Where does one even begin with a game like Asemblance? I honestly don’t even know, and I think Nilo Studios relishes in that kind of thinking. It’s a game that pulls you in so many directions, but only one, all at the same time. I fear I won’t even be able to adequately explain it (or myself) within this review to give the proper context, and by the end, you’ll think I’m nuts. I am, but I don’t want you to know that. Well… I guess I should start trying now.
When we initially start out Asemblance, we’re in a lab area, and on the screen in front of us, we’re asked a question about how we’re feeling, with 4 answers to choose from. This is where the game kicks you off down a path of potential insanity, or maybe not. You never know, and I think that’s partially the point. I fear giving away too much more of the limited story here would be a disservice to the game and experience as a whole. To that end, I’ll finish off with this: you work for a company called Asemblance Labs and your area of scientific expertise is being used on a program that deals with memories. From here, things start spiraling out of control, not only for you, but also the main character we play as.
Moving through the game, as I mentioned, we have a limited story, but at the same time, if you use your cognitive skills and surroundings, you can gather a much greater understanding of what’s going on in this world. With that, we also have a limited amount of areas we can move to and from. And it’s within those areas that many secrets lie. Secrets that you need to use your brain to figure out. You have to pay attention. Sometimes acutely. What you can see around you will help you. As someone who considers himself a veteran of this game by now, I can also say that what you can see around you will also likely hinder you. It’s all so weird. Intriguing. Frustrating. Exciting.
Graphically the game is really striking in most places. The devs really make good use of the engine, and because there are a smaller amount of locales available to us, it feels like better focus was able to be given to what we do have. The game isn’t going to melt your eyeballs, but it’s definitely nothing to scoff at, either.
Sound-wise, there are a lot of things going on here. Static, voice overs, creepy music, melancholy music, alerts, and the sound of your ears leaking cerebrospinal fluid. There’s an AI that speaks to you, potentially pointing you in the right direction, but at the same time, also mocking you on occasion. It talks a lot, and you start to wonder if what it’s telling you is important, gibberish, or to throw you off the trail, pretty much like everything else we encounter. The voice plays a major part in the game, so it’s good that it overall does a nice job with everything.
While wandering around the few areas of importance you notice a lot, but one of the things I keep on my mind is the discrepancy (or what seems like one) of the electronic devices. I know I said I wasn’t going to give any spoilers, but, like the game, I seem to be breaking my own rules. Just, do yourself a favor: pay attention to everything. You never know what could matter.
While in this “walking simulator” doing what you do best in these types of games, you move a bit slowly, but never fear, there’s a sort of run button. It’s L1, for those wondering. There’s nothing but invert controls for the menu, so don’t expect to find much help in there. The run isn’t that fast, but were this a game like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and its open world, I would feel much, much worse about the movement speed. However, because the environments are so small and limited in where you can go, it doesn’t much hurt the experience. One big downer, though, is when the game saves, it just about locks up and freezes everything. It doesn’t last long, and after the first couple of times I got used to it, but originally it was very jarring, and I had hoped the game wasn’t lost to a reset. Once you get used to it, you may not even notice anymore. Luckily, there isn’t much to save. Which brings up another downside.
This game is pretty short. Yes, there are multiple endings (and one that has yet to be discovered), but even with those extra endings, you can find them pretty quickly, too. What I wish was more well-known is that this is just the first part in what the description calls, “an expansive franchise inspired by The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and the Black Mirror television series.” Yes, I understand that is in the store listing, but honestly, I know many, many people who never read that kind of stuff. I think it should have been stated somewhere within the game, otherwise the endings may seem a bit too abrupt. If this was showcased anywhere in the game and I missed it, shame on me, but I don’t recall seeing anything like it.
It’s very clear that Nilo Studios took heavy inspiration from P.T. They aren’t denying that fact. Playing the game showcases it greatly, but what we will (hopefully) eventually get with Asemblance is what P.T. didn’t deliver: closure. And with that, assumedly, answers. Just like the Silent Hills experiment, the entire gameplay focuses on, well, focusing on things. You use R2 to focus on objects and this is where things open up. Stuff starts to happen if you look at the right things, words start to mean more, backstory starts to seep in for you to try and understand what is going/has gone on. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Konami’s rotting corpse of a teaser was the community interaction on how to beat it. There are multiple endings, as I said, but the final one requires the community to work together to figure out. What this “White” ending entails, no one knows, but it’s gotten plenty of players involved in an ARG-esque experience, and I don’t even know how many knew that part of this journey even existed, if any. It’s a crazy thing, and one that I feel has worked so well so far. There are things I’ve done that I won’t spoil that I never expected to have to do. Some panned out, some I’m still waiting to pan out, and some I have no idea if it was futile wasting a crazy amount of time trying.
Moving through memories and taking what the voice has to say can tire you out. What’s real? What isn’t? Everything? Nothing? I found myself talking to the AI, not only to myself, but actually to it, with my mic. Sometimes I felt like I was the one going crazy, and not necessarily the main character. There are so many things within the small areas of the game that may mean something, may mean nothing, or may mean everything, and we have no idea, still to this writing. Hell, some things could mean all 3 and we still don’t know.
As I told one of the fine gents at Nilo, I was balding before, but after trying to figure out the game’s final Whiteshift ending, I am no longer in need of a barber. And that works to this game’s major strength. So if nothing else, you have to tip your hat to these guys for that. This game is by all means not perfect, but what it gets right is exactly what it’s going for. It’s there to confuse you, to point you in the right direction, to drip out info while still giving you a lot to examine. I feel like sometimes it uses us against ourselves, even when it doesn’t expect us to. I’m really sorry if you felt lost, and I understand if this whole review didn’t make much sense. In all honesty, sometimes neither does Asemblance. Normally that would ruin my experience with a game, or just ruin the game in general, but here, it’s a positive thing.
Sure, I’m playing up my psychosis due to this game a bit, but mainly so you can understand just what kind of experience this game may offer you, because it’s offering me one that has put me into so many emotions, that it’s hard to describe. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what Chapter 2 brings us…
And now, I’ve finally achieved my destiny…