Saturday, 29 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Spartan Fist [Xbox One].

Glass Bottom Games’ Spartan Fist is a cute, blocky, first-person procedurally generated puncher where your end goal is to retrieve the fabled Spartan Fist after fighting your way through the four main arenas.

Each arena has plenty of enemies for you to punch the living daylights out of, as well as traps spread around but everything just feels very samey and repetitive. The arenas are designed differently to try and keep things a little more original as you progress through the game, but with it being such a short - and generally monotonous - playthrough, we quickly grew weary.

From the very beginning, the gameplay felt off. Something about the controls felt excessively cumbersome, with the lock-on system being extremely awkward and causing a lot of issues whilst playing. Not having the lock-on system active is equally as frustrating however, as it results in you struggling to actually get a punch in so not ideal.

The art style, with its voxel based look and large splashes of blocky blood spatter when fighting is something that does work well here. There's a lot of room for improvement with adding more variety to the overall environments, but the inherent design choice is gorgeous. That along with the sound design, with a "Chipunk" soundtrack throughout, are the two things that really stand out about this game.

You can upgrade your fists as you go, gaining permanent upgrades that will help you on successive runs. Most of the achievements available in Spartan Fist are for you to try out other types of fists. You have Bandage Fists, Rat Fists, Bear Fists and more, and these can be equipped individually to each fist, giving a slight bit of variety to how to choose to play and figuring out what works best for you. You can spend in-game currency on useful items such as skips, to allow you to jump back into the action after you die - saving you from slogging through everything from the start again.

I really wanted to like Spartan Fist, and can see that there was a lot of potential here. Sadly there's just too many things I had issues with, from the lock-on frequently spinning me out of control, sometimes strange hit boxes for enemies, as well as me occasionally dropping through floors or clipping into walls and through enemies. Priced at £12.49 on the Xbox Store, you'd expect better.

In the end, we decided to give Spartan Fist the Collecting Asylum rating of 4/10.

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

- V x

Thank you to JanduSoft for the Spartan Fist Xbox One review code!

Friday, 28 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Bucket Knight [Xbox One].

Developed by PigeonDev Games, Bucket Knight is a classic run-and-gun where you play as the nameless title character as he tries to find the Holy Grail in order to pay off his debts. 

The game has you work through 25 dungeons, gathering loot and destroying enemies as you go. It’s a fairly simple premise, and one that the developers have done really well here. The pixel art style is gorgeous and the chiptune music in the background really complements the old-school feel. If you want to go even further with the retro-ness, there’s a filter to give the old CRT effect – making things feel even more genuinely retro.

We’ve seen a lot of retro games over the years, and while there has been many we have enjoyed there has been a considerable number that just haven’t pushed our buttons. Bucket Knight, thankfully, is one of the former. Levels are quick and straightforward enough to keep us going, and not give up out of frustration. Plenty of games that have went for this classic style have utilised the severe difficulty of years gone by, and whilst that is definitely right up some players’ streets – it’s not for me. I can certainly appreciate the challenge of a difficult game, but sometimes it becomes too much of a hindrance to enjoy the game fully so I quite like it when I get a game that is as relatively simple and relaxing to a degree.

Controls are decent and we didn’t have too much trouble getting to grips with them. You jump and you shoot. Understandable enough, I suppose. Learning the different attack styles of enemies, and how best to defeat them is where you’ll sometimes fail. We got stuck in the walls a couple of times, and whilst this wasn’t the end of the world, it was definitely frustrating to happen when halfway (or more!) through a level. Luckily, if you find yourself in a bind – one you got yourself into, or not – you can just tap the Y button to restart the level. This became a slight issue also, in that an accidental button press can negate your attempt, however with most levels only taking a minute or two to complete it’s not too much of a setback.

Achievements wise, there are a total of 34 achievements to gain on Xbox which are all nice and easy to get. Simply completing each level, and doing standard tasks such as purchasing weapons will net you all of the achievements available, so it’s a fast 1000 Gamerscore for those that are so inclined.

Bucket Knight is a fun game, and a very speedy one to get through. And at just £4.19 on Xbox One, it’s a bargain despite the short playtime that you’ll get out of it.

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

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

- V x

Thanks to PigeonDev for the Bucket Knight Xbox One review code!

Friday, 21 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Hunt: Showdown [Xbox One].

 Crytek's Hunt: Showdown is a title that managed to somehow fly under our radar, and we're annoyed that it took so long for us to discover it. Being massive fans of the supernatural, and all of the weird and wonderful creatures that that can encompass, we were then instantly sold on the idea of a game revolving around Hunters.

