if they are moving when you aren't looking.The smaller enemies had my heart pounding any time I came across them - and my GOD the noises they make - but the Ink Demon Bendy, by far terrified me the most. The way that the inky shadows take over the room to announce his presence, a hint for you to run and hide, just completely terrified me and left me feeling worried about what was to come.
The enemy AI feels threatening, with the noises they make alerting you to their whereabouts and giving off a sense of impending doom, however after they spot you, you can often outrun them - and if you know the location of the nearest Little Miracle Station, which is a cabinet that you can hide inside to lose the enemies attention, you can quickly dive inside and they'll then somehow forget all about you (even if they watch you enter it!). This did take away some of the threat from them, but depending on your location upon them spotting you, and how good your memory is, you might not get a chance to hide from them.

As the game progresses, you will come across another inky character: Alice Angel. Instead of instantly going after you and wanting to kill you, like Bendy does, she decides she could put you to better use instead. She has a hatred for Bendy, and figures that you might be able to help her out with some tasks to regain some control of the studio, and to irritate Bendy in the process. The tasks include retrieving items for her, and destroying some of the Bendy cutouts. I really liked this section of the game, and the panic that it brought as Alice's voiceover warns you not to run too much in case you draw Bendy's attention.

Sound design was fantastic with the varying sounds increasing the tension, and environmental sounds such as ink dripping, or film reels spinning leaving you second guessing everything you hear: is it an enemy? Where is it coming from? etc. etc.

Voice acting was done well throughout, with a nice surprise in the form of Jacksepticeye's voice on one of the recordings within Chapter 3. The actors were convincing in both their threat (from the likes of Alice), and the confusion in some of the recordings' voices. These cassettes, located all throughout the levels, add in further backstory to what had been going on in the studio long before its closure.
Gameplay itself was enjoyable and figuring out puzzles was entertaining, if a little frustrating at times when I couldn't immediately tell what I was meant to do next. Movement often felt slow/sluggish when trying to run from enemies, and every now and then reaction times would almost grind to a halt (particularly in one boss fight when trying to dodge a projectile), so I'd have to overcompensate by moving before you'd reasonably expect to avoid this issue. This luckily only happened a few times, and was possibly a glitch (in the case with the projectile) as I gave up out of frustration and exited out completely, then reloaded the game almost instantly and it worked fine first time. Also, in the final chapter, a couple of times an enemy got trapped within a wall, but this would fix itself as soon as I walked past and they noticed me so wasn't too much of an issue.
There are a bunch of secrets to be found throughout the levels - some of which can only be seen after completing the game and unlocking an item to be used on all chapters - and tonnes of tins of Bacon Soup littered all over the place for you to collect. I thought I'd done really well collecting all of the soup, only to not be awarded the achievement at the end, so must have missed a couple somewhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and would recommend to anyone to give it a shot. A few minor gripes here and there, but overall I loved it. The simplicity of the game (both in terms of gameplay and art direction), paired with the genuine feeling of dread and tension made for a fantastic time.

In the end, we decided to give Bendy and the Ink Machine a 9/10.

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

- V x

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

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 [Blu--ray].

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

Asylum Unboxing: Gris Special Reserve Edition [Switch].

Another of the recent deliveries from Special Reserve Games is this stunning edition of Gris. One of the things that I really like abou...