Thursday, 30 April 2020

Asylum Reviews: Moving Out [Xbox One].

Team 17 are a company that we always keep an eye out for, as they develop and publish plenty of great games that are fantastic for not only single-player, but couch co-op too – and this is no exception. Made in collaboration with DEVM Games and SMG Studio, Moving Out is a home removals game in the same style as Overcooked, and is a hilariously manic game where you and up to three friends empty the contents of a house as quickly as possible – with sometimes disastrous results.

You are given the certified title of F.A.R.T. which stands for Furniture Arrangement & Relocation Technician, something which my childish brain (and that of my 9-year-old son) found hilarious. My daughter on the other hand, was not pleased. I called her a F.A.R.T. and she was mightily offended. Her brother being better at the game than her might have played a teensy part in her annoyance!

One thing that really stands out when you first start the game is the soundtrack. It sounds fantastic, and really fits in well with the game. It has a very 80s vibe to it, which makes sense as much of it was composed by Lenny Macaluso, who co-wrote The Touch with Stan Bush back in 1986. The art style of Moving Out is adorable, with a very cutesy cartoon appearance with plenty of customisation options for characters. Within the character menu you can alter your appearance from standard “people” characters to animals and even humanoid toasters! Another fantastic addition is that you can play as a character in a wheelchair too, which adds a little bit of inclusion to an entire group of people who are often under-represented in videogames. There are also accessibility options throughout, allowing for dyslexic fonts to be used and other tweaks to timers and levels where required, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the game.

Whilst it doesn’t hold your hand the whole way, there are a lot of little pointers to keep you on track, with items that are to be removed having a blue glow to them, and pressing Y will highlight this further indicating how many people are required to lift (if playing with friends). Some items are also breakable, so will need to be handled with greater care than simply chucking them out of the already smashed windows into the truck below. Part of what makes Moving Out so entertaining is that you don’t need to be careful with the furniture like you would in real life; we don’t have to clean up the broken glass at the end of the day. The trick to success within the levels here is to think ahead: which items need to be packed onto the truck, and are there any shortcuts I can take? Getting the bigger stuff onto the truck first can help with space, as sometimes leaving them till last will require a bit of manoeuvring getting them on to an already-full truck. Then once those are loaded on, it’s just a case of running back and forward tossing the smaller items in at speed. After all, we’re racing against the clock here!

Some levels are laid out in such a way to make things a little bit more challenging, with pools blocking a potentially shorter route. Again, thinking ahead can really help to bring down the time here. Running right through the house repeatedly is just going to waste a lot of time, so chucking items over the water can help to reduce this, but they’re breakable I hear you say. Yep – but if they land on other items, or if you’re playing with a friend and they catch the items, then bingo! The longer you take to complete each job, the worse your end score (and medal) will be. Achieving a gold medal is quite difficult in some cases and whilst the criteria is adjusted depending on the number of players, playing with friends can help to give you just a bit of an edge against the timer.

In between levels you are in an overworld, driving the moving van to different jobs. Each level is replayable, and can be attempted as many times as required by driving to the relevant location. As well as the time element there are also additional tasks that can be completed, such as completing a level without breaking any windows. On the flipside of this, you might have two contradicting tasks (one without breaking, one with breaking) which means you’ll definitely have to do at least a second attempt to achieve all of the tasks. This allows for a lot of replayability, whilst the variety of differently styled levels keeps the game fresh and interesting. From normal looking houses and multi-storey buildings, to death-defying delivery routes across busy roads and conveyor belts across lava pits, there’s plenty of stuff going on here.

Overall, we really enjoyed playing Moving Out and will continue to go back to it with the kids. There's lots of stuff keeping us interested and working through the Arcade has kept things fun in between the main levels.

In the end we decided to give Moving Out the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Thank you to Team 17 for the Moving Out Xbox One review code!

Friday, 17 April 2020

Asylum Reviews: Totally Reliable Delivery Service [Xbox One].

TinyBuild's Totally Reliable Delivery Service is what my daughter refers to as "the funny game". An intentionally awkward, hilariously glitchy physics based game about delivering packages. You play as a nameless character, a delivery driver, who you can customise with a variety of different costumes and accessories to give them your own custom flair.

 Pulling the lever on package dispensers dotted around the map will generate a package and start the timer for you to get the delivery made. Sometimes a vehicle will spawn as a suggested method of transport for these deliveries, and other times you'll have to find one on your own. From cars and trucks, to helicopters and hot air balloons, there's plenty of choice.

