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

Thanks to David.CM for the Sheep in Hell Switch review code!

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

Thanks to EvolvePR for the Solo: Islands of the Heart Xbox One review code!

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

Thanks to Koch Media for the Redeemer: Enhanced Edition Xbox One review copy!

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

Thanks to EvolvePR for the Tetsumo Party Xbox One review code!

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 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...