Thursday, 25 June 2020

Asylum Reviews: Pong Quest [Xbox One].

Over the years, the quintessentially classic game of Pong has always been one that I’ve found myself playing in one way or another. Whether on retro systems, or playing newer designed clones, Pong has always had a badge of honour for being a simple but fun way to pass the time. It’s quick and easy to get into, there’s not a lot of confusing mechanics like a lot of modern games and it’s easy to put back down again once you’ve run out of spare time.

UK based development team Chequered Ink have totally revitalised the Pong name and given it a fresh new take with Pong Quest. A role-playing adventure game where you play as an anthropomorphised Pong paddle, you are instructed by King Pong to make your way through dungeons to retrieve some magical orbs for him.

The game has a very simplistic style, requiring you to work your way through the dungeons, defeating every enemy you come across in a Pong battle. Most of these battles aren’t too difficult, but the part that changes it up from just standard Pong is the ball.

In Pong Quest, there are a wide variety of modifiers in the form of balls. These can help or hinder you when up against enemies, and you can both choose different options for your turn. Some of the balls available are: Potion Ball, heals you a bit as long as you successfully hit it; Zip Ball, gets faster with each hit; and more. Some of the balls will throw up a defensive wall when used, requiring the play to become a little more like classic Atari title Brick Breaker. There’s a lot of throwbacks to other Atari titles throughout the game, which is nice to see.

My only real gripe with Pong Quest is that it feels fairly samey throughout. Levels have a similar layout design and while you may come across different mini games as you work your way through the level, these too become quite repetitive. At the beginning of a level you also receive a task from someone in the starting room of the floor: clear the level of enemies, visit all rooms, etc. And completing this task is what enables you to progress. For the second floor of the first area my task was just to visit every room, which I quickly did whilst avoiding all fights to see if this would work - and lo and behold I could progress to the next level without having done anything on the floor other than a walkthrough.

It’s a fun game to spend some time with, but sadly I don’t think it’s one that I will venture back into very often - there’s just not enough going on to keep me interested in playing long term. For the kids however, they’ve had a great time with it and enjoy the challenge that comes with sussing out the level layout and what ball power ups work best in battle.

The simple art style works well here, and keeps in theme with the straightforward simplistic style of the original game. The music is catchy and mostly fits well with what’s going on on-screen, with the battle music getting you amped up and anxiously batting away the ball.

We also have multiplayer options available for Pong Quest, further enhancing the game, but again there’s only so much you can do before the repetition sinks in. The multiplayer works well for the kids, and gives them a good level playing field for a game that’s uncomplicated enough for a 5 year old and a 9 year old to play together without one having a significant advantage.

In the end, we decided to give Pong Quest the Collecting Asylum rating of 7/10.
It’s a decent enough game but just doesn’t have enough going on to keep me invested, but for kids it definitely has more of an appeal. You can get it on Xbox Store for just £12.49 here.

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

- V x

Thank you to Atari for the Pong Quest Xbox One Review code!

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Asylum Reviews: Waking [Xbox One].

Developed by Jason Oda and published by tinyBuild, Waking is a highly personalised game where you play as a character who is in a coma, and you are living out their dreams in a quest to wake up.

The game starts by warning you that if you have had a history of depression, anxiety or self-harm, then Waking might not be the game for you. I put this to the side and continued on, aware that the game could have potentially triggering elements. This is largely due to the fact that you play as yourself to some degree. You have to input your name at the beginning, and throughout the game you will make personal choices about your past, and what struggles you may have faced.

Waking presents itself as a deep, meaningful story but sadly it suffers from a lot of glitches as well as odd design choices that kept breaking the serious tone. You have an insane jumping technique which propels you super high, leading to me spending way too much time jumping everywhere I could to see where I could go out of bounds. Jumping is impossible in certain areas, which definitely helped to refocus me.

Your character is battling through their own mind in the story of Waking, as your physical form is actually in a hospital bed in a coma. It’s a story of wanting to wake up, to free yourself from the nightmares of your mind and to recover. You reach a point very early on in the game where you can choose to go towards the light, or turn back and keep fighting - and I breathed such a sigh of relief. I genuinely thought this would be where it ends. So I gladly walked towards the light - determined not to wake. But nope - you are then guided to continue on and I realised it wasn’t over.

The art style of Waking is very dividing for me as I quite enjoyed the enemy character designs - albeit  very samey - and some segments had a pretty, ethereal vibe. However, everything looks to be from a previous generation of consoles and coupled with the awkward movements from both yourself and other characters just makes everything feel super weird and janky.

