Man, where do I start with this head-scratcher of a game. It’s certainly unique that’s for sure. Asemblance is a trial and error, creepy, ambiguous, walking simulator that had way more layers than what was expected. The goosebumps, awe, and mystery started immediately as I booted up the game. Which incidentally consisted of flashing red lights, loud matching sounds, and a robotic voice telling me there’s an emergency. There’s still some confusion about the story as it has no meaningful, solid conclusion. However, there’s a saying regarding the journey and not the destination.
You start at the beginning of a consistent time loop surrounded by near darkness. There are only a few things visible with a disembodied voice calmly stating this is an emergency over and over again. Not long after you take a how are you feeling test before you’re told there is no such emergency. So right off the bat something is a little off. The voice picks up again and begins explaining the premise of the game. Asemblance takes place in a holo chamber with a small room that can recreate memories from the protagonist. As to why you want your memories, or why anyone else wants your memories, digitally reconstructed is never fully answered. But you have no choice in the matter!
From here you experience three different memories within the room that can all be altered. Depending on what you interact with you can change the time of day, trigger additional memories, gain objects, and hear slightly condescending narration from the, aforementioned, robotic voice. There’s certain possible themes within the plot but it’s never fully confirmed. When you look around and inspect things you can potentially see stories of lovers falling apart, a lost child, and even murder. As such the atmosphere can become trying at times. Weird, disjointed audio tapes being played, well placed, eerie sound effects, sad and uncomfortable voicemails, and even your character’s significant other crying on the floor all contribute to the macabre feel. Despite all this you never feel scared. Just pleasantly unnerved.
Once you reach a point in the story where you seemingly can’t do anything else, the game’s trial and error gameplay really kicks in. I hate to make this comparison but the game progresses just like P.T. You have to look at a specific item or do things in a timed sequence to move on. This becomes terribly apparent when it comes to Asemblance’s multiple endings. Luckily, if you’re smart the clues are there. Visual and audio hints lead the way but if you are not a patient person I’d expect guides to be used a lot here. This may make or break your experience if you don’t enjoy sleuthing. After all it did take more than a week for the game’s rarest ending to be discovered in a title that only lasts thirty minutes if you breeze through it.
For what it’s worth I did enjoy figuring out how to proceed in the narrative until it came time to complete the game one hundred percent. I decided it wasn’t worth it because the looking and noticing became very specific. You had to open objects, stare at things, and place items correctly to the absolute second in a correct sequence. If you can achieve what I had not then the game throws a slight twist in your direction. By this time a dozen theories might be rumbling around in your head regarding the plot but as Sherlock Holmes once said, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
From a technical standpoint the game has no problems. The graphics are nice, the gameplay itself is smooth, and there are no issues (besides a lack of patience) to hamper you. Point being; the game doesn’t hold your hand or get in your way. It might confuse the hell out of you but it’s an enjoyable, beautifully crafted hell. The only real cons relate to the fact of Asemblance being an environmental, puzzle game. This journey can last hours if not days since some speculate that Nilo Studios creation still has more to offer. Nevertheless, it’s hard to shake off the fact that one, basic playthrough won’t even last you an hour.
I wouldn't say Asemblance transcends the genre but I do think it offers something new to the point worth experiencing. The story alone will keep you guessing and intrigued. It offers enough to wet the mouth but never enough to satisfy. The gameplay may be able to sate you if unraveling a never ending mystery is your bag of tricks. Just don't expect anything different from discovering clues and repeating levels. The real saving grace is the atmosphere though. Your lack of knowledge may take away from the story but it certainly fuels the creepiness. Sights, sounds, unnerving setting and an uncomfortable subject matter propel this game where nothing else in it can. If only it lasted more than an hour for a straight playthrough before the grind of discovering a few more secrets, that can last a few days, kicks in.
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