Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Asylum Reviews: Lonely Mountains: Downhill [Xbox One].

Lonely Mountains Downhill is a delightful simple looking game from its exterior, but sneaks up on you with its challenging core. You play as a nameless (and faceless, might I add) character whose one true goal is to tackle all of these mountains and their exciting, twisted trails. 

Each level has a few different difficulties, and different challenges that go along with those. This can be something as (seemingly) simple as completing the track under a certain time, or with fewer than x amount of crashes. Sometimes these can seem quite easy, but instead prove to be a little more difficult once you factor in the stress of some areas on the tracks that are trickier than others.

As well as the main track, there are a vast selection of off-the-beaten-path type routes to the finish line. Some which can simply shave a few seconds off here and there, while others can drastically reduce your overall time. Half of the fun of Lonely Mountains: Downhill is finding these alternative routes and doing everything you can to not only survive (since they're generally harder than the main track) but to perfect them, and get your time - and number of restarts - as low as possible.

There are good customisation options, allowing you to alter the look of your rider as well as your bike. You can change between male and female, different hair style and colour options and tweak the skin tone to how you wish. New costumes and bike parts can be unlocked by satisfying the conditions of various challenges laid out for you.

Visually, the game is gorgeous and has a very pleasing aesthetic. Locations are beautifully crafted and the lighting just adds another layer to the look. Sound design is fantastic also, with really catchy tunes to go along with your peaceful journey. The controls felt great for the most part, with only a few minor gripes where turns felt less responsive than they should, but this didn't make the game feel unplayable at all.

In the end, we really enjoyed Lonely Mountains: Downhill and have decided to give it the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10

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

- V x

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Asylum Reviews: The Sojourn [Xbox One].

Released yesterday for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, The Sojourn is a peaceful puzzle-based game with absolutely gorgeous settings. Developed by Shifting Tides - and their first ever game, at that - this is a relaxing game that draws you in surprisingly quickly, but due to very samey locations can feel repetitive equally fast.

With very little in the way of explanation as to what is going on, you are chucked straight into a beautiful, yet lonely world populated only by a small number of blindfolded stone statues. The world itself seems to not exist without your presence, as glowing light spawns the buildings and platforms and creates the path for you as you go.

Being a puzzle-based game, it requires a lot of thinking outside of the box. You can alternate between the light and dark worlds temporarily by standing on a glowing platform to activate the dark mode for a limited time. Doing so enables you to move large decorative statues to unlock new areas or make harp-like statues play music to rebuild broken passageways.

Later, you will find some statues can be activated without entering the dark world, as they have small plaques on them that allow the statue to be used at any time. Luckily, these can be moved to other statues, giving another element of thought needed when trying to progress through the level. You switch places with statues by interacting with them in the dark world, and thinking carefully about where you need to be vs. where the statue potentially needs to be makes for a great challenge. As mentioned, some passageways are damaged, requiring other statues to be activated. This can make for a frustrating experience the first few times as you get used to how the mechanics work (time in the dark world only depletes whilst moving, etc) but you learn and adjust to things before soon enough you find yourself moving throughout the levels like its second nature.

Initially the game feels lightly challenging, and this increases as you go on. Puzzles become more complex, with optional areas being unlocked to add another layer of depth, as well as something a little more difficult if you like a challenge. If what you're here for is just a relaxing stroll with minimal concentration, stick to the main quest and leave the optional challenges for when you're feeling a little more adventurous.

Visually, the game is beautiful, with calming colour schemes and very pretty landscapes. A lot of the levels can feel quite similar due to the formation of blocks and the relatively similar structures so you might find yourself getting slightly bored of the same thing each level. The Sojourn definitely kept me interested for a long session, moreso than some of the more difficult puzzle games, but you might find it better suited to playing in shorter stints to allow your brain to rest in between.

Sound-wise, everything feels very ethereal combined with the visuals. It's definitely a great game to just sit down and chill out with, especially in between playing other games to break things up a bit. We've been playing a lot of RAD and Borderlands 3 lately, and this feels like a nice counter for those as it brings you into a dreamlike, peaceful world instead of the harsh post-apocalyptic worlds of the two of those.

