Asemblance begins with red lights, sirens and a mysterious AI voice telling you there is an emergency.
You move up to the terminal in front of you and the AI reluctantly says that there is no emergency and it was rather a test of how you would respond. The AI then asks you a question, “How are you feeling?”
- “Not good.”
- “Angry and confused.”
The same question is asked of you throughout Asemblance. Each time, it further enforces the questions you will find you asking yourself. Who are you? What are you a part of? Does anything you’re doing really matter? Asemblance‘s premise is incredibly intriguing; you don’t know anything about yourself or the mysterious AI telling you what to do. All you do have is the “Memory Machine” which allows you to revisit memories from your past to try and discover who you are and what is going on.
I can’t spoil what any of these memories are; not knowing is the entire premise of the game. Perhaps the most important thing to mention is that there are only three of them, and only two have any real substance. Both memories are very small – only an office and two rooms of an apartment. You see, Asemblance is not a large game and the entire thing can be completed in only twenty minutes if you know exactly what you’re doing. But as much as Asemblance is a psychological thriller, it is also a exploration puzzle game. Within the office you can zoom in (or “focus”) on every document and letter laying around. It is up to you to piece together the story that you can and find clues on how to continue forward.
The more you pay attention, the more you will get out of Asemblance. If you aren’t prepared to focus and observe you will get stuck very quickly. Everything you come across has meaning and you will begin to notice problems with what is happening as well as constants between memories. The atmosphere of mystery is helped by good (if a little minimalist) sound design and a good performance from the AI voice actor.
While the AI narration and the psychological nature of the game may draw similarity to The Stanley Parable, it is, oddly enough, most similar to the Silent Hills teaser P.T. While Asemblance can be speedrun in around 20 minutes if you so wish, most players will take around two hours carefully making their way through the game. Those two hours will be spent rotating between the three small memories and the “hub” area; eventually it begins to create a feeling similar to the encircling corridors of P.T. And much like P.T., if you cannot figure out how to continue onwards, the repetitive, monotonous nature will begin to drag.
Notice that I have avoided saying anything about “completing” Asemblance. There are five endings in total, and this is where the final and biggest similarity to P.T. comes in. I, along with most people currently playing, was able to complete four of the endings. The final – and apparently “true” – ending was only completed for the first time five days after the game’s initial release. Sound familiar? To players of P.T., it should; much like Asemblance, the Silent Hills teaser took nine days for people to accurately track down how to complete it.
At the time of writing of this review, a few hours after the discovery of the true ending, I and many others are still having difficulty replicating it. This is, perhaps, due to how Nilo Studios implemented the final puzzle. Unlike in P.T. where the solution could be worked out in-game, so far it seems like Nilo created a treasure hunt for numerous extra clues across Reddit and Imgur stemming from maths problems found in-game. This creates a conundrum: obviously this puzzle, which required the community working together to solve, was planned in advance and is part of the design. However, it also means that no single person will ever really be able to complete it on their own.
The greatness of P.T.’s “impossible” puzzle was that it was so difficult and required the community to work together, creating such a stir that everybody knew about it and downloaded the free teaser. It seems like Nilo Studios have attempted to do the same – with admittedly much less renown than Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro – in a paid and much more story-based game. Due to Nilo being less known and Asemblance actually costing money I don’t think this “impossible” puzzle has created as much buzz as they were hoping.
In fact, I think the final, true ending’s difficulty is actually a hindrance to the game overall. Asemblance‘s obvious strength is its premise, atmosphere and intriguing – while convoluted – story. The build-up in Asemblance’s mysterious psychological nature is so well done that the final pay-off being so difficult only ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth. This is possibly helped by the fact that none of the endings really answer the many questions you have. And worst of all, after having seen it, the final ending is perhaps the worst offender; it ties the story up but answers absolutely nothing.
However, even with an ending that takes way too much to achieve with very little pay off, Asemblance still manages to be a very intriguing and atmospheric sci-fi story. Just know that there is, respectively, little content here – even for the small £7.99 asking price – and your enjoyment will entirely depend on how much attention you are willing to give the game’s abstruse detail.