Some vehicles are more frustrating than others, with all being controlled by levers. Cars/trucks/carts seems to be the easiest to handle, with the lever working well for both accelerating and turning. Helicopters are a totally different story. Allan seems to be able to control the helicopters fairly well, but for the life of me I cannot handle them at all. They have two levers, and this dual control is to be able to control height/angle as well as acceleration. The slightest nudge - from me - leads to the helicopter dive-bombing to the ground.

Playable with up to four players in either local or online co-op, you can work together to successfully get all 100 packages delivered. Working alone, the frustrations of packages falling off of helicopters or out of the back of vehicles made us quickly get fed up, but playing alongside friends or family makes it a much more enjoyable experience. You might not succeed in getting everything delivered, heck you might even find yourself just bounding around the world and seeing what's out there - like a mini Rocket League inspired stadium, which is actually playable! - but you'll have a lot of fun here. Pressing B (on Xbox) allows you to utilise some ragdoll physics, and just flop down hills and off cliffs. Holding B whilst close to other players will cause you to fart and knock them out (something that caused Eva a lot of annoyance when we played! "Everybody stop farting!!" she kept yelling, whilst us grown-up children buckled with laughter. Every. Single. Time.

The art style is simple, but works well with the style of the game, and there's plenty to see and do whilst exploring the map. You might even come across some unexpected ways to travel, such as grabbing on to fire extinguishers and blasting off into the sky. The music is also very catchy, and sticks in your head long after you stop playing.

The downside with TRDS is that whilst some of the glitchiness and lagginess is hilarious, it can also be downright infuriating. We clipped through buildings and got stuck in vehicles countless times, and some sound effects seemed to be layered badly, blasting out of the speakers when all other noises were much tamer. These seemed to be a really frequent occurrence, and whilst they didn't put us off of the game entirely, if you're playing this game alone then that combined with the difficulty of trying to complete any objectives would easily turn people away.

 In the end, we decided to give Totally Reliable Delivery Service the Collecting Asylum rating of 6.5/10.

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

- V x

Thank you to tinyBuild for the Totally Reliable Delivery Service Xbox One review code!

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Asylum Reviews: Snakeybus [Xbox One]

Originally released for PC in 2019, developers Stovetop LLC have finally brought Snakeybus to Xbox One. Reminiscent of the classic Nokia phone game Snake - you drive a bus that grows in length the more passengers you collect. It's a ridiculously funny concept, and one that had us eager to play as soon as we discovered it. But did it live up to our expectations?

As mentioned above, the bus you drive - or are? - grows with every additional group of passengers that you collect. The aim of the game is to reach the desired number of passengers before making your way to the destination without stopping. Remember that 90s movie, Speed? Yeah, just add a whole bunch more people onto that bus and have it stretch out for miles behind for some comedic flair and there you have it.

Ensuring that your bus keeps moving seems like a straightforward task - surely you just keep driving? Well yes, but there are obstacles in your way that you might find yourself crashing into, bringing your speed down and causing you to explode into a fiery death. Sometimes, those obstacles will actually just be other parts of your bus, looped round and round and round until you're trapped inside like a game of Slither. Thinking ahead and being cautious about your moves helps to keep things flowing.

The art style is varied, and very nice to look at. It ranges from some levels having a realistic vibe, to others with cartoony or geometric looks, all the way to levels that are blown up in size so that you're just a tiny little toy bus in a dorm room. The music on the other hand is very smooth, and almost relaxing in comparison to the frequent chaos unfolding on screen. It works, but at the same time I was totally hoping for some Crazy Taxi tunes here.

There are a few different game modes on offer here in Snakeybus: you've got the classic... well, Classic mode, Time Race which adds extra time with each successfully reached destination, Endless which has you just bussing it around doing whatever you want, and lastly Aerial which has you working your way through the Cave level trying to keep your bus in control as it awkwardly flies through. In any normal level, you have the ability to jump with your bus, giving a slight assist to pulling off escape manoeuvres when you trap yourself and allows you to dodge out of the way of the back end of the bus if you come too close on a loop. This can sometimes be pretty frustrating to control, but on Aerial mode it becomes almost impossible.

One thing that the game definitely missed a beat on is multiplayer. This game looks absolutely perfect for online multiplayer: going head to head with friends and trying to sabotage each other by driving your bus directly in front of them. A whole lot of hilarity would ensue. Our kids were even excited by this as they thought the game looked like the most hilarious piece of nonsense they'd seen in a long time (in a good way!), but as soon as we all realised that the only aspect of multiplayer that the game includes is online leaderboards - we were quickly deflated.

Snakeybus is a fun game, but has very little that makes you want to come back and play more. There's 11 levels to choose from, and while the different environments and art styles are interesting, it feels very samey fast. Additional vehicles can be unlocked by reaching certain scores, so this gives you something to aim for but it can feel like a bit of a chore at times. If multiplayer (local and online) were to be added, it would breathe new life into the game and would have us back instantly. It's reasonably priced at £9.99, but if multiplayer is added in later this would make it an amazing bargain.