As mentioned previously, there's not much in the way of story to keep you interested, just a very loose following of the blindfolded stone statues, depicting a family as their little boy grows up and explores the world. If you need a decent story to be interested in a game, you might struggle here but it works in the concept of a puzzle game, as the real focus is the puzzles and not the "story" or lack thereof. Priced at £19.99 on the Xbox Store, it's slightly more expensive than a lot of the other indies that we've played recently but still a decent enough price for what it offers.

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

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Space Cows [Switch].

Space Cows is Polish video game developer Happy Corruption's first release, and it's a surprisingly fun one at that. It's a twin-stick shooter - instantly ticking one of Allan's boxes - where you play as Best Regards, a dairy farmer whose prized cow Betsy is abducted after he refuses to sell her. So he does what any sane person would do, and dresses up as a cow to be abducted himself. Armed with a toilet plunger and a butt-load of gas (literally), you can fart your way around levels and kill all the moo-tants standing in your way to save the cows and be reunited with Betsy.

Due to the obvious space setting, you have the lack of gravity to contend with here in Space Cows. This makes it a little bit more unpredictable - and oftentimes more frustrating - than other twin-stick shooters you may have played in the past. Rooms will move and rotate, and you'll potentially have enemies coming at you from all directions meaning you'll have to keep your wits about you.

Additionally, your plunger is your one weapon to defeat the hordes of mootants, so after throwing you leave yourself vulnerable whilst you wait on your plunger's return. This can make things quite panic-inducing, as you'll have to deal with lots of enemies at once. 

As you progress through the game, you will come across mini-games where you can earn extra milk. These break up the game a bit to give you something a little different to keep your interest piqued. They don't disturb the flow of the game too negatively, however they can sometimes lull you into a false sense of security as you forget what you're going back into afterwards.

There are a few different enemy types, ranging from the initial mootants: green slimey things that do damage when they touch you, to turret enemies that do significantly more damage to you. Enemies can be taken out either by hitting with the plunger, or in the case of some enemies, such as the jellyfish, you have to time hitting their blasts back to them. Thankfully, Best has a couple of techniques that help - since the plunger alone would just leave you struggling. He can fart to propel himself out of the way of danger, and he can also slow down time which can allow for the lining up of a killer shot. 

Art style is cute and whimsical, with gorgeous colours. The pinks and purples contrast well with the green-toned slime. Everything has such a fun, cartoon-y vibe which makes it very visually appealing, and sound design is well done - if slightly annoying at times with the frequent farts. 

At just £11.69 on the Nintendo Switch eShop, it's a fantastic price for a lot of fun, so we'd really recommend you check this one out - particularly if you're a fan of twin-stick shooters. For all of the insane pricing on Nintendo's side (AAA titles always remaining sky-high on the eShop), they really have a great selection of cheaply priced Nindies, and this is definitely a great one.

In the end, we decided to give Space Cows the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

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

- V x

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Thoughts on Thursday: Confession Time!

Okay, okay... I know what you're thinking. That's a helluva clickbait title. And I suppose you're right, but this post is about confessions - or more specifically - collecting confessions.

The first of my collecting sins is that I am so guilty of leaving discs out of their cases for far longer than is necessary. If you've seen one of my recent Instagram posts, you'll know this. And I'm ashamed to admit that it's never just one pile of discs, or even two piles of discs. It's always ungodly amounts of discs in multiple piles, as well as a few random discs slotted in here and there for good measure. My thought process behind the random single discs is "I'll sit that there just now, since the case is on that shelf/near there, and I will put the disc away later". WHY!? I hear you ask. Simply put, I can be a lazy bastard at times. It's not one of my finer qualities, but knowing I can be a lazy bastard is better than just blindly being one. At least I'll sometimes attempt to circumvent this and just tidy as I go. But not enough, no.

