PS4 Review: Asemblance

Asemblance puts players in the middle of a mind-warp experiment.

Asemblance puts players in the middle of a mind-warp experiment.

By: Mike Chen

Released on Steam and PS4, Asemblance has gotten some online notoriety in the gaming community because of the depth of its mysteries. While this may make you want to go into it completely blind, that could also lead to rage quitting in frustration about two-thirds of the way through the experience. Instead, read this non-spoiler review and see if it’s up your alley.

CONTROLS (3.5/5)

Asemblance has only a few buttons that the game walks you through: a button to exit the memory simulation, one to interact with objects upon a visual cue and one to zoom in and focus. However, one critical item that isn’t described to you is a run button, which you have to discover on your own. Keep it in mind because it’s important for a segment about halfway through the game.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.5/5)

Most of Asemblance takes place indoors — an industrial science facility, an apartment, an office. The strength here is not in the visual beauty, but in the amount of painstaking detail laid out in letters, maps, blueprints, and other items that help tell the story.

However, one outdoor location is a painstakingly crafted ridge and meadow, with subtle movement of grass, plants and wind, along with exquisite lighting. Perhaps it’s from the lack of locations, but it’s clear that a lot of work went into polishing that particular section.

The main voice actor is the experiment’s AI, who is like Portal’s GLaDOS minus the over-the-top humor. Otherwise, the only real audio work comes from a serviceably tense soundtrack.

GAMEPLAY (3/5)

Asemblance takes a lot of its cues from Gone Home and Hideo Kojima’s PT, the bonkers interactive teaser for the cancelled Silent Hills. Walkthroughs show you can get through the game in about 30 minutes if you know exactly what you’re doing. General playthrough will take about 90 minutes to get through the first threshold of an ending, and that’s really where you’ll get the most exploration done.

In Asemblance, the story unfolds as you enter and exit the Asemblance memory machine, a sort of combination of Assassin’s Creed’s Animus and the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Your goal is to piece together clues as you loop through three different memories.

There isn’t much handholding along the way, but the intuitive adventure gamer will look at the written notes, articles, brochures, photos and other stuff in each environment to decipher what’s happened. Looking at specific items warps time forward or backward in the environment, thereby allowing different puzzle pieces to reveal themselves.

Up until the first ending, it’s a traditional walking-simulator experience. After that, though, it joins PT in levels of crowd-sourced clue finding. I realized this when I felt totally stuck and finally had to revert to walkthroughs.

There are four endings to the game, each one requiring deeper and more precise movements. Your patience for this will vary, though based on Reddit forums about the game, it took a lot of people a lot of time to figure it out, and the payoff is revealed in such small but gradual steps that it lacks much real catharsis (and in my opinion, turns out to be more clichéd than I would have preferred).

If you want to enjoy the game but don’t have days to trial-and-error tiny tasks, I suggest playing through to the first ending (you’ll get back to the opening title with the option to continue), then have a walkthrough ready for the next segments.

OVERALL (3.25/5)

Asemblance takes a cool idea, and then proceeds to bog it down by requiring overly precise minutia in order to get any satisfaction from the game’s multiple serialized endings. It’s best experienced knowing roughly what to expect so you don’t lose hours in frustration.

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Throwback Thursday: Win ABZÛ on Steam!

ABZUConAfter exploring the dark world of Gotham in last week’s contest, this week we’re giving you the chance to explore the beautiful underwater world of ABZÛ on Steam, courtesy of our friends over at 505 Games!

HOW TO ENTER
We’re keeping it super simple this week, so to enter all you have to do is post your @Twitter handle in the comments section and make sure you’re following me. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

THE FINE PRINT
Winners will be selected on Thursday, August 25th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EST/1 PM PST on Thursday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must be following me on Twitter to win.

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XB1/PS4 Review: Dangerous Golf

Good painting isn't cheap, and cheap painting isn't good.

Good painting isn’t cheap, and cheap painting isn’t good.

By: Brian Gunn

Dangerous Golf is the first game from Three Fields Entertainment, a studio formed by ex-Criterion staff of Burnout fame. It attempts to bring the insanity of that series’ car crashes to the odd combination of golf and swanky high-end buildings to amusing, if somewhat uneven, results.

CONTROLS (3.5/5)

Despite golf being in the title, players can expect something rather uncomplicated to control. Each level begins with a basic tee off, but the meat of the game and where players spend most of their time is in what’s called the Smashbreaker. This lets your ball get a second life after the tee shot, and you’re able to bounce it around like crazy with the left analog stick in order to cause as much mayhem as possible.

After that comes the putting phase, which is quite a bit faster and more powerful than the average putt, with the game encouraging trick shots to make up for the relative ease of the concept. All of these handle fairly well, though there’s a bit of a learning curve, especially with the Smashbreaker, and sometimes sinking putts feel more like random luck than skill.

Eventually the game introduces some modifiers and advanced techniques, but the core of the game is easy to pick up and play.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.5/5)

Dangerous Golf is set almost entirely in fancy houses and businesses, to the point where it feels like players are trashing the country clubs of the rich and famous. Levels are often gorgeous and well designed, which makes destroying them quite fun.

There’s spectacular physics on display as well as particle effects to rival AAA games. It does come at a cost though, as doing well on some levels will absolutely tank the frame rate to an absurd degree.

Sound design doesn’t stand out, with a sort of generic rock soundtrack greeting players at the menus and little else on the musical front. Effects are generally pretty great though, with the crunch and crash of everything breaking adding to the simple delights of causing so much destruction.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

While Dangerous Golf has many modes, the World Tour is the star of the show. In it you’ll visit the various kitchens and ballrooms of countries like Australia and the USA, and totally destroy them. Each level’s basic goal is just to get the ball in the hole, though it will have additional goals as well — like destroying all of a certain item that will get you bonus score toward medals. And really, that’s about it. It’s simple but fairly well executed.

