“We had a kettle; we let it leak: Our not repairing made it worse. We haven’t had any tea for a week …The bottom is out of the Universe.” – Rudyard Kipling
Developer: ustwo games
Released: 19th September 2019
Much like the studio’s earlier Monument Valley series, Assemble with Care is an almost meditative experience, delivering an understated narrative through relaxing puzzles. Players take on the role of Maria, a travelling antique-restorer, as she finds herself in the sunny town of Bellariva where she will meet an eclectic mix of characters and help to fix more than just objects!
Assemble with Care is made up of thirteen short chapters and an epilogue, and plays like a typical interactive fiction with screens of narration, dialogue and illustrative artwork to click through. However, sandwiched within each chapter is a puzzle in the form of an object that needs repairing.
The complexity of the items and work increases with each chapter, starting with a straightforward cassette player repair and ending with swanky coffee machine assembly. While the slight difficulty increase is noticeable the game never becomes too challenging, the relative ease feels intentional as it is not possible to put parts in the wrong position and tools are automatically selected when items such as screws are placed. This fits the style of game and these sections provide a fun tactile element that break up the more explicitly narrative-focused and text-heavy bulk of the game, creating a more balanced and varied experience overall.
Despite Assemble with Care’s short playtime of around 2 hours, it uses clever narrative design to pack a variety of characters and stories into a satisfying overarching narrative. Player experience Maria’s time in Bellariva with her, learn of her travels and reasons for leaving home whilst also learning about the people in town, their past experiences and the problems they face.
The game seamlessly intertwines the overlapping stories, connecting them with themes of family, relationships, interactions and the connections we have with people, it also subtly encourages the player to reflect on how they treat other people and to try and see things from another’s perspective without feeling sanctimonious or preachy.
The visuals are comprised of gameplay rendered in a beautiful, impressionist style, alongside a completely hand-illustrated story creating a unique overall effect. This is further complemented by the emotive and thoughtful use of various vibrant colour palettes, interesting character design and fun retro objects. The nostalgia factor is also present in the game’s relaxing, original and 1980’s inspired soundtrack which cohesively ties together the different aspects of the game.
Assemble with Care is another hit for ustwo games. Its delicate mix of well-paced narrative and almost zen-like puzzles culminate into a thought-provoking and fun experience. There is little to no replayability but its short playtime is ideal for the style of game and the storylines, it is also priced fairly and accordingly at under £6.00 making it even easier to recommend to anyone looking for a relaxing but engaging interactive novel with puzzles on the side.