Typically, I'll start the long mission of assigning discs back to their correct cases at the precise moment that I decide to take photos of things in the collection and discover that the disc is missing. Frustrating, since this then drags me away from my original plan and putting them all away takes forever. Oh, or my other favourite - when you go to put on a movie or game, but the disc inside the case is an entirely different one than expected. Jeez, this one drives me up the wall (and yes, I know - I'm the cause of it!) since it's never a simple process to resolve this. It's never as quick and easy as "Oh, Spider-Man is in the Red Dead Redemption 2 case, so the RDR2 case will have Spidey". It'a always X is in Y's case, Y is in Z's case and Z is nowhere to be seen. Wait, and where is A-W?

Another thing I'm guilty of is buying duplicates of items I've already got. Granted, this one is definitely not as common - and it's never for high value items (that would be heartbreaking). It's usually a Steelbook, or a cheap game. We've ended up with a number of doubled up releases in the past: Jessica Jones Steelbook, The Wolverine Steelbook, the Jurassic World Lego game to name a few, and 9/10 times the duplicate will sit in the shelves for months before realisation hits. A few times where we've had damaged items too, we've contacted to ask for replacements and they've allowed us to keep the original as well as having a replacement sent. I suppose these don't really count as duplicates as such since the damaged copy isn't the preferred choice, and I'd have been happy to return for the replacement. When this happens, we usually just give the damaged copies to friends who dabble in collecting too.

In a similar vein to the bad memory causing duplicate purchases, it also causes me to frequently lose track of items in the collection. There are things that we know we have. We have photo proof, and remember having the items (and if you know us, we never sell our stuff), but just can't seem to locate them in the shelves. I've got a tendency to rearrange things in the shelves at random, deciding roughly what I want to do and then just winging it. This means it's easy to forget where everything is, as I might remember the shelf it was on for the better part of a year or more, but I've since moved it 6 times. 

As I'm sure other collectors understand, it can be quite difficult to place things in your collection. Everyone has their preferences. Some like to display everything in alphabetical order. Some like to display things grouped by franchise, genre, platform or even by Director or Developer. You might have a preference to break it down into further groupings. Ours is a bit of a mish-mash at the moment due to constant rearranging . The rearranging has mostly been a necessary evil in order to get things off of the floor and onto shelves, so there's been a lot of rotating items to maximise shelf space - with less focus on actually displaying the items.

When we first moved in here, we had a basic layout. Games sprawled out across one side of the room, and blurays (movies/TV series, etc.) had the other side. Wtihin those sides, we had games broken down, roughly, by platform. Then on the individual shelves we would try to group things by franchise where possible. So Mortal Kombat had a shelf, as did Halo. Games like Catherine caused me some trouble as I had two editions of the same game, but a different platform for each (as 360 had one version of Catherine on the cover, with PS3 having the other). So do they get placed together, based on same game? Or apart, based on their platforms. It caused a bit of hassle when trying to get everything on the shelves, but I just had to learn to loosen up a bit with that.

Even this week, when I've been moving things around I've been unsure about placement. I rearranged all of the bluray Steelbooks, placing them in alphabetical order. Some Steelbooks were pulled away from this method: Disney Steelbooks go on the Disney shelf, Mondo Steelbooks have their own space (but oh God, what do I do with the Disney Mondo Steelbooks!?), MCU Steelbooks are in release order, and Arrow releases go on the Arrow shelf. Aaand after doing all that, I stumbled upon a few other Steelbooks placed randomly around other shelves. Those ones I'll figure out another day - I simply cannot be arsed rearranging the same shelf again. I'm lazy.

This burst of rearranging things spurred from wanting to take pics of stuff from the collection for my Instagram - as you may have seen - and realising that I couldn't find certain things. Again, these are things we know we have. They're just buried too deep in the shelves to locate. I wanted to take pics of all of my Mondo Steelbooks, but one or two of the Disney releases that I have (although, admittedly I haven't gotten round to picking them all up yet) were nowhere to be seen, so scratch that off the list. I then decided that it's time to do a big post on all of Cinemuseum's stunning releases (as I'm up to date with all of those), but Shanda's River has escaped me. I know it's in the shelves somewhere - heck Red Sparrow was hidden away for a bit too, but I realised how blind I was when I discovered it just above its new intended location, despite having checked there 10 times prior. This links in with the misplaced disc issue too, where I sit a single, lonely disc on the shelf it should be returned to, and then whilst moving everything about it ends up somewhere else, never to be reunited with its case. Or at least not anytime soon.

