Saturday, 29 June 2019

Asylum Reviews: Verlet Swing [Xbox One].

Verlet Swing is a fun, yet mildly infuriating game. Each level sees you swing through what I can only imagine an acid trip to feel like, with the goal being to reach a big shiny sphere at the end.

Despite the bizarreness of each setting, everything is weirdly beautiful. To swing, all you need to do is grapple on to certain items (not everything can be swung from) and aim. With every tight gap I would angle myself (actual real world me!) to fit through. Too close to an object above? Better duck. This transported me back to the good ol' days playing Need for Speed and swerving round corners, angling my controller and my whole body with it. No matter how much I try not to do it, I can't help it. I'm painfully aware of how much I'm moving - and how it has no impact in game - but I. Can't. Stop.

Levels start off fairly straightforward, with not much in the way of hazards to block your path. As you progress however, levels require a bit more forethought, as well as some intense concentration to time swings, perfect your release and aim quickly to the next swing point. Sometimes the grapple will latch on to something in the distance, particularly when aiming at smaller moving objects which can be a bit of a disaster. I failed plenty of times due to seemingly perfectly aimed grapples attaching to other objects and causing me to swing straight into the ground (and similarly by grappling something and not letting go fast enough and swinging back round to hit the item!).

Art style, as mentioned before is absolutely bonkers. With levels ranging from simplistic shapes and rocks to wacky art pieces and retro video game paraphernalia. It's all stunning to look at, and keeps a level of interest of what's to come in an otherwise predictably designed game. Additionally, completing each level gains you a ranking ranging from one teapot to four. Online leaderboards are available also, to allow you to feel complete and utter shame once you finally complete a really difficult level (gaining just one teapot in the process) to see just how much faster other people are.

There's 100 levels to complete spanning across five "worlds": Checkmate, History; Mobymart; Nimis Non Laute; Wondercon 1998 and Crimson Court. With twenty levels in each world, and subsequent worlds only opening upon completion of the previous one, you may find yourself stuck in one world for a heck of a long time. This takes a bit of the fun out of the game, as a difficult level will just leave you frustrated and with no option to move on (and come back to this one later), progression grinds to a halt. Of course, you could re-play earlier levels in an attempt to refresh your mind and relax but chances are you're just gonna get stuck at the same point again upon your return.

Overall, I felt that whilst the game had some enjoyment to it, the steep difficulty curve and fairly repetitive play just didn't give me enough to want to keep coming back. So we decided to give Verlet Swing the Collecting Asylum rating of 5.5/10.

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

- V x

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Asylum Reviews: Skelly Selest [Xbox One].

Caiysware's Skelly Selest has you play as a skeleton sent by the Selestial Order to prevent Daemonica Netherlords and their ilk from rising from the bowels of hell to take over Earth and Heaven. Levels are procedurally generated and arcade-y feeling with each level taking place over one large space - no moving from room to room like in The Binding of Isaac - so you'll need to clear all enemies before moving to the next level. Maps are varied and often have chests available for you to open and gain items to begin with, but sometimes a cheeky wee enemy will spawn from one to just totally surprise you and start the level on the wrong foot.

Combat is a little frustrating as aiming is stuck to fixed points, rather than the free-er flow of attack in other roguelites such as Isaac and Enter the Gungeon. Countless deaths were caused by me missing an enemy due to then being slightly outwith a fixed point and me not judging the angle well enough. Attacks are quite slow and while certain item drops can help with this, they can also make thingss worse by switching out attack speed for range with your axe, etc.

Enemies spawn from every direction, and tend to huddle together which has its good points and bad points. When close together and using your axe, sometimes you'll get lucky and take a few weaker enemies out in one swing but it's very easy to be overwhelmed by a mob of enemies coming towards you - particularly when you've got an item that randomly decreases your damage output - so this coupled with the frustrating combat makes for a very rage-inducing time.

Music is a little odd, as while it's enjoyable and sounds good it doesn't fit the hell-scape at all. And whilst I enjoy and appreciate the art style, at times it was just too dark to easily see what was going on. Sometimes you'll find way too many enemies swarming around you and adding in the darkness of the levels can easily cause you to get caught up in everything going on on screen and lose wee Skelly. I frequently took unintentional environmental damage from walking over flames or bumping into enemies which rapidly drained my health. I died so many times in completely avoidable situations, but it was just dark enough that I didn't see the damage coming until it was too late. And if feeling the shame of a pointless death isn't enough, the following screen shows you the points you've gained this run and where that places you in comparison to previous runs.

