|Platforms||PC (reviewed), PS4|
|Release Date||June 21, 2016|
This review was written using a game key provided by developer.
Asemblance is a mind-bending puzzle game disguised as a psychological thriller. The game centres around and unnamed (maybe) protagonist who has access to a machine that can recreate his memories, like a Holodeck. As you dive deeper and deeper into the protagonists memories it becomes apparent that they may not be correct, they may not be his, that you may or may not be in control, and basically a bunch of other stuff that wouldn’t be out of place in The Twilight Zone or The X-Files.
I’m stuck, basically. I’ve found all but one of the endings for Asemblance, which Nilo Studios hopes will be the pilot episode of a brand new series of games. It’s driving me to distraction. When I received the game via email I was also warned that, while it was certainly possible to achieve all of the endings alone, the hope was that the Internet would come together to solve the final ending. Naturally, after receiving an email like that, I got as far as possible solo and then waited for the Internet to catch up.
Now we’re all stuck – scratching around at any sliver of hope for a clue that will get us to the end of the game, and maybe to figuring out the truth. Names, dates and even time itself are all clues. Seemingly inconsequential environmental details can be incredibly important. Right now there’s a Steam discussion thread, a Twitch stream and a Discord voice server dedicated to solving the mystery that is Asemblance.
Sorry, did you want me to talk about the game itself? I could, I guess. There’s not much to Asemblance on the surface of it. It’s a first-person narrative game where you walk around, look at stuff and occasionally push a button or listen to a voice message or a recording. It’s extremely well crafted, works well and has no bugs or technical issues that I’ve come across. It also makes great use of the Unreal 4 Engine, especially the lighting system, to make its environments look fantastic.
You load up memories via an in-game control station, which are in-turn loaded into the Holodeck-like environment. You enter them and look around, pushing R2 to zoom in on certain things to trigger events that allow you to make progress. The endings you find start out bizarre and get even weirder, and the narrative that Asemblance sets up is intriguing enough to have you keep restarting the game each time you “finish” it.
The term “inspired by P.T.” or “reminiscent of P.T.” gets thrown around a lot these days, usually by people who tend to forget that what made P.T. a phenomenon wasn’t the scary horror parts. It was the mystery, those few days after its release when the Internet banded together to unlock its secrets. Asemblance is the first game I can remember that has truly captured the spirit of P.T. (minus the terror) – and now I’m racing down a rabbit hole of discussion threads and livestreams, desperately trying to unlock its secrets (and half expecting a Death Stranding trailer to be my reward).
As a video game Asemblance is well developed – it runs well, its mechanics are perfectly attuned to its gameplay and it makes great use of its engine to look fantastic. As a mystery, Asemblance is a rabbit hole. If solving a mystery in inches and small victories, with patience and strangers on the Internet working together, is your thing, then Asemblance is definitely a game for you. It has a strong pull and is a game that actually takes the lessons of P.T. and puts them to fantastic use. That this is merely the first episode in a proposed series of games is exciting, although first we have to get through this maiden voyage with our collective sanity intact. Asemblance could be the beginning of a great new series.
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