Lastly, and this one isn't one that we personally consider to be a collecting sin, but we know plenty of other people do: opening our stuff. Many, many other collectors (and maybe even some of you reading this) believe that these items shouldn't be opened. It might be that they want to prevent items from decreasing in value, or they just simply prefer the look of sealed items. For us, however, we love to open everything up and see all the parts and it makes it so much better to display certain items rather than just the (oftentimes boring) outer box. We do have a fairly large number of sealed items at the moment, purely due to having too many things that came close in time to each other and so as each new item arrived, the ones before were put onto the back-burner, with the intention of "oh, I'll unbox and review that shortly". I will definitely get around to unboxing and reviewing everything - eventually (key word) - but I probably need to pick up some new equipment first.

So if there's anything you'd recommend (or if some lovely companies are reading this and want to send anything my way, I'll be forever grateful!) please let me know :)

So come on, we can't be the only guilty parties here. What collecting sins have you committed?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Asylum Reviews: River City Girls [Xbox One].

WayForward's River City Girls is a fantastic entry to the world of side-scrolling beat-em-ups. You play as one of two characters: Misako and Kyoko, who need to fight to rescue their boyfriends. Two player co-op is supported, which adds some extra fun into the mix as it gives you a second chance if you are downed - as long as your co-op partner can stomp on you on time to revive you!

Fighting feels smooth and responsive, and with different moves and combos, as well as environmental items that you can pick up and smash over your enemies' heads, it's a whole lot of fun. When you first load up the game, you are given the choice of 1-2 players, as touched on above, but also the difficulty at which you want to play (normal or hard), and lastly, if you'd like to turn friendly fire off or on. Whilst playing two-player, with friendly fire off, we noticed that whilst normal hits wouldn't hurt each other, throwing items such as trash cans or chains would in fact still hurt one another, so this is just a little something to be mindful of.

When you've cleared out most of the floor, sometimes the last enemy standing will have a speech bubble appear above their head (shown below). These characters can be recruited to be utilised where needed at a later point. An achievement can be unlocked by recruiting each type of enemy, and whilst only one can be active at a time, this can easily be managed if you keep track of which ones you've already spared a beatdown so far.

The Pause menu in River City Girls also acts as a super-cute mobile phone, with various information held within, including a map showing all of the areas you've currently visited - as well as all of the ones as of yet untouched - and characters you've recuited so far. It also has a move list to show you how to perform each attack - this can be useful as more levels are unlocked by levelling up and using the Dojos. You can add and remove Accessories via your mobile phone, which are items which add helpful bonuses for yourself and your recruits. Keeping track of your Stats can be done here too, allowing you to see how much more EXP is needed for the next level up.

The art style is glorious, with stunning pixel-art graphics that are so detailed and colourful that you'll be in awe over how beautiful everything looks. Cutscenes are interspersed with manga style artwork. An introductory scene makes you feel like you're going straight into an anime, and it feels like there would be so much potential for that! Everything looks fantastic while playing, too - with enemy types and bosses being varied and interesting, as well as figuring out the way in that different enemies will attack keeps you focused.

Sound design is tackled flawlessly as well, with catchy music all throughout River City Girls' story. Voice acting is fantastic, and you might recognise a few familiar ones - including the likes of Jacksepticeye as Godai, and Game Grumps' Arin Hanson and Dan Avidari, playing Jimmy Lee and Billy Lee respectively, and many more. 

Priced at £24.99 on the UK Xbox Store, River City Girls is very affordable for what it offers. With plenty to see and do, you'll have a lot of fun along the way. Whilst it can be a bit of a drag at times to do some necessary backtracking for other areas to check, this is aided with a Fast Travel system. Bus stops allow you to quickly travel to and from certain areas. You'll probably still find an element of backtracking required for this, but it helps to negate that a little.