Different game modes add a little bit of variety to the gameplay. Clashful Cards, as the name would suggest, is a card based mode built up from cards you've picked up during your multiple runs. Playing this early on stacks the odds firmly against you as the AI will no doubt have a better hand, but as you progress and pick up more and more cards in the base game mode, this will increase the chances of you starting with good cards.

Dungeon Pilgrimage is more of a Binding of Isaac style mode, moving from room to room and collecting items along the way. Necrotic Colosseum is a boss-rush mode, where you keep going till you die. Within the main menu also is a screen called Character Vessels which you can go into to view Cranium Ornaments (yep... that's the hats you've collected on your journey) and you can view which characters you've unlocked.

In the end, we decided to give Skelly Selest the Collecting Asylum rating of 5.5/10. It's an alright game at a decent price (£8.39 on Xbox Store) and you'll probably like it if you love arena based rogue-lites but it just lacked a certain something to keep us interested and frustrating combat turned us off.

Have you played Skelly Selest? What are your thoughts on it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Asylum Reviews: Super Blood Hockey [Switch/Xbox One].

An homage to classic 8-bit and 16-bit ice hockey games, Super Blood Hockey takes things to a bloody new level. Developed by Loren Lemcke, the game sees you take control of an Ice Hockey team that you can customise and then strategize with to annihilate the opposition. 

With five different gameplay modes you can choose what way you want to play. Tutorial mode does as it says on the tin, it allows you to practise and learn how to play (and fight!). Exhibition is a fast-paced mode that lets you play a quick round up against another team. If you just have a short time to play (particularly if out and about and playing the handheld Switch version), then this is the option you're most likely to go for. Tournament mode plays like you'd expect: you have your team and have them go up against other teams, knocking them out of the tournament one by one with your end goal being to win the whole tournament. We've also got Challenge mode which has a variety of different (and often pretty difficult) tasks for you to complete.

Franchise mode starts with a rather funny intro of you waiting in line to register a team for the International League of Blood Sports. The guy taking your application is sitting at a desk with two mobsters alongside him, with one pointing a gun at him while he types away furiously. Blood stains the floor beneath your feet.. are they gonna shoot me? Nah - turns out you can't afford to register so they're just gonna whip a kidney out of you instead! Using the money from selling your kidney (unwillingly), you can now afford a full building for your team and you are swiftly given the option of a tour around the facilities. There's so many levels of shady going on within this organisation and it is hilarious. Players (inmates) are bought from a catalogue and have varying degrees of skill and brain damage, which are both things you must consider when making a purchase. Players can be sold on also, as there is a maximum number of players you can have so sometimes a tactical sale will free up space to add better players to your roster.

Players can be buffed up beyond their starting stats by making them train and you can do everything from controlling their diets to sending them off to the health bay to recover (and lose some organs in the process) before ultimately discarding their corpses if they don't. It blends the dark humour well within the context of the game, and had us frequently laughing at the absurdity of it all.

In absolute honesty though, I really struggled with Super Blood Hockey at times. I couldn't quite succeed at anything. I don't know if my lack of skill at other sports based games like FIFA played into this as I just could not aim at the goal without panicking and then missing. I watched Allan play this earlier today on Xbox One, and he was scoring left, right and centre and didn't even break a sweat while doing it. Success may vary!

Where Super Blood Hockey really shines further is when you play with friends and/or family. You can play in 4-player co-op, each controlling separate members of the team. This is definitely a game well suited to parties or having friends over, and games are fast-paced enough that it keeps you interested even if you're just watching someone else. An online multiplayer would have been a fantastic addition to the game and is something I think they missed a beat on.

The pixelated art style keeps the game arcade-y and fun while maintaining a great backdrop for blood splattering over the ice during a brawl. The dark humour and violence just work so well with the retro graphics. Simple controls make the game easy to learn, at least in Allan's case, and the wide variety of gameplay modes keeps things fresh.

We were lucky enough to be able to review this on both Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, and each version has a lot to offer. It's a cheap game (at less than £15) with a lot of replay value so if you have both consoles and you enjoy the game, I'd recommend to pick it up for both. It's great for quick games on the Switch when out and about in handheld mode, and Xbox has all of the achievements to unlock and bump up that gamerscore!

In the end, we decided to give Super Blood Hockey the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

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

- V x

Asylum Reviews: Party Hard 2 [Xbox One].

After really enjoying the first Party Hard, I was desperate for more. And when PH2 was released in 2018 I was so excited, but it wasn’t...