Walking simulators are the very definition of any game where the only objective is to walk around from point A to point B and experience a story. The concept behind these games is nothing new despite the genre designation escaping what was once more of a forum insult in years past to a now established term. Many such similar titles branched out around the 1980’s but at that time were labeled as an entirely different genre altogether. Some of the best games in recent years have been Walking Simulators; Dear Esther, Firewatch, and What Remains of Edith Finch to name a few. Asemblance is a first person walking sim developed by Nilo Studios all about simulations of the past time and memories. Does the game have what it takes to contend with previous titles, or is it probably best to just walk away?
In Asemblance, you play a character with no face or name who awakens to the sound of alarms, and a panicked Artificial Intelligence advising you that something is wrong.. The A.I. instructs you to interact with a terminal and fill out a one question survey about how you’re feeling. Immediately after following such direction, you’re advised there was nothing wrong and that it was only a test to make you feel alert. From there, you are given access to different memory simulations of areas from important dates in your life. In these simulations, you are met with a limited number of instances that relate to one another. A Blue butterfly, a woman who is either your wife or your ex and the office that your character spent 90% of their time. As you advance through these different simulations, it's up to you to pinpoint the exact elements to interact with to advance further in the simulations and unlock more scenarios.
What I liked:
One Load – The one and only positive thing I can touch on for Asemblance, relates to the transitions. When you first start the game, immediately after hitting "New Game" you are met with a load screen. After this initial load screen is finished and you enter the game, you can continue to play through the games story experiencing the different simulations with no interruption from any additional load screens. Granted there are times during a transition to a different simulation where there is a slight half second pause, but not having to wait for the game to load constantly is a good thing.
What I didn’t:
Multiple endings – Normally when you hear that a game features multiple endings, that would be a good thing, right? In most cases yes. Unfortunately for Asemblance, while the game has 4 different endings to experience, they all are too well related and do nothing in terms of wrapping up the story. 3 of the endings require just playing through the game and figuring out different things, the 4th will have you jumping through hoops and completing very specific timed objectives in order to unlock. The game really doesn't offer much reason to care about the multiple endings when you hear that they are related. Stopping immediately after finishing one ending can really affect the short play time the game has to offer. It's unfortunate that these endings are so bland and related to one another, as this was a wasted opportunity to give the story meaning.
Puzzles make no sense – Along with the walking sim type gameplay in Asemblance, players are also given the opportunity for some low-level puzzle solving. The game won't have you picking up blocks or solving for X, but there is a bit of sleuthing involved in the 3 different simulations to try and figure out what will advance the plot further. What starts out as a great concept, quickly falls flat on its face as the solutions to such puzzles start to make little to no sense. It gets so questionable towards one point when you're asked to stare at an alarm clock for a period of time, and then once it reaches a certain time, go and look at a hole in the wall at a very specific time afterword to solve the puzzle. How would anyone know to do this, and furthermore, how did anyone figure such a step out? There is nothing in the game that would advise you to perform such steps and leaves players puzzled and questioning how the original solution came to pass.
Short Game – Chances are if you're looking for a game to help fill some time in your life while you wait to play another game, Asemblance is NOT the game to fill that void. The game is painstakingly short, clocking in just under an hour to reach the first ending. Trying to pursue any of the additional endings could take more time, but I had experienced all 4 endings myself in just under an hour and a half, which is still ridiculously short. If one uses a guide to help complete the game, it can be completed in just under 30 minutes. For the price, it's arguable as to whether that is worth it or not, but unfortunately there just isn't enough there to truly warrant a purchase.
No Options – Throughout your little time in Asemblance, you may notice that there are a lot of dark areas. You may also come to realize that there is no way to turn up the brightness. That would mainly be because there is no options menu altogether. Most of the games I see that don't offer any type of brightness setting are horror games, and it's mainly to keep one involved in the environment. In Asemblance, there are no settings altogether just for the sake of there not being any. Subtitles are another such option missing from the game that really needed to make an appearance here. A lot of what you hear in the game comes from different audio tapes. Unless you're standing directly in front of them, you won't be hearing what they're saying and thus the words fall on empty ears. It's probably a huge disadvantage to anyone who tries to play the game with no sound. Good luck with that.
Forgettable Story – The story of Asemblance is the weakest aspect. The character you play, along with the one to two additional characters you meet in the game aren’t people you can truly care about, and that’s because the game doesn’t give you any reason to care about them. You can attempt to predict the story around these characters, but chances are your prediction would be wrong based on the fact that the game fails to have any story for them altogether. It feels like the game's writing was in the 'work in progress' phase before it was abruptly applied to the game and released. An empty shell of what could have been something great.
There isn’t much more one could say about Asemblance. It’s a game that feels very rushed and unexplained. Sure, the concept alone might have made sense in the mind of that of the person who wrote it, but for those of us experiencing it first hand, there isn’t anything exciting or memorable about it. The hour and a half max playtime the game has to offer is a slap in the face when you're presented with the facts that there is just no story or content to offset. For anyone who’s looking for an interesting game to help fill some free time are better off looking at games such as Firewatch or What Remains of Edith Finch, which are more deserving of your time. If you’re an achievement enthusiast, you may be able to justify the $7.99 for the easy completion, though it's probably best to just wait for a sale.
Score: No Appeal
Asemblance was developed and published by Nilo Studios. The game released on January 29, 2018 for $7.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.