In the end, we decided to give River City Girls the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Friday, 6 September 2019

Asylum Reviews: Whipseey and the Lost Atlas [Xbox One].

Blowfish Studios' Whipseey and the Lost Atlas is an adorable throwback to 90s Kirby games. You play as Alex, a young boy who is turned into a magical creature called Whipseey upon opening a mysterious book. It's now your mission to uncover the mystery of the Lost Atlas, and get Alex back to his normal body, and back to bed.

Upon our first playthrough, we encountered a bug of some sort that removed the health bar from the top-left of screen and from then on made us impervious to damage. Our daughter took full advantage of this, wanting to take over the controller whilst having a shot for herself. She was able to progress through the entirety of the game, defeating every boss and ultimately finishing the story without taking any damage - unlocking a number of achievements in the process.

Second playthrough, the bug didn't happen again - and on subsequent playthroughs, we've yet to be able to replicate it - so we were able to enjoy the game as intended. It feels very much as you'd expect, with you running and jumping your way through the 2D platform world. You also have a whip to use as your main weapon, and it can also be used to swing from tether points located around the world. It's not an overly difficult game, but sometimes can prove to be a bit of a challenge when getting used to hitboxes and taking unnecessary damage. Swinging on your whip for instance requires extreme precision when trying to attach to a tether point, and attacking bosses can be a bit hit or miss when trying to whip fast enough after jumping to hit their heads.

The 2D pixel art-style is really cute, and the pastel colours are really pleasing to the eye. Levels are varied, and with a changeover - in the form of going through doors - in between short sections of the level, allows for more variety in backdrops across a level. It also adds a degree of nostalgia to the game, harking back to the days of Wonder Boy.

It's a very short game at only five levels with five main bosses to come up against, but this isn't too much of a bother considering the low price point of the game. On the UK Xbox Store, it can be purchased for just £4.99, and has a full 1000 Gamerscore to hunt down and unlock if you want to give yourself a bit more replayability.

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

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Rogue Singularity [Switch].

Published by Nnooo and developed by Considerable Content, Rogue Singularity is an adorable 3D platformer where you play as a robot on his mission to save the universe.

Each level is procedurally generated, keeping things interesting and preventing you from learning too easily. You'll find lots of obstacles on your way to the end of each level, and some can catch you more off guard than others. The depth perception of your third person viewpoint can sometimes be way off, leading to simple, frustrating deaths. This can cause some traps (as well as some normal jumps) to require a bit of blind faith in that you'll make it through to the end.

Surfaces can often feel slippery, with any forward momentum during a jump continuing just a touch after landing. You eventually adapt to this, but for a while you may find yourself panicking slightly every time you jump to a fairly small platform, in the worry that you'll fall off in to the abyss.

The art style is cute and eye-catching, with bright colours dominating every inch of the screen. One thing that I noticed within the options is that you can adjust all text to a Dyslexic suitable font, which isn't something you often see implemented, and was a nice touch. Completing a level can be done in your own way, which allows you to choose between just running straight for the end, or bouncing around collecting all of the coins available to you - often requiring you to veer off the usual path to do so, before doubling back to head for the exit.

Character customisation allows you to adjust your little robot to look how you wish, and abilities can be purchased to upgrade your robot, using the coins collected throughout each level. Items can also be purchased using the coins, each as a one-time use. These vary from items to place a jump-pad wherever you like, to an item magnet to pull collectibles closer to you.

Utilising the extra abilities (and items where needed) is really important to being successful in Rogue Singularity. As mentioned before, some levels can be really difficult and navigating around the electric traps and rotating flames can be made much easier by having some new abilities. Also taking the time to work out a plan of attack can be useful, as you can sometimes find shortcuts easily accessible by just jumping across to other platforms and working your way around.

Priced at just £13.49 on the UK Nintendo eShop, it's a cheap and cheerful addition to your digital collection of games, and one that you'll have a lot of fun playing.

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

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

- V x

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Sheep in Hell [Switch].