You play as one member of a group of Bounty Hunters in Louisiana trying to rid the swamps of the horrific creatures that lurk there. With each monster that you kill, you are rewarded and are able to purchase better weapons to improve your ability to take down the savage creatures plaguing the area. Even in death, you can progress - your character will be gone along with any gear you have collected however any experience gained will be carried over to your next Hunter via your Bloodline.

At the start of each match, up to five teams of two will have to set out and find clues in order to track down the monster. The realistic art-style and creepy atmospheric lighting really sets the tone and has you on edge, waiting for whatever creature could be lurking. The competitive PvPvE gameplay also adds a layer of intensity. After defeating the monster you're seeking out you will gain a bounty token, which ultimately paints a target on your back for all of the other Hunters in the game.

The multiplayer aspect is fantastic, and we really enjoyed how it played compared to a lot of other recent multiplayer games. "Battle Royale" seems to be the dominating force these days, so a game like this feels nice and refreshing, whilst satisfying the supernatural itch, too. Unfortunately, the wait times for a game can sometimes be quite lengthy, which is a little worrying as to how the game will cope further down the line, but we're hopeful that this is just an infrequent occurrence due to the game just recently coming out of Early Access.

A proper single player campaign would have been a welcomed inclusion to Hunt: Showdown, as a lot of the core gameplay elements could easily be fine-tuned and expanded upon to make a full campaign story. There's plenty of amazingly detailed creatures in the world to flesh out a story mode, and have individual hunts to track them down without the online requirement. In terms of supernatural creatures, there's sooo many more that they could utilise further down the line too, so that would have opened up a lot of opportunities for additional content.

Whilst I'd love for a single player add-on later on, I have really enjoyed my time playing Hunt: Showdown so far and will continue to play it for a good bit, as long as there's other people to play with. The visuals and sound design are fantastic and draw you right into the world, while the tension of the looming creatures keeps you right on the edge of your seat.

In the end, we decided to give Hunt: Showdown the Collecting Asylum rating of 7.5/10.

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

- V x

Thank you to Koch Media for the Hunt: Showdown Xbox One review copy!

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Wide Ocean Big Jacket [Switch].

We're always on the lookout for simple, quick-to-play indie games to try out, and Turnfollow's Wide Ocean Big Jacket definitely ticked those boxes for us. It's a short story game comprised of twenty chapters, in which you can play as four different characters: Ben, Mord, Brad and Cloanne.

Ben and Mord are two young teens on a camping trip with Brad and Clo, Mord's Uncle and Aunt. The story follows their camping trip as they learn more about each other, and you can see the young couple's relationship grow, whilst simultaeneously watching the adult's relationship struggles.

The art style is very simplistic and the environments are small enough to not require too much hunting for any and all dialogue options. The game is very text heavy, with all communication written in text on screen. Despite this, it feels very natural rather than forced, and a lot of the humour shows through really well in the dialogue. Entertaining moments such as Mord trying to find a decent pee spot: in the wilderness of the bushes or in an actual toilet, and Brad's awkwardness as he tries to be a good Uncle.

Mord talks a lot, talks about her Aunt and Uncle's relationship, her own relationship with Ben and everything she is curious about, like sex, much to the shock of her Aunt Clo (who she chooses to confide in). This took us a little by surprise too, as we'd figured the game was likely to be very kid-friendly based on the appearance (I know, never judge a book game by the cover), but it was hilariously authentic anyway.

The thing about Wide Ocean Big Jacket is how real everything feels, for such  a simply styled game. The interactions between characters - either with each other, or strangers such as the "Mean Teens" and the anxiety that comes with intimidating or unfamiliar situations just feels very genuine. Mord learns to cartwheel whilst at the beach with Ben and albeit she falls over repeatedly, she improves and eventually pulls off a cartwheel. What we liked about this particular event was that she wasn't then perfectly cartwheeling all over, she still fell over sometimes - whilst Ben sat on the sidelines cheering her on regardless.

It's a strangely charming and heartfelt game, that left me wishing that I had memories of cute camping trips with family. I finished the game feeling hopeful of future titles in this style, and happy with my time spent with the game despite the couple of stuttery moments we encountered along the way. Clipping through the vehicle and getting stuck in certain areas was frustrating, but just a slight inconvenience as luckily they didn't impact the gameplay too much. One funny spelling error had me laughing away, in reference to having mashed potatoes and "pees", but again as this didn't take away from the overall experience, so I don't feel it impacted me too badly.

In the end, we decided to give Wide Ocean Big Jacket the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

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

- V x

Thanks to Turnfollow for the Wide Ocean Big Jacket Switch review code!

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains [Xbox One].