In the end, we decided to give Snakeybus the Collecting Asylum rating of 5.5/10.

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

- V x

Thank you to Digerati for the Snakeybus Xbox One review code!

Asylum Reviews: Oniken: Unstoppable Edition [Xbox One]

You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd travelled back to the 8-bit era of the 80s when playing JoyMasher's Oniken: Unstoppable Edition. Originally released in 2012 for PC it has finally made its way to consoles, and we couldn't wait to get stuck in.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where everything that survived is under control of a sinister corporation (isn't that always the way?), ninja mercenary Zaku is the last hope for humanity. It's up to you to take down enemies throughout the six brutally difficult levels and defeat the mysterious Oniken.

The pixel art style of Oniken is very authentic, and really gets the nostalgia going. It feels like an old game, and is very true to the old-school challenge that comes with these types of game. As mentioned before, this game is hard. You'll be frustrated, and infuriated, by the sheer volume of deaths that will come to pass. The controls are tight, but sometimes a stupid mistake or mistimed jump will cost you and you'll be cursing out the controller - because it simply couldn't have been you that messed up.

It's easy to feel defeated by games like this. Figuring out how best to complete a level is like creating an interpretive dance. Mistakes can be made, and you'll frequently feel a wobble, but trying to let loose and just go with the flow is often where success lies. I'm all too guilty of it, myself. Sweaty palms from repeated attempts, and stressing over what enemy moves where. Yes, learning the enemies' movements and where you should move in response will help, but getting too worked up about dying (and then rushing to speed things up, causing more deaths) just spells disaster.

There's lots of variation in enemies here, and the levels are well designed. The aesthetic can be enhanced by toggling options to play with a CRT monitor effect, or a 4:3 aspect ratio to really kick up the retro factor. Everything flows really well, and nothing feels out of place here.

Broken into three stages, each of the six levels has a lot going on, therefore a lot of places to fail. The challenge of wanting to keep pushing onwards is something that Oniken really gets right here. For some the difficulty may be offputting, as you will die. A lot. So if you like a challenge, Oniken might be right up your street.

In the end we decided to give Oniken: Unstoppable Edition the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

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

- V x

Thank you to Digerati for the Oniken: Unstoppable Edition Xbox One review code!

Friday, 10 April 2020

Asylum Reviews: Exit the Gungeon [Switch].

Dodge Roll's Exit the Gungeon is a familiar yet very different sorta-sequel to their previous hit title, Enter the Gungeon. Done in an entirely different dungeon-trekking style, you play as one of the four available Gungeoneers as they now battle to Exit the Gungeon.

Instead of playing in a top-down view working through rooms, we are instead playing more of a 2D platforming style, with a lot of the gameplay taking place in an ascending elevator. A lot of the core elements of the original are still here: dodge rolling, fantastic weaponry, blanks to wipe the screen of bullets. But instead of picking up weapons along the way, your weapon has been blessed by the Sorceress, causing it to randomly change as you go.

Facing off against enemies - new and old - you'll have to learn fast as the now-limited space available to you in the elevator can make for a quick death, with bullets coming at you from every angle and no way of keeping your distance. And with an ever-changing weapon there's no guarantee of saving better weapons for going up against the harder opponents - so you just have to fire away and hope you don't get landed with an awful gun for the bosses.

Surprisingly, I felt that the lack of space worked better for me when compared against how I often fared in Enter the Gungeon. There's proportionally less going on in the elevator than there was in any given room, so this was a godsend for a panicky player like me. Unfortunately I still died unbelievably fast during most runs, but I felt better equipped to deal with everything going on on screen.

Similar to Enter, there's a wide variety of weapons here, with all of their weird and wonderful ways of firing. As well as a lot of the OG weaponry, a few new pieces have been added to the arsenal. As you progress through the game you will unlock additional guns, allowing them to be added into the pool for your gun to change into. Some are fantastic, and work brilliantly in the tight spaces of the elevator - which is a bonus for if you play as the pilot and have to navigate the floating elevator yourself. Having a decent weapon that doesn't require a lot of thought is a lifesaver here. Weapons that require a charged shot however can be a kiss of death to your run as they require a lot of attention as to where you should be aiming when the gun is finally charged, as well as dealing with their frustrating slowness in the midst of all of the fast-paced action.

Having new guns and enemies helps to keep things fresh - most avid players of Enter the Gungeon will feel right at home here, whilst having enough new-ness to keep them interested. Bosses have similarities to enemies from the previous game, with some being amalgamations of two existing enemies or otherwise transformed opponents. Medusalier for instance, is a combination of the boss Gorgun, and mini-boss Fuselier. This helps to give an idea as to how her attacks will play out, as her attacks are similar to what the individuals' attacks were previously.