Originally released way back in 2014 for mobile, Sheep in Hell has finally made its way to Nintendo Switch. You play as a wolf, who - as you might expect based on the title of the game - has been sent to Hell and is being tormented by dozens upon dozens of sheep. On Earth, little o' wolfy here would have snapped all of those sheep up - but in Hell, he's the one who's being hunted.

My first thought upon opening this game was "wait, what the hell, why hasn't it asked me who's playing!?" - unlike most other games on Switch, where selecting the game prompts you to choose which account currently on the Switch is the active player, the game just loads right up. This is a little disconcerting, as you could be playing and then someone else comes on and ruins your run. I know technically that could happen anyway by someone else clicking the wrong account with most other games, but to not ask at all seemed weird. Maybe this is a bug, but I couldn't see anybody else talking about this issue online.

The premise of the game is simple - kill the sheep. You spawn within the level and work your way from room to room, killing all the sheep you come across. Each time sheep spawn into the room with you, a funky tune plays to alert you that they're coming, best bit of advice is to just keep moving when you hear the music play as the sheep have a tendency to just spawn right on top of you causing your health to deplete immediately. Killing them is easy, just a quick tap of the A button and you'll charge right through them.

Some rooms you enter will have a pop up challenge - as shown below - where you have to complete a timed task such as gathering coins, killing a certain number of sheep, or completing a room without taking any damage. These add a little bit of an extra layer to the gameplay, although for the most part it is still very simple and straightforward to play. As you clear all rooms in a floor, you then progress on to the next floor, with the ultimate goal of getting up and out of hell.

Some rooms will have you go up against larger bosses, or small exploding chicks that again, you just charge right through to defeat. Sometimes you'll end up in the middle of a chain reaction of chicks exploding, but as long as you're quick you should have no issues. In all honesty, whilst Sheep in Hell isn't a bad game, there's just not enough to keep me interested.

For just £2.69 on the UK Nintendo eShop, it's not a bad price at all, so if the game looks like something you'd like to give a bash, it's not going to break the bank. If you end up feeling like we do, it's less than £3 so not the end of the world - and believe me, other much higher priced games have made us regret our purchases before! You can tell that Sheep in Hell originated as a mobile game, and it doesn't feel like it has evolved much beyond that. It is probably more suited to kids playing, as it is simple enough in the style and controls, and the pocket-money pricing makes it affordable for parents to pick up if looking for a cheap new game for their kids to waste some time on.

In the end, we decided to give Sheep in Hell the Collecting Asylum rating of 5/10.

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

- V x

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Solo: Islands of the Heart [Xbox One].

Solo: Islands of the Heart is a simple, reflecting tale of love. You begin the game by choosing your gender (which can be male, female or non-binary), as well as your sexual orientation in the form of which partner you would select.

Levels are puzzle based and require you to navigate your way around each archipelago to a small lighthouse, which will then awaken the totem at the end. Totems will ask you a question about love, which you are encouraged to answer truthfully and from the heart. This inward look on yourself and your own feelings towards love is what takes place throughout the game as a story. It is far less narrative than it is reflective, and due to this could risk losing out on some of its target audience. Questions are posed to make you look inward, whilst the puzzles increase in their complexity to keep you from focusing too much on the questions themselves.

All throughout the game are ghostlike loops of your "loved one", whom you can slightly interact with in the form of sitting together on a bench (also getting them to reset the movable blocks if you need them to), rock on a swing together or drink from a water fountain with. Sometimes a small text bubble will appear from them, with a poignant message about love. These are cute little moments, and you'll find yourself actively looking out for wherever they might be.

The art-style itself is adorable, and the colours are so bright and poppy that the entire world looks lush and beautiful. It is enjoyable to wander through the Islands, and make friends with the various animals lurking around. There are dogs you can feed, seagulls you can photograph and hiding moles to chase after and pet. The sound design is well suited to the game, with a very relaxing, peaceful vibe to it.

