Assemble With Care Review
Remember the good old days? No, of course not. The good old days have a lot to answer for, as much of the country will attest to. Still, as we move from metaphorically isolating ourselves from half the globe to literally isolating ourselves from everyone entirely, it’s nice to have something positive to play. Something that will teach us about making amends for conflict in the past; for focusing on what’s important; for reconciling with family. Assemble With Care does all of these things. What better way to live your best socially distanced life than reminisce about a bunch of old stuff, get nostalgic for the days of Walkmans and VCRs, and receive a moral message into the bargain?
In the town of Bellariva, a restorer named Maria arrives looking for work. She can fix pretty much anything from broken statues to reflex cameras, with little more than a screwdriver and a handy selection of identical replacement parts. But by doing so, not only is she helping to fix “things”, she’s also fixing “people”. Strap in, because the metaphor is as subtle as a sledgehammer.
The game is a series of increasingly complex repair jobs, completed by taking stuff apart, discarding and replacing broken bits where needed, then putting it all back together. Tying the puzzles together are vignettes explaining why a Bellariva resident needs Maria’s help. Well, actually there are only four other characters — a widower mayor and his young daughter, and a cafe owner and her estranged sister. Each of them has a series of knick-knacks and curios that need repairing, and the segues that lead into them — while not as tenuous as a Professor Layton title — still feel a bit heavy-handed.
That said, Assemble With Care does an excellent job of reducing complex items into a series of simple components for Maria to tinker with, disassemble and reform into working shape. Each task is colourful and tactile, and there is little in the way of tutorials or guides needed to get the player digging enthusiastically into the innards of electrical items. Drawers click open, glue slops into place, wiring lamps flash green, and cogs purr in a satisfying way.
Early on at least, the canvas you play on is intuitive and the interface is kind enough to show you where to dump the broken and burned out parts that need replacing so you can set about installing a new bell in a rotary phone or replacing dead batteries. Did I say rotary phone? Yes. This game will spark joy in children of the 80s and earlier, tugging at their amygdalas with glee as it rolls out a series of nostalgic objects for maximum rose-tinted impact. However, the story itself feels like it’s aimed at a much younger audience — teens to early 20s, perhaps — where the simple morals are more likely to hit home without quite as much eye-rolling on the player’s part.
Each part of a contraption must be analysed — yes, with care — to ensure that no vital element is missing to stop it functioning. If you do end up with a spare piece, such as a cog from a watch, be prepared for much unscrewing and rescrewing because you can be damn sure that you’ve overlooked something. The mouse controls have mapped moderately well from the game’s original home on mobile, but the stickiness of an item and the control needed to rotate it can prove irritatingly close, and I found that screws in particular required a level of concentration to undo and redo them on a par with IKEA furniture. As the game progresses and the mechanics become more involved, so too does the frustration in taking things apart and putting them back together. The icons for rotating, disassembling and placing items on the surface change with merely a few pixels of mouse movement between them. Trying to drop an object can be maddening with a mouse, and it’s in the latter half of the game that the PC port suffers in comparison to the much slicker mobile original.
Developer Ustwo has form in creating aesthetically pleasing and mechanically soothing fare like this, with the mighty success of two Monument Valley games under its belt. The biggest problem that Assemble With Care faces is that it looks and feels like the mobile game it started life as. It would be a great way to pass time on a train or to dip into while waiting in a coffee shop. The tasks aren’t challenging and the story isn’t taxing. It’s a gentle, relatively enjoyable experience with decent voice acting. But with only a couple of hours’ worth of playable content on a platform that it just doesn’t feel suited to — well, there are some things not even Maria can fix.
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