A fantastic addition to your regular old dodge-roll to get you out of harm's way is your jump. This time around, the jump also makes you invulnerable whilst in mid-air - much like your dodge roll protecting you when you're in a tight spot. This makes things a little more bearable as you jump up and down from level to level within (and on top of) the elevator. Being a frequent Enter the Gungeon player, this felt odd at first, as though the hit-box for my character was off as I'd find myself somehow missing so many projectiles from damaging me, but this is a warmly welcomed perk of Exit.

With Devolver Digital as publisher, it was a safe bet for us that we'd have a good time here. They have been one of the companies that we have consistently enjoyed every release that we've played, and so are always very excited to see new titles that they've published. If you're a fan of Enter the Gungeon, this is a fantastic new game to keep you going - especially whilst most of us are currently on lockdown! It's not as in-depth as the previous game, but it's great to just pick up and have a quick run or two (or ten, or twenty!) and it feels right at home on the Switch. The art and sound design are amazing once again, with the lyrics of the brilliant doseone intro now being changed to reflect the new title.

Eeeee-xit the Gungeon!

In the end, we decided to give Exit the Gungeon the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

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

- V x

Thanks to Devolver for the Exit the Gungeon Switch review code!

Friday, 3 April 2020

Asylum Reviews: Doom Eternal [Xbox One].

id Software's latest title - Doom Eternal - is a fun yet frustrating foray into the hellscape once again. Earth is overrun with demons, and you - the aptly named Doom Slayer - are the only one who can stop them.

If you played the previous game, you will be familiar with some aspects of the gameplay. But here, it has been cranked up to be even more manic and fast-paced than ever. In order to survive, you'll need to be quick thinking and be aware of your surroundings. Combat is furious and rarely slows down, but with a fancy-shmancy new advance Praetor Suit, you'll have access to new tools and fantastic new weapon upgrades as you progress through the campaign.

Managing your ammo and health feels harder than it did in Doom, with them being dropped as you defeat enemies. Your weapon can be modded to enable different ways of taking out the demons. Your initial weapon, the Combat Shotgun can be altered to allow Sticky Bombs to be fired - a great option for facing off against Cacodemons - but can also be modified to add a Full Auto option to mow down enemies and deal massive amounts of damage quickly. Utilising your weapons to the best of their abilities, and upgrading them when you can will help you to survive.

The art design is stunning, and really pulls you into the world of Doom. That, combined with the once again fantastic soundtrack - composed by Mick Gordon - you really feel the weight of the world on you as the heavy-metal eggs you on in your quest to slay the demons. It's got to be said that Doom Eternal, and its predecessors, have some of the best sounding, most fitting music in all of games. It just goes so well with all of the carnage, blood and hellfire that is going on around you. Ugh, and to get a Glory Kill on a big enemy and it ties in with the beat - glorious.

Glory Kills still feel so good, with enemies flashing once staggered indicating that now is the time to go in for the kill. Doing this helps to keep your health up, as this is one of the guaranteed ways to get a health drop. Using your Chainsaw also feels so satisfying, however, you will have to manage your ammo for this, too - gas cans can be found dotted around levels, but are in short supply so try to refrain from wasting them. A Chainsaw kill will grant you plenty of ammo for all other weapon types, so it can be useful to hang fire on this until you really need it.

Multiplayer has been adapted for this release, with a new Battlemode to replace the previous game's Deathmatch. Battlemode is a 2v1 variation, where two demons go up against one Slayer in a fight to the death. It's a fun new way to play and try out different enemies and see how best to utilise them, but as big fans of the original Deathmatch mode - we were more than a little bummed out to see that that's been taken off the menu entirely. 2016's Doom was a fantastically entertaining return to the franchise and kept us hooked long after the campaign was over due to the addictive-as-hell multiplayer. Doom Eternal is another amazingly fun release, but with the removal of Deathmatch we were gutted. Deathmatch didn't have a lot of critic support back during Doom's release, as many felt it strayed too far from the core elements of the Doom franchise, but conversely, many fans are now petitioning for it to be added to Eternal in some form of post-launch update. It's definitely something we'd love to see come back, as we had a lot of fun with it last time.

In the end we decided to give Doom Eternal the Collecting Asylum rating of 8.5/10.

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

- V x

Thanks to Bethesda for the Doom Eternal Xbox One review code!

Asylum Reviews: Maneater [Xbox One].

Growing up, one game that I would always inevitably return to on whatever crappy PC or phone I had at the time was Feeding Frenzy. ...