Whilst playing I did run in to a few things that frustrated me slightly, mostly revolving around the blocks you have to move around to progress - and the camera angles often caused by doing so. A couple of times I had the blocks landing in awkward spots, and even with the use of the wand to locate them again, I still had a few issues where I would have to go reset the blocks entirely just to locate them all again. The wand definitely made things easier, as you can control this independently of your body, making awkward camera angles less of an issue.

Overall, that wasn't too much of a deal to make me dislike my time in Solo, and I definitely enjoyed the peaceful zen of playing this and just losing myself in the scenery, so I'd happily return to the game again for future playthroughs. If you like puzzle games, and ones you can just wander around in and figure out for yourself, then you'll enjoy this. If you need a prompt to tell you where to go and what to do next, you might find yourself irritated by the lack of direction - particularly as reloading a save puts you back to the start of an island, despite still recording all your progress, so it can be quite easy to lose track of where you need to be. Islands are small enough, and with differently designed areas, so this can help you to remember what areas you've completed. It's still an enjoyable time and very relaxing compared to most other games.

In the end, we decided to give Solo: Islands of the Heart the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10.

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

- V x

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Redeemer: Enhanced Edition [Xbox One].

Originally released back in 2017 for PC, Redeemer tells the story of Vasily; an elite operative once tasked with assassination and infiltration. After escaping the evil corporation you worked for and spending twenty years hidden in a monastery, the corporation is hot on your heels and out for blood. But that just might give you your shot at redemption.

The story is promising, shown mostly within the introductory cutscene, but feels like it isn't expanded on as much as it probably should have been throughout the rest of the game. The gameplay action itself is definitely the biggest part of Redeemer, and even without a super-strong story, holds up well. Combat feels smooth and fast-paced, and the variety of combos in addition to environmental kills available to you keeps things interesting. It is fun to play and whilst it can seem a little repetitive at times, I still genuinely enjoyed it.

Going for a top-down perspective works well for Redeemer and allows you to see the fighting better. It also allows the game to take full advantage of all the blood you'll see spray everywhere as you wipe out enemies. As mentioned previously, there are plenty of environmental kill options available to you - highlighted when near - as well as lots of different weapons to choose from. Melee weapons break after just a few hits (although this can be prolonged with certain upgrades) and ammo is in short supply. As weapons are picked up, previously held weapons will be dropped - and ammo doesn't carry over from one pistol to the next - so remembering locations of extra weaponry is always a good idea. Vasily can carry one melee weapon and one gun at a time, and these can range from knives and assault rifles to mutant arms and shotguns.

Yep... Mutant. Arms. Or more specifically, the arms that you've just brutally ripped from the mutants pestering you just moments before. It's definitely pretty satisfying to disarm (oh dear God, stop the puns) a mutant and then slap them around with their now lifeless limb.  With the limited durability of melee weapons and almost-out-of-ammo guns, more often than not you'll be using nothing but the power of Vasily's fists to eliminate the enemies. Even using fists feels remarkably good - after all, he's a pretty buff dude - and this can be improved upon by certain upgrades as you progress.

Abilities can be unlocked and upgraded by finding and collecting Manuscripts hidden throughout the levels. These can give you boosts in things such as combat damage or how many moves in a combo. Other unlocks can be gained through the experience given as the game progresses. These can not only improve using weapons, but your fists (and feet), too.

Unfortunately, Redeemer is plagued with a lot of slowdown, even on Xbox One X. Frame rate drops happened enough to be a bother, and laggy movements whilst doing finishers sometimes pushed me into normally-inaccessible areas of the map. I definitely still enjoyed my time playing Redeemer, but felt slightly annoyed by the fact that the Enhanced Edition, as it's so titled, still suffers these issues, years after the original release.

In the end, we decided to give Redeemer: Enhanced Edition the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10.

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

- V x

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Tetsumo Party [Xbox One].

Developed by Monster Couch during a Game Jam, Tetsumo Party is a nice straightforward party game where you change your character's stance to fit through gaps in a fast moving bamboo wall racing towards you. Or rather, it's a straightforward concept, but put into practise it's far more challenging than you'd expect. Each limb is controlled by a separate button (the triggers and bumpers on Xbox), with a few different levels of movement on each.