After beating a level you might unlock a new one, though often you’ll simply unlock new challenges in old ones — such as changing from destroying statues to covering the area in paint. This ends up making it seem like there’s not a whole lot of areas to play in, but the layout changes enough for it to not feel too repetitive.

Eventually some new challenges appear, like areas that require you to sink several holes on a limited amount of balls, as well as mechanics that allow you to shoot downward rather than straight ahead, but the basics of the game remain constant.

Other modes are likely to be a highlight with the multiplayer crowd, including a co-op World Tour that has your partner launching a ball in the wake of the wreckage you left behind. There are also competitive modes both off- and online, and all the local modes allow players to just pass the controller rather than needing one for everyone.

Dangerous Golf is a lot of fun in short bursts, though I found myself tuning out of the game after longer sessions. While it’s great for a visceral thrill every once in a while, as there’s always fun in just unloading on a room, I never found myself compelled to beat previous scores or outdo my friends thanks to a variety of little issues.

One such issue is that the game has inordinately long load times, which can kill that desire for that release somewhat quickly. For those that do get really into it though, there are all sorts of hidden challenges and secrets, like knocking a “Wet Floor” sign into a mop bucket, waiting to be discovered.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

Dangerous Golf is a fun time, especially if you have some friends over. At times it can feel a bit more like a tech demo where you marvel at the physics and graphics rather than a full-fledged game, but it’s still worth a look if you want to trash a room without having to clean up after.

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Win It Wednesday: Win Ratchet & Clank on Blu-ray!

RandCWhile we’ve given away literally hundreds of video games over the years, I don’t think we’ve ever offered up the chance to win a movie… until now. That’s because the folks at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment are letting you enter to win a Blu-ray of the Ratchet & Clank movie!

Please note that as Universal will be shipping the Blu-ray directly to the winner, the contest is limited to US residents only.

HOW TO ENTER
To enter, simply let us know what video game series you’d like to see made into a featured film in the comments section below. Please include your @Twitter handle as well.

Sample Comment
Borderlands
@HandsomeJackRidesAgain

THE FINE PRINT
Winner will be selected on Wednesday, August 24th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EST/1 PM PST on Wednesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must be following me on Twitter to win.

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XB1/PS4 Review: Riptide GP: Renegade

Careful of the wave generators! They can send you sky-high in the blink of an eye!

Careful of the wave generators! They can send you sky-high in the blink of an eye!

By: Jeff Cater

You might be familiar with developer Vector Unit and the many mobile games that it’s released over the years. Now, it’s ready to make a splash on the console market with Riptide GP: Renegade, a fast futuristic racer that takes place along various river ways and canals by means of roided-out Jet skis. Get ready to get wet!

CONTROLS (5/5)

The first thing that you’ll notice while playing is just how snappy and polished the control scheme feels. As most racers go, R2 and L2 will govern acceleration and braking, respectively. If you need a bit of a boost to catch up or widen the gap between you and second place, try to hit a jump and mix any directional combination of the left and right sticks to perform one of several stunts.

Landing stunts fills a meter at the top of the screen, but even if the gauge isn’t filled all of the way you may still press “X” to activate an intense boost of speed.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.75/5)

Visually, the mobile roots of Riptide GP: Renegade definitely show through more than a little. Stage, rider and bike designs don’t look as though they’re from a game on the PlayStation 4, but more so something you’d expect to find on a PS3 — or the world’s strongest PS2.

That being said, there are some pretty nifty effects like when water splashes onto the screen and rolls off, but we aren’t talking anything close to Driveclub-like quality. The water rolls and tosses itself around beautifully, and though there aren’t a wide variety of courses they often provide neat touches like jets flying right over your head, or fiery trees falling down in the middle of the course.

Stunt animations are very well done at least, and the frame rate is blazing fast the entire time, so Vector Unit got it right where it really counts.

If you’re into techno and trance music, then you’ll be very pleased with the soundtrack of Renegade. Besides the hum of several jet skis, the music is your only aural accompaniment, but each audio track is tailored perfectly for the corresponding level and very easy to get caught up jamming to.

GAMEPLAY (4.5/5)

Riptide GP: Renegade features nine tracks, and while that seems pretty low for a racer these days, it does a good job switching up the order or changing variables about them. Each course demands a three-Star rating to achieve perfection, but you can still advance in most tiers if you only grab one or two stars.

The AI in the game seems to be a bit unforgiving in the earlier levels, which necessitates grinding previous races in order to afford upgrades. Most of the time snagging even one upgrade will net you an extra star in a level, but there are some courses where the AI feels simply broken in an unfair way.

For example, in the second set of races there’s no amount of grinding I could have done to get anything but ONE STAR out of the first race. Advancing to the next tier of races surprised me, as I was getting first place with nary any troubles, but when I’d revisit that other race I’d still get smoked, so there’s definitely some issues with AI scaling or rubber-banding in the game.

Otherwise, Renegade is a real treat to play. Aside from regular ol’ racing, you’re also given a stunt mode to wow the spectators and an elimination mode that is tooth-and-nail vicious. Mixing all these together and changing up the course designs ever so slightly presents a consistently unique set of challenges, and having a host of different bikes to choose from and upgrade is a real plus as well.

OVERALL (4/5)

She’s not the prettiest girl at the dance, but damn it when Tootsie Roll came on she blew everyone away with her sweet dance skills. Riptide GP: Renegade is a damn good racing game, even if it does look like something from yesteryear.

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