Triangle Studios' latest release, It Came From Space and Ate Our Brains (definitely a mouthful of a title!) is a top-down arcade styled co-op shooter in which the earth has been invaded by aliens. You, Jerry, have a variety of weapons at your disposal and you have to wipe out all of the aliens, before they wipe you out.

You can choose to play alone or with up to three friends through 18 different levels. Playing with friends definitely feels like the way to go here as the levels are fairly long and drawn out, to a frustrating extent at times. Having backup to lighten the load when taking out the enemies makes for a more fun experience, and allows for different players to utilize different weapons to increase the likelihood of success.

Visually, the game is gorgeous. It's done in a very simple blocky style, but the neon lighting and harsh shadows give such an ominous vibe with these hordes of looming extra-terrestrials. As well as your flashlight beaming, you wield often bright weaponry that further adds to this. The sound design works well here too, with simple catchy tunes spurring you on.

There are 24 weapons in total, made up of six guns that can be upgraded three times each. Upgrading massively helps you throughout the game, but annoyingly these upgrades do not carry over from level to level, putting you right back to the start - weapons-wise - with every level you complete. Having the choice of weaponry helps as various upgrades will help you more against certain enemies, however, through the course of a level you will only earn enough to upgrade one gun fully - meaning you might leave yourself at a disadvantage somewhere.

As mentioned before, the levels are frustratingly lengthy. You battle your way through dozens of aliens before reaching a safe zone, thinking you'd made it to the end of the level and can save only to realise that you've still got further to go. At first this seemed like an exciting challenge, but with very similar looking environments due to the limited use of colour - aside from the neon pink mouths of the aliens - everything ends up feeling very samey.

At £12.49 on Xbox, it is priced cheaply enough but if you aren't a huge fan of these types of games, you might want to give it a miss or wait for a price drop. If you're just looking for additional games to play couch co-op with friends, then this might be an option for you.

In the end, we decided to give It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains the Collecting Asylum rating of 5/10.

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

- V x

Thanks to EvolvePR for the It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains Xbox One review code!

Friday, 7 February 2020

Asylum Reviews: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair [Xbox One].

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, Playtonic's follow up to their 2017 debut title Yooka-Laylee, was instantly on our radar when it was announced. We were really excited for what was to come as we had enjoyed the original - and pledged a lot for it on Kickstarter! - so were eager to see just how well they could expand. Sadly one thing or another kept us from playing it on launch, but we've finally gotten round to it and my, was it worth the wait.

In more of a 2.5D-style this time rather than the 3D adventure of the original, YLATIL has a much more Donkey Kong Country-esque feel. The art style is still as gorgeous, if not even moreso than last time and the familiar melodies of Grant Kirkhope just give you such a happy feeling. It all fits so well together, even better than before.

The world of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is well thought out, with a free roam 3D overworld to complement the 2.5D side-scrolling chapters. Levels can be repeated to gather all collectibles, and they can also be modified through unique and quirky overworld environment changes to give them a fresh take. Chapters - found in the overworld as pages from a book - may be lying in a puddle making it a water based level - but freezing that puddle will evolve the level into an icy one instead. It's the fun ideas and extra thought going into details like this that really makes the game stand out. We really enjoyed the original, despite it being judged as fairly average in most review coverage. But this game has far exceeded our expectations.

One of the main things that really grabbed us was that facing off against the main boss can be done right from the start, albeit ending quickly - and badly - for the duo. Queen Phoebee's hive has been taken over by the evil Capital B and it's up to you to rescue them. With each completed level you'll recover more and more of the beetallion, enabling you to take more hits from Captain B in the Impossible Lair.

Things can be adjusted further with the use of Tonics. These were available in the previous game and were a lot of fun, so it was great to see them return. Tonics can be found and/or unlocked as you progress through the game, with some offering buffs to make the game harder or easier, as well as optional cosmetic changes. With over 60 available for you to find and unlock, this gives you plenty to aim for as you repeat levels to hunt and gather collectibles.

Backtracking through levels to suss out every suspicious looking wall or to complete challenges is a sure-fire way to keep my attention as I internally rage every time I complete a level missing one item. There's a lot to collect here, from the Tonics, to the gold coins (of which there are five in every level) and the quills, this is a completionist's dream and nightmare. As with a lot of collectathon elements of games, they can definitely be quite frustrating at times, but thankfully YLATIL's collectibles didn't have us ripping out hair out too often.

In the end, we had a lot of fun and so we decided to give Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

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

- V x

Thanks to Playtonic Games for the Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Xbox One review code!

Asylum Reviews: Neversong [Xbox One].

Atmos Games’ Neversong, formally known as Once Upon a Coma is a fantastic little title. You play as a young boy called Peet, who awakes...