There's not a whole lot of depth to this game, as it purely just involves you doing the same thing repeatedly, getting faster as you go. Poses are easy enough to understand, but tapping furiously to switch to the correct positioning can easily mess you up; one too many taps often leaves you not enough time to loop back around before the bamboo wall hits.

Playing Tetsumo Party with friends, particularly if you've had a drink, seems to be the best way to play. It's super fast-paced and with simple enough controls that you still can't quite master, playing head to head with friends seems to make the formula work better. It doesn't take much to learn how to control your character, but getting the timing (and number!) of taps right just seems to be a struggle for everyone. This works well in the context of the game as you frantically try to reposition your sumo, often having just one leg or arm out of place - sending you right back to the beginning.

There's a variety of unlockable characters, ranging from ninjas to mummies and pharaohs. Each character has their own optional objectives to unlock, shown at the top right of the Character Select screen as you scroll through your choices. These add a little more thought into things and while it tries to keep things fresh by adding these in, for the most part the game grows tiring fast.

The visuals are simple and blocky in their design. Everything has a very minimalistic vibe and whilst this can sometimes be quite pretty to look at throughout the course of the levels, it often feels quite drab and boring too. Sound design is poor, with almost no music aside from the main menu theme and irritating loops of voice lines. Again, if you're drunk at a party with music on, laughing with friends, these things probably won't be as much of a bother but it's still not enough to make me forgive the poor sound choices.

The humour itself falls flat too, which is something we'd really hoped would help to elevate the game a tad. Silly, drunk fun games like this need a bit of humour to prop them up, it helps to gloss over some of the flaws if a game is funny enough or prods fun at itself, but here it just felt like that was missing. It's a cheap game at less than a fiver on Xbox, so if you're looking to take a risk on a new party game then it might be an option for you, but I wouldn't get your hopes up too high for it to have you hooked.

Overall there just wasn't enough that we liked whilst playing, and while it satisfied for a short game with friends, it quickly became boring and left us not wanting to load it up again. In the end, we decided to give Tetsumo Party the Collecting Asylum rating of 3/10.

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

- V x

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Asylum Reviews: Lethal League Blaze [Xbox One].

We're always on the lookout for fun, competitive local multiplayer games that we can go head to head in. Even moreso if it's a game that has 4-player support, where we can let the kids join in too. Lethal League Blaze, from the fantastic minds at Team Reptile, delivers.

The art style is gorgeous and funky, and absolutely everything on screen pops with beautiful vivid colours. Character design is varied and interesting, with a wide array of playable characters that you can choose from. Some of the characters stood out to us more than others, but mostly you'll find its personal preference who you'll veer towards. Luckily, with both kids wanting to pick the same character every now and then, you can have alternate colour patterns and unlockable costumes to distinguish. Characters play differently to each other, so perfecting how to play can be quite difficult.

The story mode itself was quite weak when compared to everything else, but still enjoyable. The story, which focuses on a Lethal League squad competing in what is now classed as an illegal sport, feels rushed and shoehorned in. 

It's fast paced and very different to most sports-style games, so suits the multiplayer aspect well. Online multiplayer is an option too, which really opens up the replayability. Aside from multiplayer and Story Mode, there's also an arcade mode which sees you go up against character after character. We found that often this would feel quite easy and laidback up until you go head to head with yourself - then things get a tad more tricky. For the most part though, things seem to be almost too easy. Settings can be customised to your preference, giving you the option of ramping up the difficulty. This is a well thought out feature that allows some decent practise.

Special moves add another layer to things, with every character having their own to mix things up, as you watch the ball fly faster and faster, with only the last person to touch it having immunity. It can be a wild, frenzied mess when the ball is going so fast, but this just enhances the fun and laughter, especially with four players. The sheer speed of things ensures that things stay fair, as the unpredictability gives everyone a chance.

In the end we decided to give Lethal League Blaze the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Lonely Mountains: Downhill [Xbox One].

Lonely Mountains Downhill is a delightful simple looking game from its exterior, but sneaks up on you with its challenging core. You pla...