Title: Assemble With Care
Developer: ustwo Games Ltd
Publisher: ustwo Games Ltd
Genre: Narrative Puzzle game
Platform: iOS, Apple Arcade
Age Rating: 4+
Release Date: 19.09.19
Price: This game requires an Apple Arcade subscription which costs£4.99 per month.
Last week I was browsing Twitter when I saw that ustwo, developers of mobile smash hits Monument Valley and its sequel had announced a new title. This game, Assemble With Care, was a sort of zen-like experience where you take apart broken objects and repair them surrounded by a touching story of a young girl far from home. I was so excited, for about a minute until I realised it wasn’t available on Android devices:
So I went out and bought an iPhone.
Not *just* for this game, of course, there were multiple other factors in play. But a new ustwo game was the final straw.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Assemble With Care is a clear indicator of the potential of Apple Arcade to help developers tell interesting stories without having to worry about how to price their game, or whether it has enough replayability to keep people coming back day after day for more content. It’s a simple experience that is easily playable in one session, probably around 90 minutes in length and there’s not much reason to replay it once you’re done. It would be hard to justify a game of this high quality being so short if it were a separate purchase, but being part of Apple Arcade made this issue melt away.
The game itself revolves around a young woman named Maria who is really good at fixing things. She’s travelling and arrives at a small town by the sea called Bellravia, where a few residents need her fixing expertise. During each of the 13 chapters, you’ll fix slide projectors, cameras, statues, neon signs and more. Each item you fix has emotional connections to the characters you meet, and the characters have connections with each other.
As you might expect from the team behind Monument Valley, the gameplay is simple and requires no tutorial. You tap on items to examine them, and use a screwdriver and glue and some other components to take apart and put things back together. It’s a really relaxing experience, not unlike colouring in or building Lego. I was only confused about what to do for one item, and then only for a few seconds.
But if this game was just good gameplay I wouldn’t be raving about it to any and everyone who would listen. The overarching story is really well told through some fantastic voice acting, and the smaller moment to moment storytelling makes the characters feel so real.
A Moment of Zen
A huge contributor to how relaxing the game feels is the art and music. I’ll start with how the game looks because that is what really struck me first, the aesthetic of this game is so lovely. Lots of pink hued skies reminding me of summer holidays on the coast and a lovely hand-painted look that feels really unique. A lot of the personality of the characters comes from how expressive the drawings of them are, and even though there is no motion at all in the story sections you will always get that personal connection.
The gameplay itself also looks great and has a similar hand-painted feel. Everything feels lovingly designed all the way down to the screws in each item. And the best part is they all feel real. They look like they could be real items, and the way they come apart and go back together always makes sense and looks logical.
Not to keep harping on about Monument Valley (I’ll try and make this my last reference) but the music in that series was fantastic, and Assemble With Care has had the same attention given to it. The music is calm and relaxing and really contributes to the experience. I would massively recommend playing this with the sound on, even using headphones if possible. I know there’s been some controversy on Apple Arcade games not allowing you to listen to your own media while playing but I fully support it in cases like this.
If you’ve read all the way to this point and you don’t know that I unreservedly love this game I don’t think you’ve been paying attention. It combines brilliant storytelling with a really interesting and fun game mechanic to create an experience that I’ve not really had before. It’s somewhat reminiscent of 2018’s Florence in that it feels like a new and unique way to tell a very personal story through a game. And not just in cutscenes either, the objects you fix all have a little story and a connection to their owner.
I have two very, very slight negative comments to make on this game. Sometimes you can be in the flow of fixing and the dialogue will obscure a part, stopping you interacting with it. Also, I wish it was longer because I loved playing it.
If you’ve got an Apple device playing this game is a no-brainer, especially with the month free trial on Apple Arcade. It’s also not the only great game on the service, but I’ll save those for future reviews. Now stop reading and download this game!