Controls wise, it is frustrating at best and downright infuriating at worst. Movements feel floaty and unnatural, and combat is done in such a bizarre way through the use of emotions and telekinesis that everything feels like a disjointed mess. The in-game “currency” of Neurons are required for everything you do also, which further added to my exasperation. 

I really wanted to like Waking. I love a good game to emotionally invest myself into, and a lot of the stuff going on here seemed poised to keep me interested but it just couldn’t keep a hold of me. Repetitive mission structures and a number of unintentionally hilarious scenarios just kept breaking me out of the whole point of the game and made it more of a chore to get through.

It tries to be too many things at once, and while warning you up front of the potential for mental health triggers, it completely falls flat from its intentions. It’s an ambitious game meant for a lot of self-reflection, and includes guided meditation which tries its hardest to immerse you fully but again this just seems forced and doesn’t add anything substantial to a playthrough. I had really hoped this to evoke some of the emotion that Hellblade did for me - that game absolutely broke me by the end of it with everything it threw at me - but it simply doesn’t. 

In the end, we decided to give Waking the Collecting Asylum rating of 3/10. Priced at £16.74 on the Xbox Store, I would highly recommend waiting for a price drop if you’re still interested in playing, but I’d really just advise to give this one a miss.

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

- V x

Thank you to tinyBuild for the Waking Xbox One Review Code!

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Asylum Unboxing: Tricky Towers Collector’s Edition [Switch].

As fans of physical media and wishing to conserve our collection, we love discovering companies that produce physical copies of games we love as well as games we’ve never played before. One such company that we came across recently is Super Rare Games. Based out of London - another huge plus for us as a lot of these companies tend to be across the world from us and lead to customs fees, etc. so to have one just down South is fantastic - Super Rare have been around for three years now, so for us to just find out about them recently feels like stumbling upon a goldmine!

They were awesome enough to send us over a copy of one of their latest releases: Tricky Towers Collector’s Edition. Like a lot of their previous releases, this one sold out super fast so that’s definitely a lesson for the future - if you want one of their titles, be sure to get in there early doors! Luckily there’s a few of their older titles that are still in stock that I definitely want to go back and get as soon as I can, especially some of their bigger releases such as The Gardens Between CE and Little Inferno w/ Steelbook, as those two are unbelievably gorgeous too.

Opening up the package, the game is wrapped in cellophane and within this includes a pack of 3 trading cards along with a Super Rare Games branded sticker with Tricky Towers artwork. The game itself is the most up to date version of the title, with all six of the previously released DLC packs built in right on the cartridge. These are Gem Bricks, Candy Bricks, Holographic Bricks, Galaxy Bricks, Spirit Animal Pack and Indie Friends Pack. The Indie Friends pack adds characters from other indie titles such as Octodad, Nuclear Throne, Lethal League and more for you to choose from while you play.

The artwork on the box is beautiful, with bright, pop-py colours that really stand out and make this game grab your attention. Even without having ever played it before, the packaging had me instantly intrigued. You can tell there’s a Tetris vibe to the game, with colourful, shaped blocks moving down from above and it’s up to you to stack them carefully. The Tricky part is in the Towers. Trying to get these to balance whilst keeping an eye on the timer and racing the ever ascending time-guide-line to the checkered banner can be infuriating, but hilarious. As well as the 50 single player trials, there are other game modes available, with local and online multiplayer options for up to four players to go head to head in different modes such as Race, Survival and Puzzle.

I am sad to say however that I am utter garbage at this game. It’s very well documented throughout my previous posts here that I am a very panicky player when it comes to games. Real sweaty palm energy from me. So that, combined with the very real issue of Joycon drift means that I simply suck at playing this. Playing in docked mode with my Pro Controller helps a tonne, but I still make a lot of dumb schoolboy errors in my panicked state - oops. Tricky Towers is a lot of fun, and is definitely addictive as even being as bad as I am, I could not stop having “just one more try” for a few hours straight. The portable nature of the Switch combined with the short levels means that this game is fantastic for travelling too, as you can just dive right in for a game and easily put it down a few minutes later after completing a level or two - well, if you can convince yourself to come off of it!

We are really happy with this release and will definitely be keeping an eye on Super Rare Games in future for all of their releases. If you want to keep an eye on them too, you can find them here as well as on Twitter.

Have you got any of Super Rare’s releases? What do you think of them?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thank you to Super Rare Games for sending me this copy of Tricky Towers Collector’s Edition!

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...